Thursday, 12 March 2020

Moscow: Capital cathedrals, good food and luxury

We had fun in Moscow, we had a sense of achievement after our Trans Siberian journey. We explored the Red Square, St Basil’s and the Kremlin. Surprisingly the Kremlin has the 4 cathedrals and I suffered saint and icon overload.  Moscow has a many luxurious shops where Rita shopped.  We eat excellent food.

We stayed in a luxurious Airbnb apartment in Arbat with 3 bedrooms, an elaborate bathroom, open plan kitchen and living room. V different to the usual public built flats in Russia. Our German friend Ulricha joined us for a long weekend, starting on Wednesday.  We talked about our 9,000 kms trans Siberian rail journey.

We enjoyed using the Metro, at our station a sign said, “we speak English”,  a phenomenon not seen elsewhere in Russia where little English is spoken.  Our first stop was Red Square, sadly filled with chairs for a tattoo. We had coffee and cabbage pie in a café and worked out our plans. We visited St Basil’s that afternoon. It is a vast religious structure with too many chapels, elaborate  and gold icons. My head span with all the saints and their stories. There is no central area for worship.  St Basil’s is best from its outside view with its quirky beautiful architecture, inside the religion and devotion is too heavy.  We stayed on Red Square eating dessert in the elegant cafe Bosch, for me a beautiful tartiflor with melted chocolate. We walked home through the Alexander gardens enjoying  the hydrangeas in flower and then struggling crossing the roaring 6 lane traffic road. I enjoyed a Russian classic “herring in a fur coat” (covered with a beetroot glaze) and a cold cucumber and seafood soup for supper.
We shopped in the GUM department store on Red Square, now a collection of luxury shops. Rita and Vincent bought dark blue St Petersburg royal porcelain.

The next day at the museum of Russian art we saw a baroque church, now a museum piece with an elderly gent caring for the icons and giving Ann a detailed explanation.  We had coffee and snacks in a hipster café, then went by taxi to Red Square getting good views of central Moscow. Our Kremlin Tour started with Russian history from with the Great Patriotic war. The soldiers at the eternal flame change guard hourly with high goose steps. We looked at the map of the 1812 victory, and the monument to the Tsars. We queued to enter the Kremlin, but there was space inside. Four cathedrals dominate the Kremlin with many icons and church stuff. All the Tsars are buried in the last church. It is a powerful illustration of Russian history and the entwining of state and church, communism being a small part. We enjoyed the city views in nice small garden there.

We had champagne for Ann’s birthday in the flat, then a celebratory meal in Pushkins café, Ann and I had delicious trout with fish mousse and asparagus and white Russian wine. My pudding a fruit terrine with a mint sauce. Home by metro, tired after a long day.

On my last day Rita, Vincent and I and visited the Art Deco hotel Metropole, the location for the book, “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles which I read on our Trans Siberian journey book and Rita was reading. Seeing the hotel and gives my reading depth. Regular hotel trips  are run by a fan that one can book. Vincent and I took the metro back to Smolenska station. I went by taxi to Belorussian station then to the airport on the aeroport express. I chatted to a Russian civil engineer working in Solihull, UK on her summer holiday and leaving her 4 children with their grandmother at their dacha. I enjoying more Russian food at the airport  and flew to London.

The days in Moscow were a good end for the month travelling across Russia. Lonely Planet had recommended doing the Trans-Siberian from east to west and we enjoyed the  monuments, good food and luxury in Moscow and it had a Russian context.

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