Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Moscow 6 - May They Rest in Peace!

So many great people in one, relatively small place!!

Moscow's prestigious cemetery Novodevichi 
is the resting place of who's who in russian politics, culture, science, military and other walks of life.

To mention just a few : Khrushchev, Yeltsin (politics), Chechov, Gogol (writers), Prokofiev, Shostakovich (composers), Oistrach (violonist), Rostropovich (cellist), Shaleapin (opera singer), Galina Ulanova (ballet dancer), Tupolev (scientist).

Nikita Khrushchev-  his bust                                                   Boris Yeltsin
surrounded by a black and white structure

  Anton Chechov                                                      Fedor Shaleapin

                                                                      Galina Ulanova

Two wives of famous politicians seemed to attract a lot of visitors: Nadezhda Alliluyeva, Stalin's second wife ( committed suicide) and  Raisa Gorbachev, wife of Mikhail Gorbachev ( died in a german hospital after a 2-month struggle against leukemia).

Nadezhda  Alliluyeva

                                                                Raisa Gorbachev
              (A female statue is overlooking the grave; at the back- tiles that cover ashes in the wall).

The Novodevichi cemetery looks more like an exhibition of sculptures: bronze sculptures, marble sculptures, sculptures depicting accurately  the deceased and their profession; life size statues or just busts. A huge variety of styles, materials , colors.                   
Luckily, my knowledge of the russian alphabet helped me with reading  the names on the headstones.  At a certain point I also followed a guided group, and so I managed to visit most of the famous graves.

Many trees and bushes lining the alleys and the rows, as well as flowers near the graves - soften the rigidity of marble, bronze and stone  used in the building of the monuments. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Moscow 5 - Izmailovsky Market

'Izmailovsky' is  mostly  a weekend market, and it comprises several sections: souvenir section at the front; flea market, antiques, and art, at the back.  Like all markets, this one is also colorful and exciting, but not noisy; the lack of noise came as a pleasant surprise to me.

I wandered through all the sections, but since I was interested in buying some souvenirs, I naturally concentrated on the souvenir part of the market .

Besides the souvenir stalls,  there was a space (full of smoke) with meat stands, red tables and chairs, for people to have a barbeque meal.
Here's my meal (not cheap): grilled lamb (big bone, little meat), some vegs, a very delicious pita bread, a bottle of sparkling mineral water.

The souvenir part of Izmailovsky market is based mainly on two elements: matrioshka dolls and memorabilia, with some additional stalls and shops that sell T- shirts, russian fur hats with ear flaps woolen socks, shawls,  lacquer boxes, table coasters etc..As they say, there's something for everyone.

According to Wikipedia, matrioshka is  "a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside the other" .To put it simply - doll inside a doll, inside a doll, inside... The name 'matrioshka', as one understands,  refers to the mother figure of a big russian family.

I was utterly amazed at the huge variety of those dolls. They were of all shapes, colors, size, quality, hand-made or only hand-painted, with 3-5 and even more nested figures. Prices - accordingly.

As for Memorabilia items-  these include soviet era medals, pins, knives, coins, stamps, propaganda posters, busts of soviet leaders, and more.(Back, at the flea market , one could find  ' heavier' military stuff :rifles, helmets, uniforms, war masks).

The best part of my day was at the end of my visit at the market when I reached the metro station to go back to town. Outside the metro station called Partizanskaya, a trio from Colombia was performing rhytmical spanish songs and enchanting the audience. The russians seemed to be very generous with the money they put in the yellow box.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Moscow 4 - Within the Kremlin Walls

Once again I found myself in a long queue , actually two queues- one to buy a ticket , the other at the security checkpoint.

I knew touring the Kremlin ( Moscow's fortified complex overlooking the Red Square and the Moskva River) could be a matter of several hours and there was no place there to buy food or a drink, so I carried with me a bag containing a snack, some fruit and a bottle of water. The young man at the checking point wanted me, for some reason, to get rid of the bottle. It seemed crazy. I went to another checker who let me in without any problem.   

After entering the gates of the Kremlin  one gets into an  atmosphere heavily dominated by the great russian  spirit, history, architecture, religion, wealth.

                                                     entering the Kremlin

The Kremlin grounds, surrounded by red walls and towers are well kept, with  a lot of pathways and gardens. There are five cathedrals, a huge bell (that never rang), a big cannon (that never fired), the headquarters of the President of Russia and his administration (not open to public), several museums.. .

                                                           walls and towers

I particularly liked the Cathedral Square with people going in and out of the churches, standing outside, chatting and taking pictures ( no photography inside). From the  pathway adjacent to the square, there's a good view of the Moskova river .

the cathedral square
Russian czars were crowned in the Assumption Cathedral  and burried in the Archangel Cathedral.  

The Archangel Cathedral has more than fifty royal graves, including that of Ivan the Terrible  &two sons, and those of the Romanov dynasty members.                                            

For many people, the highlight of the Kremlin tour is a visit to the 'armory'- the rooms that house the treasures of the czars. It is not allowed to take pictures inside , and words cannot do justice to what the eyes see there: superb royal carriages, items in gold, silver and precious gems given as presents by foreigners to the czars, coronation gowns, thrones, and then the jewelery chamber (the Diamond Fund for which one needs a separate ticket and going through security check).

                             heading to the armory entrance under sudden rain drops

When you see the treasures of the czars it's easy to understand the meaning of revolution. People were starving, and the czars were accumulating  exorbitant riches. The clash had to come sooner or later.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Moscow 3 - St. Basil's Cathedral

St. Basil's Cathedral in the Red Square is the most spectacular, incredible sight in Moscow mainly due to the  multi - colored, onion shaped domes of its nine turrets. Each turret  has a small chapel beneath it with  altar, decorations, and lots of religious artifacts on display.  

To enter the cathedral I had to stand in  line and buy a ticket; it was worth it. The interior was beautifully decorated  with frescoes, icons, bricks.  I  moved from one tiny room to another, taking pictures (without flash) , enjoying the richness of color, delicacy of shapes, and intricacy of details.  I felt like  I was in a fairytale castle, and I even managed to climb up  the steps of the narrow staircase and have a  look at the Red Square from the top.

To be able to 'absorb' all of the inside and outside beauty  of this religious and architectural masterpiece, one has to visit it more than once. Definitely. 
I was told that sometimes a male group of 4-5 singers, with angelic voices, perform in one of the chapels.  It didn't happen while I was there. So, hopefully next time.... 
                                                           on the back stairs

When I came back to the hotel, I suddenly became aware of the brick wall on the way to the room area; it  seemed to have been inspired by the ones within the cathedral. I liked that.