Is that really Lenin?

Trip Start Jun 14, 2010
Trip End Aug 30, 2010

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Flag of Russia  , Moscow,
Thursday, July 1, 2010

Today was all planned out but turned out very differently. I did manage to see Lenin in his austere mausoleum. Very interesting. So are the stories about the preservation of his body. No cameras could be brought in. The pictures in the preservation of his body article are spot on.

I also saw the grave of Stalin represented by a bust of his head. Also that of Andropov but I couldn't make out the other names of people buried there.

Second thing that went to plan was visiting  Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed, also known as the Cathedral of the Intercession,  (St Basil reminds me to much of Faulty Towers). Read more about Vasily here and here.

The inside of the cathedral was fascinating. It appears it consists of several churches, some nine I think, linked by passage ways charmingly decorated. There were so many icons and gold it was quite overwhelming/ Very beautiful. Read about the cathedral here.

Coffee was partaken at an upmarket cafe with an outdoor seating area overlooking the Red Square. I could almost imagine the machinery of power (tanks, rockets, large number of soldiers) passing me as I looked over to the Kremlin. Coffee here is a total luxury costing between NZ$8 and 12. Staggering.

This is where the plan went astray: the Kremlin was closed. I later found it is always closed n a Thursday. I DID see the vehicle entrance to the Kremlin which Putin and Medvedev use. I though that was always something.

I had planned to go to the Tolstoy Estate Museum and noticed with interest that the map said that nearby there was a Weavers Guild & Textile Shop. I searched at length, asked many people until someone finally told me it did not exist any more. In the process I was fortunate to see the beautiful 1689 stone house of the original Weavers Guild.

I accidentally came across the most stunning church nearby, commissioned in 1676 by the Weavers Guild: Church of St Nicholas in Khamovniki. It is white with many trims in green and orange. Tolstoy who lived further up the street was a parishioner here and featured in his novel Resurrection. The main part of the church was undergoing restoration but the remainder was very beautiful.

Women all don a head scarf on entering and they are supplied free in the lobby.

Wikipedia says that up to 65% of ethnic Russians and a similar percentage of Belarusians and Ukrainians identify themselves as "Orthodox." Read more about the Russian Orthodox Church here.

I wasn't disappointed with the Tolstoy Estate Museum. What a charming setting for a rambling house of 13 children. The rooms are all as when the family lived there and you could just imagine the daily life of the family. Certainly has inspired me to get into some of his tomes and to read more about his biography. His wife seemed particularly interesting and supporting of his work as was the middle daughter.

From the Tolstoy Estate I took a bus to the Novodevichy Convent and Cemetery. Well, the cemetery closed at 5pm, not 6pm. I peeped though a hole in the door, though.

I then wandered to the adjoining convent and somehow I could just walk into the grounds. What a wonderful and tranquil setting for a life removed from the world. Apparently, it was started by Ivan the terrible's half-sister Sofia and was intended for nuns from the aristocracy. Many historic buildings and a number of churches. I went into one of them and found a service taking place complete with nuns singing and a number of priests performing rituals. yes, I felt slightly out of place but coped : ). No crossing of legs though, if you sit. One nun was in charge of preventing inappropriate behavior such as my crossed legs. The people who attended were quire ordinary, young and old, lighting candles, frequently bowing and crossing themselves. No chairs, so everybody just stood up in the large room. Newcomers would walk round the various icons and kiss them.

Today I have been observing the crazy parking in Moscow. As I said earlier: if there's room for a car it's a park. Check the picture! Why not do this in Dunedin? So much more creative and I have not seen any accidents yet, so must work for Muscovites.

Today turned out to have lots of pleasant surprises. OK, I did not get to se the graves of people like Khrushchev, Bulgakov, Prokofiev and Checkov but here they are, right on the Internet. The real find was the Weavers' Guild stone building and the church they commissioned, St Nicholas in Khamovniki as well as witnissing the service in the Novonivichy Convent.

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