With its 11 million inhabitants, Moscow is the 5th largest city proper and one of the 15 biggest metropolitan area in the world. Among all the big cities we have been, here is where the adjective huge fits the best. Everything is over-dimensioned to affirm the power first of the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union towards the rest of the country and the world. It’s not easy to walk around the city to see the main attractions so we took more than usual the metro system, which is an attraction itself: marbles, mosaics, bas-reliefs, chandeliers and glasses are everywhere and make us feel more in a palace than in a metro station. We visited some of the most impressive such as Komsomolskaya, Novoslobodskaya and Mayakovskaya.
In the previous post we spoke about culture and art but Moscow hides some very good open air places such as the Gorky Park and Kolomenskoye, a royal estate in the southeast of the city, among many others.
The Gorky Park was not far from home and very close to the New Tretyakov Gallery so we had the chance to go there twice at the sunset. Cadu was there five years ago and he could see how much it has changed; when he came there were no many people around. For me it was hard to imagine what he was talking about because, when we arrived, the park was crowded! This Park became in the last two years one of the coolest areas for the Muscovite youth that comes here every weekend to hang around with friends and have a very good time. Children were playing in the sun, people biking, doing roller blades, all the bars were full and people were dancing at the rhythm of salsa! We thought to rent a bike and make a tour, but the grass was so green that we preferred sit down and relax! Sometimes it’s good to do nothing and to try to imagine it is the “real life”, what locals do in their free time and pretend that we are part of what is going on!
Kolomenskoye! Next day we went is this other park also in the southern part of the city. We decided going there following a tip of a babushka we met in the night train we took to Moscow. She showed us the Russian name on the subway map and we went there to check what it was. And we liked it: a 390 hectares historic area with a splendid view on the Moskva River. The earliest and most famous structure is the Ascension Church, it was built in 1532 to celebrate the birth of the future Ivan the Terrible. For its innovating and unique architecture, in 1994 became part of the Unesco World Heritage. Instead of visiting the Museum, we lied on the ground watching the photo shooting of brides with Moscow and the river as fantastic background. In comparison with Gorky Park, Kolomenskoye was much more contemplative with its wonderful views and pleasant promenades. The ambience here is more popular and traditional. A lot of families hanging around and enjoying a good Sunday time together.
There is something missing to our chronic: the one and only Kremlin… The most famous attraction in Moscow is visited by thousands of people every year and consequently the most difficult part was to buy the ticket in the middle of a real mess. The new ticket offices are being built. But for now the tourist are left on their own. The best part was to enter and enjoy the space without thinking of all this confusion. The history of the Kremlin begins in the II century BC with a fortified structure built on the hill where the Neglinnaya River flows in the Moskva River and, after invasions (by the Slaves, French…), destructions (Mongols, Stalin…) and reconstruction, continues till nowadays as the residence of the President of the Russian Federation. Walls and towers as we see today were built between 1485 and 1495 by Italian (of course) masters, at that time reputed as the best of the ‘market’. From the same period is the Cathedral of the Dormition, planned by the architect Aristotele Fioravanti; it is known to be the coronation place from 1547 to 1896 and the burial site for most of the Moscow Metropolitans and Patriarchs. We also entered in the Church of the Deposition of the Virgin’s Robe where we could admire the superb four level iconostasis from 1627 and frescos painted in 1644. At the origin, the church was the private chapel of the Patriarch of Moscow but in the XVII century it was used by the royal family. Another famous building of the Kremlin is the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, which is considered to be the place that marks the center of Moscow. It was closed to the public so we only watched from the outside its 81 m high white tower. Just behind the tower stands the Tsar’s Bell, the largest bell in the word, impressive (but out of use)! Always from the outside we enjoyed the architecture of the two oldest buildings of the square both built for Ivan III: the Palace of Facets (the royal thrones are in there) and the Terem Palace, the first home for the royal family. We missed the State Armoury, a fantastic museum which hosts the huge treasury of Moscow Great Princes and Tsars. We suggest visit it in a different day of the rest of the Kremlin because it’s one of the best museum of Moscow and it’s a pity to run from a hall to another.
In the wish list we missed there are also: the Pushkin Museum, the Lenin Mausoleum, one boat-trip at night, a ballet at the Bolshoi, the Lomonosov Moscow State University, the snow (!), the Tsarytsino Open-Air History and Architecture Museum… We will have to come back…
It’s always the same… when we leave a place; the to-do list is longer than before arriving!!!
Special thanks to: Denis and Rustam, our hosts, always ready to answer to our questions and Anya and Roma (who once rented our apartment in Paris) and passed with us a wonderful evening talking about how Russia was and showing us the city by night!