Down the street from our hostel was the very fine Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. First opened in 1912, it houses the largest collection of European art in Moscow. Many of the statues are actually cast copies of famous originals from museums around the world.
Opposite the museum is the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, under renovation at the time. It seemed to be a focal point for locals, who paid their respects inside or gathered outside as a meeting point.
Overlooking the Moskva River, it is the tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world. It was originally built during the 19th century, but destroyed by Stalin in 1931 to make way for a grand Soviet palace. However the Nazi Germany invasion of Moscow in 1941 put a halt to construction, and it was subsequently disassembled and the current church rebuilt in 2000.
The world famous Red Square is the central city square of Moscow, sandwiched between the Kremlin and the equally famous St. Basil’s Cathedral. It’s a massive paved open space which still has some traffic passing through it, though it is mostly full of pedestrians. Outside the main gate from the Kitay-Gorod district end, the landscaped gardens were a popular choice for locals throughout the day.
Unbeknownst to us until we arrived, Red Square had been converted into an enclosed stadium for the annual “Spasskaya Tower” International Military Music Festival. Showcasing military bands and acts from all over the world, it held a daily evening show with fireworks and a light-show with St. Basil’s Cathedral as the backdrop. We couldn’t resist the lucky opportunity, so we bought tickets.
There were musical and dance acts from the military bands of Russia, China, Turkey, Ireland and Italy amongst many others. A highlight was the Irish Military Band’s rendition of Soul Bossa Nova, made famous as Austin Power’s theme. A unique sight to see men in uniform suddenly break out into high energy dancing and whipping the crowd into a clapping frenzy!
An unforgettable experience!
We returned the next morning to visit St. Basil’s Cathedral, which was unfortunately packed with tourists already. Then we found out the admission price, which was pretty steep. Considering we had seen inside many other cathedrals up to this point, and also reading that inside was nothing that impressive anyway, we skipped it and just admired the colourful architecture on the outside instead.
More correctly known as Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed (amongst even more other names), it was built from 1555 by Ivan the Terrible. The fancy design is supposed to resemble a bonfire rising into the sky. A rainbow bonfire it seems, hardly resembling any other building in Russia, with its strange mix of clashing details and complex shapes.
Nearby is the super strange Lenin’s Mausoleum. For anyone who didn’t know, Vladimir Lenin’s embalmed body is on display inside for the public’s viewing pleasure. Immediately after he died in 1924, a tomb was built to house his coffin for mourners to view and revamped over the years. It is only open for a few hours on a few days a week. Out of those times, his body is treated with all sorts of funky chemicals to keep him in pristine condition. You can’t take photos inside, nor can you stop to look; you must keep walking otherwise the guards will not be too kind.
Creepy stuff to see him lying there in his eternal bed in the darkness.
Although we couldn’t get a traditional photo in the middle of Red Square due to the temporary stadium setup, a long walk around it’s red brick walls really showcased just how large an area it was.
But we still got to do our 360° and clock up another Bucket List!
Visited 6th to 8th September 2014.