Sunday, May 4, 2008

In Which We Drag a Guest to Visit Kremlins

Kremlin means fortress or castle in Russian. Usually it is a walled compound with buildings inside. As a kid growing up in the Cold War, I always thought the word kremlin was like "White House" or "10 Downing Street," that is, the one building that housed the Soviet government. I was probably married before I realized that the Moscow Kremlin was the seat of government, but it was also the set of buildings where the USSR (and now Russia) carried out the government's business, and that this plot of ground also included many churches.

My point is that there is more than one kremlin in Russia. My very dear friend, DB, visited us last week. One of the places I took him was the Izmaylovo market to shop for souvenirs. While we got everything he wanted, I was surprised to see most of the vendors' booths were deserted. Perhaps this is a seasonal market.

But next to the market is a kremlin. The main entrance is below.

This complex is all constructed out of wood, and none of it seems to be more than about ten years old. The enclosing walls contain little shops, although the ones I saw didn't have much that is different than what one normally finds in the market next door.

The reason we went into this kremlin was that someone had told us that there would be an Easter Bell Ringing event. There seemed to be lots of things going on, but when I am the Senior Russian Speaker in a group, we sometimes have to guess at what is happening.

When we entered the kremlin, the ground was covered with these shiny ribbons and confetti.

Skittles gathered up quite an armload of the stuff.

While we were sitting on our bench, waiting for the bell ringing to start, some children dressed in traditional costumes paraded by. They were actually part of the bell ringing event, and a big group of them performed some songs and dances.

There were three sets of bells: two were in towers like this one.

And one was on the ground. I'd say about ten different bell-ringers performed, and while it was interesting, we saw about eight more than anyone really needs.

Here DB and Skittles are matryoska dolls.

The next day we went to see The Kremlin. Believe it or not, although we have lived in Moscow since mid-December, this was the first time the kids and I had been inside the Kremlin. I find I am not alone, however. We met a nice Dutch woman in the ticket line who was in the same boat. And last night a friend told us that his Russian friends say that if you rush to see all of Moscow in the first few weeks, then you will have nothing left to look forward to. Maybe.

The picture below is taken from the bridge leading into the Kremlin. The modern white and black building in the background is actually a construction/renovation project. When it is finished later this year, the Spouse will have an office there.

The photo below was is taken just inside the Kremlin entrance. The oddly modern building on the left of the photo is the State Kremlin Palace, which was only built in 1961 (I am older!). Originally built for Communist Party congresses, now it's used for cultural events.

Behind the gang is the Trinity Tower. My guide book says that Napoleon marched triumphantly through this gate in 1812, although he left Moscow defeated shortly after.

We bought tickets to the "Architectural Square" which gave us access to the churches, but not all of them were open, and sometimes all we could visit was a part of the church that functioned as a museum. The State Armoury required a separate ticket, and we'll have to do that on another day.

The church below is the Cathedral of the Assumption. Unfortunately, no one is allowed to take pictures inside the churches, so you'll just have to take my word for it when I say it was really ornate and lovely inside.

This is the Tsar Cannon. It was cast in 1586 and weighs 40 tons. I don't know the blonde chick, nor do I know how they got the gigantic cannon balls behind her into the cannon.

In the photo below, the bigger church on the left is the Cathedral of the Archangel, where many of the tsars are buried. We also got to hear an a cappella group singing hymns. They were remarkable, and their voices floated in the space. Gave me goosebumps.

The smaller church on the right is the Cathedral of the Annunciation, but we didn't get to go in it.

Lots of onion domes.

This is the Tsar Bell, the largest bell in the world.

Outside the Kremlin is Red Square. If you look at my earliest posts from Moscow, you can see that I have, indeed, already been here before. But here are some new photos. Below is the Red Army Museum. The ornate star is there because May 1 was Labor Day and May 9 is Victory Day. For May 9 there will be a a military parade, complete with tanks, for the first time since the breakup of the Soviet Union. The metro stop outside Red Square has lots of reinforcing pillars temporarily installed in the walkways to support the weight of the tanks on the street above during the parade. Seats inside Red Square are a VIP ticket-only event, but we have friends who live along the parade route, and we have been invited to watch from their apartment.

Below is GUM department store. In December, there was a huge ice skating rink in front of it.

Newlyweds traditionally have their pictures taken in Red Square and then go around the corner and lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

DB in front of St. Basil's. He is not a newlywed.

The tired crowd trudges back across Red Square, towards the Red Army Museum and home.

On the metro, tired but happy.


miamibob said...

As always, very interesting. I looked up the Tsar Cannon and the Tsar Bell. The cannon was never fired and the bell was never rung. Here are links:

Eleonora said...

This is fabulous!!!
When I read your blog - it was so vivid, that I felt myself being with you there:)
Thanks for revealing our Moscow in all beautyness...
I am excited....

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