Moscow in the Snow

The night train to Moscow was a great way to travel. We left at 11.45 and arrived at Moscow central station at 8.15am. After disembarking and breakfast nearby, we set off on a bit of a drive around Moscow before stopping off at the Red Square. We were very lucky when we arrived, as the line to enter Lenin’s tomb was very short so we got to walk through and see his embalmed body. It was a pretty spooky experience as he looks like a wax figure and everywhere you turn and look there are Russian guards eyeballing you, unflinching and not blinking. At the red square we also spent some time checking out the famous St Basils cathedral and taking pictures. 

The red square gets its name, not from the red walls of the Kremlin running down one side, but the fact that in Russia, red means beautiful. I can understand this given the beautiful and imposing buildings which surround it. 

After the red square and lunch, we went on a tour of the metro on our way back to our hotel. The metro stations in Moscow are beautiful, with marble, guilder cold, frescos and mosaics. It is also impeccably clean with giant, deep escalators. The engineering of the metro was actually carried out by London Undergriund engineers who were specially recruited. A number were even arrested as spies by the secret police as they gained a in depth knowledge of Moscows layout as a result of the work. Luckily they were deported after a mock trial. 

After a quick nap we headed out again for dinner in a restaurant with giant paintings of overweight men on the wall. Dinner was accompanied by vodka and Russian Champagne, which may or may not have been related to the Snow Ball fight we had later outside the Kremlin…

The morning after our snowball fight we made it inside the Kremlin itself. There is a road which runs through the Kremlin, lined with guards. You are not allowed to cross the centre line if this road as the other side is the presidential offices. Where you are allowed is the old churches/cathedrals. We visited these which were very beautiful, as well as walking through the grounds to check out Putin’s helicopter pad. After this we visited the biggest Russian Orthodox Church which is incredible beautiful and ornate. After this it was farewell to our tour buddies that night before heading to Berlin!

The Moscow Kremlin including Palace and Orthodox Churches

Enroute to Lenin’s Tomb

St Basils in the red square

Moscow fashion at its best. Just kidding, they all wore fur.

Red Square Christmas markets

State Historial Museum

Moscow Metro

Moscow Metro

Moscow Metro

Naked man mural. 

Snowball fights outside the Kremlin

Our Hotel

Grey Gouse Vodka

Entering the Kremlin

Communist Congress

Presidential offices, formerly the Tsar Palace. 

Useless Kremlin Canon. Too big to fire or put on the wall of the fortresss

Lazy eye and Kremlin Church

The wall of the Kremlin, looking down to Putins helipad

Kremlin grounds

Snow!

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

Moscow Smog


Typical Stalinist Soviet building

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St Petersburg and Russian Impressions

I have to start this blog post with an upfront confession. When I decided to book my trip to Russia, I didn’t actually think too much about what it would be like. In my head, I had this preconceived idea of a more modern Vietnam, perhaps crossed with a bit of East Berlin, with remaining ‘communist’ influence everywhere. Between that and the constant bad press Russia receives, I couldn’t have been more surprised and delighted by the reality.

On arrival at St Petersburg, I have to say we were somewhat amused by the customs officers. There were no big scary men with guns as I anticipated, however there was a short customs man stomping about in an absolutely giant hat, and another customs lady strutting around in high heals and a short skirt while we waitress to clear passport control. The pair really did look quite ridiculous. 

For our trip we decided on a tour, and we met our guide on our first night in St Petersburg. Tanya was our guide and she was awesome. So fun and full of personality, as well as pride for her country, and an open mind in terms of our questions about life in Russia. One question we asked, was is Putin popular, and what do you think of what happened in Crimea. When Putin was elected for the first time in 2000, he was an unknown, having been put forward by Boris Yeltsin. After two terms and 8 years in office he was unable to continue as president, however the law conveniently changed so that now he is 4 years into a 6 year term. Supposedly, Putin is admired by many Russians for returning Russian self confidence and self respect following the collapse of the Soviet Union and recovery. In 2012 when he was elected again, Putin had only 55% support. After Sochi, 65%, and then after Crimea, 85%! Reclaiming Criemea, as the Russians see it, is historical justice for Russian territory which was lost after the collapse of the USSR. Hearing the Russian side, coupled with the western media view, I can see why it happened although I of course can’t agree with the how. So long story short, yes Putin is very popular.

Nevsky Prospoct is the main boulevard in St Petersburg and the heart of the old city centre. This street and the surrounds were our location for our first nights dinner and are absolutely beautiful! The city is full of gorgeous classical Russian Architecture which remains from the time of the Tsars, having survived the various wars as well as the communist era and it has all been refurbished since the fall of the Soviet Union. The white on pastel of these buildings really is stunning when coupled with all the fantastic New Years Eve lights. 

Our first full day we visited the Winter Palace / Hermitage museum in St Petersburg as well as the Church of our Saviour on Blood and a drive around the city to take in the key sites. As it was also Christmas Day we had a big dinner with everyone, enjoying tradition Russian food and several Vodkas. 

Our second day we visited one of the Summer residences of the Tsars in Pushkin, near St Petersburg. After the October revolution, the Bolsheviks and communists opted to keep all the palaces open in order for the ordinary Russian people to see the way the Tsar’s and emperors were living, to show them why a revolution was necessary. Catherine’s palace was very beautiful, and is nestled amoungst a normal Russian town which was interested get to see. After the palace we had traditional Russian food fork lunch including Borsh and Stroganoff, all of which was delicious. Our next stop was Peter and Paul Fortress, The birthplace of the city of St Petersburg. After a Loooooooong day we enjoyed a Russian folk show including proper Russian dancing before heading to catch our sleeper train to Moscow. The sleeper train was amazing and and comfortable with cabins with bunks of 4. 

Overall, St Petersburg was a beautiful city and if the opportunity came up again to visit, I would definitely take it and would encourage everyone else to do the same. It is so clean and orderly and we felt incredibly safe the whole time we were there.

Nevsky Prospect New Years Eve lights

Russian Classical Architecture

New friends at the Church of Our Saviour on Blood

Political Russian Dolls. Putin, Yeltsin, Khrushchev, Stalin, Lenin.

The Winter Palace, now the Hermitage Museum

Palace Square

Outside the Winter Palace

The Church of our Saviour on Spilled Blood by day

Russian Orthodox Cathedral

Frozen Canal

Frozen River and the Winter Palace 

Rubbles! 

Pre-WWI ship

Vodka!

Summer residence

So many mirrors!

Outside Catherine Palace

Catherine Palace

Typical Russian Housing in Pushkin

Church within Peter and Paul fortress 


Sleeper train to Moscow!!