Day 9 and 10: Moscow

July 30th: We had a pretty uneventful day as all we had to do was to get on a train to Moscow at 1pm. After some running around at the train station to collect our tickets, we made it on the train…which was pretty spectacular. I’m really hoping the Trans-Siberian trains will be just as nice but something tells me I’m going to be disappointed. 🙂

We were picked up in Moscow by a driver who took us right to our hotel….which was super touristy. Lots of souvenir shops, restaurants with the requisite karaoke bars, lounges and shady massage parlours and to top it all, a lot of Chinese tour groups. Bill was able to understand the words being spoke around him. We were set for the night!:):)

July 31st: Our first stop was the Kremlin. It is basically the centre of all Russian political power and was also the centre of the Russian Orthodox Church at one point. It is a large compound with high walls and contains a number of office buildings, cathedrals and museums. We visited The Archangel Cathedral which is essentially where all the famous Tsars are buried. The famous Ivan the Terrible and his sons are also buried here. We weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside. The paintings on the walls are at least 500 years old and didn’t seem restored…which showed. But I prefer seeing it unrestored anyway and they were still very stunning. The cathedral just opposite this is the Annunciation Cathedral which is more of a museum housing old Russian icons and paintings. This dates from the late 1400s. We walked around a bit more to get a feel for the place. It was teeming with guards at every corner..none looked more than 20 years old!

We also saw the Tsar Bell (cracked before it was even rung..much like the famous Liberty Bell in Philly) and the Tsar Cannon (which was never shot)!!

After lunch we made our way to Red Square. As St.Basil’s Cathedral came into view, it literally took our breath away. We took our time walking around Red Square, taking it all in and finally made our way inside the cathedral…which was built to celebrate the defeat of Ivan the Terrible over Kazan ( need to read up more on this).

Anyone that knows Bill well also knows that apart from a gin and tonic, his favorite go-to drink is….The White Russian. :):) How appropriate! We found a nice bar, right on the square just opposite the Kremlin and had a few drinks! Lovely end to the day.

Tomorrow, we get on the train.. Very excited. Hopefully we’ll have Internet connectivity in Yekaterinburg which is our next stop… Not before we spend 30 hours on the train first!:)

The Tsar Cannon

The Tsar Cannon

The Annunciation Cathedral inside the Kremlin

The Annunciation Cathedral inside the Kremlin

Roof of one of another cathedral inside the Kremlin

Roof of another cathedral inside the Kremlin

Outside the Kremlin

Outside the Kremlin

Kremlin Walls

Kremlin Walls

Red Square

Red Square

Close up of St.Basil's Cathedral

Close up of St.Basil’s Cathedral

Inside St.Basil's Cathedral

Inside St.Basil’s Cathedral

St.Basil's Cathedral

St.Basil’s Cathedral

Bill with his White Russian

Bill with his White Russian

Advertisements

Day 8: St.Petersburg

29th July: We woke up a tad late the next day owing to the jet lag but we still had plenty of hours of daylight to make up for it. We decided to pick 2-3 places to visit from the list of 7-8 places mentioned on the Lonley Planet.

Our first stop was St. Isaac’s Cathedral, a magnificent Russian Orthodox Cathedral that dominates the skyline of the city. It is dedicated to St.Issac of Dalmatia who was the patron saint of Peter the Great. It took 40 years to build and I have to say the results are stunning. While I have seen a lot of stunning buildings like this from the outside, it was the inside of the cathedral that was jaw dropping. Huge bronze doors with frescos depicting scenes from the bible all over the ceilings and huge statues all guilded with gold. Very opulent! It seems the cathedral has been restored in recent years but it was still an amazing feat of architecture.

We also walked around the Winter Palace and the Hermitage. We couldn’t go in of course as they were closed for the day (read previous post). In the huge square stands the Alexander Column which was erected to commemorate Russia’s victory over the French led by Napoleon. The square reminded me a little built of Tiananmen Square in Beijing except that it wasn’t as crowded.

Later that afternoon we made our way to the Church of The Saviour on Spilled Blood. It was built on the spot where Alexander II was assassinated. It is modeled on the colorful St.Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. Can’t wait to see the original in a few days. We didn’t have the time to go inside so we decided to go on one of the many boat rides being offered on the canals and the river. Unfortunately there were no English language tours…only Russian. We decided to go anyways. Bill kept track of where we were by looking at the maps and I kept up by looking where everyone else was looking. Between the two of us, I think we managed to see the main sights! 🙂

After a dinner of pasta and meat(needed some familiar food) we called it a night.

Off to Moscow tomorrow. 2 more days until we get on the Trans-Siberian train. Super excited!

St.Isaac's Cathedral

St.Isaac’s Cathedral

Ornate carvings on the cathedral doors

Ornate carvings on the cathedral doors

Inside the cathedral

Inside the cathedral

Frescos on the ceiling

Frescos on the ceiling

The Hermitage

The Hermitage

Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood

Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood

Day 7: St.Petersburg

July 28th: we arrived in St.Petersburg yesterday after a 4 hour layover at Kiev airport. We took a bus from the airport to our hostel which was pleasantly right smack in the city. Having said that, we almost didn’t find the place as its main entrance was a completely unmarked grey door… No signs…nothing!! 🙂

We were pretty exhausted but since it was only 3pm we decided to walk around and get a feel for the city.

St.Petersburg is a beautiful, elegant city with a really lovely old world charm. At every corner, there are buildings that look at least 200-300 years old with ornate sculptures and pillars. Of course, we didn’t really venture away from the city so it probably isn’t like this further out.

The city is on the banks of the river Neva and there are a lot of surrounding canals that feed into the river. One feels like you’re never more than 2-3 blocks away from one of these canals in the city. The days are very long at the moment with the sun only setting around 11pm. The streets are extremely crowded as I imagine they only have this lovely weather for 2 months a year.

We walked along the Nevsky Prospekt which is a 4 km long road and is the central drag of the city. At one end is the world famous Hermitage Museum and the Winter Palace and the other end is the Moscow Train station. We were in a mad rush to visit the Hermitage before its closing time of 5 pm as we realized earlier that they are closed on Mondays. Unfortunately, we got lost and didn’t make it. We were both upset at having come this far, and not being able to visit so we decided to drown our sorrows in some amazing Russian food (borscht and pelmeni.. which is basically soup and dumplings of Ukranian and Chinese origin) and and some ‘complimentary’ vodka shots thanks to a friendly waiter who I suspect wanted to practice his English. Needless to say, it was pretty vile tasting and I declared pretty much on the spot that I was done with drinking vodka on the trip. Of course, that didn’t last long as soon enough our waiter was back with another set of shots…which was even harder to go down than the first round!:)

It had been a long day and so we made our way back on foot to our hostel along some back roads where we saw even more stunning buildings.

We really like the city but the language barrier makes things difficult. All our maps are in Russian and very few of the road signs in English…which is why we got lost earlier. It’s a little disorienting but we’re getting the hang of it!:) After all its an adventure!

Bill on Nevsky Prospekt

Bill on Nevsky Prospekt

Pre-vodka smile

Pre-vodka smile

Post-vodka tears

Post-vodka tears

Walking past random cathedral on our way back to the hostel

Walking past random cathedral on our way back to the hostel

Along the canal

Along the canal

Grand building on Nevsky Prospekt

Grand building on Nevsky Prospekt

Day 5 and 6: London

July 25th: Since Bill and I have both been to London before, we didn’t feel the need to be in a mad rush to do anything touristy…so instead, we decide to catch up on sleep and then when we finally leave home, get on the first bus that goes by and see where that takes us. We ended up in Greenwich…really hungry!:)
After the mini adventure and lunch we headed to The British Museum and spent a few hours there. Seeing the Rosetta Stone again was pretty cool. We met up with a close friend after and then spent the evening satisfying my craving for Indian food! I’m not sure how good the Indian good would be in Central Asia.
July 26th: We spent the morning just hanging out at home and finally left home at 1pm and made our way to Borough Market and had some pretty amazing Chorizo sandwiches with a side of ‘Pimms’.
We fly to St.Petersburg tonight. I’m a bundle of nervous energy at the moment. So far, we’ve not had to venture out of our comfort zone on this trip… And as much as we are looking forward to the adventure and new experiences, I’m a bit jittery.
Will post first impressions of the city tomorrow.

The British Museum

The British Museum

Bill and The Standard of Ur

Bill and The Standard of Ur

Borough Market

Borough Market

Raghav and Aditi

Raghav and Aditi

image

Day 3 and 4: Exploring Liverpool

July 24th and 25th: We spent the next few days exploring Liverpool’s museums and history. We also did a bus tour which was fantastic owing to the weather which was back to being nice and sunny again.

They have an excellent Maritime Museum and of course the famous Beatles Museum… Which is what the city is most famous for these days… The home of the Fab Four. In it’s hey day, it was a huge port and played a strategic role in both World Wars. Also, the famous White Star Line, the shipping company that built the Titanic was headquartered here. The building, although rundown, still stands today.

We headed to London later that day and had a lovely evening with our cousin Raghav and his wife Aditi….who have a stunning apartment right near London Bridge! I love this city!

Bill  and Keshu own the bus tour

Bill and Keshu on the bus tour

The Liver buildings

The Liver buildings

Old cathedral bombed out in WWI

Old cathedral bombed out in WWII

image