Day two and an earlier start thanks to setting the alarm and figuring out where the coffee filters were. Also found out that if you really want to cool the kitchen down quickly just open the window a crack in the early morning of a Russian winter, works a treat, although G is convinced I’ll catch my death from the draft. After breakfast we headed out and took the metro to Red Square, arriving at around 10am where we queued at the ticket office in Alexandrovsky Gardens. My first queue in the snow, which I believe is traditional in these parts. Then with Armoury tickets in hand it was a quick walk through the Borovitskaya Tower entrance, along the wall of the Armoury to join another amiable queue for half an hour, still snowing. Finally we got inside dropped our jackets in the cloak room, donned the white plastic overshoes, and ascended the stairs to the Armoury.
One of the great things about travel is that you always have a few of your pre-conceptions rudely shattered, and so it was with the Armoury. Sure I’d heard of it, and sure I knew that Russia’s art has been influenced by the east but to see that in the byzantine richness of the jewellery, weapons, clothing, art and armour is another thing entirely, it felt a little like having fallen through into a Pauline Baynes illustration. Then there’s the Faberge eggs, each with a story attached, not to mention the throne of Ivan (the not so nice), the coronation dress of Catherine the great, crowns various of the Tsars, royal regalia through the ages, and on and on and on. If the Louvre is the national attic of France, then the Armoury is the national treasure trove of Russia.
After the Armoury we walked up the hill to Cathedral square. If you think of Moscow sitting at the heart of Russian, and the Kremlin at the heart of Moscow then standing in Cathedral square you’re right at the very heart of temporal and religious power in Russia. Kind of like an onion, or a recursive Matryoshka dolls. There’s a lot to take in, the very modernist State Palace, the Cathedral of the Assumption, Ivan the Great’s bell tower, the Church of the Deposition of the Robe, the Cathedrals of the Archangel Michael, Annunciation and Twelve Apostles and not to mention the Patriach’s palace. Walk around a little bit on top of the Kremlin and you can also find one very, very big cannon, the Tsar cannon, and one very, very big bell, called (strangely) the Tsar Bell. The gun’s been fired once, but the bell was cracked in a fire before it could utter one peal. Then there’s the art and architecture of the cathedrals that ring the square, it’s a heady mix of byzantinian styles, russian iconography, sacred objects, reliquaries and italian architecture. Walking around is like walking from page to page within an beautiful mediaeval illuminated manuscript.
After having our fill of religious art we wandered around the Kremlin for a little while, trying not to get trampled by the parents picking up their children from the Kremlin christmas tree party as we headed out the Troitskaya gate. After lunch at a little cafe behind the GUM department store, were we got a little lost, it was a metro ride to Sadovaya street and a flying visit to the Chekhov house museum, we just got there before it closed. After that we headed to a friends place for dinner, and then finally home to bed.
And tomorrow? Tomorrow we visit space 🙂