Hello from Moscow, what an incredible day. Today we got a chance to experience several of the adventures and sights of the city, learning a tremendous amount about Russian culture, politics and history. The morning started with a busy Russian breakfast at the hotel Cosmos, and we met up with our certified tour guide Sergei , a local and an expert in the goings on of the city.
Our first destination was Christ the Savior Cathedral, a beautiful Cathedral built over 3 generations of Czars (beginning with Nicholas II and finishing in 1887 under his grandson Alexander III). Stalin destroyed the Cathedral in 1931. Then under the rule of Boris Yeltsin, Christ the Savior was rebuilt beginning in 1994 and the exact replica was completed in 1998. Thanks to thousands of pieces salvaged in city archives, the exact replica was able to be built.
Next we traveled through the old part of the city, down “Lazy Street” (the shortest street in the city) and down St. Barbara St. (the oldest street, named to St. Barbara, the patron saint of merchants), to the New Maiden Nunnery. In the time of Czars, men sent wives to the nunnery so they could remarry and get rid of their wives. It was then converted to a prison during WWII, a museum of “Female Emancipation” in the sixties, and was re-established as a nunnery in 1991. The New Maiden Nunnery is located on the lake that was the inspiration for Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”—a beautiful piece of nature amid all the chaos of the city.
Other highlights included seeing the stadiums of the 1980 Olympics, standing in the Red Square seeing Lenin’s tomb, St. Basil’s Cathedral and the red walls of the Kremlin. We drove past Moscow State University known as: “the Wedding Cake of Russia”. We then ventured across the river to an Iconic Russian art gallery, the Tretyakov, getting a chance to view some stunning Russian pieces and learned an immense about them through the expertise of our tour guide.
It has been astounding to learn about “New Russia”, an identity only about 20 years old, but also understanding that WWII and the impact of Communism is an ever present force still shaping the economy, culture, and psyche of Russia and its citizens .
We finished the day at a local, traditional Russian café that no one could pronounce the name of. It has been an adventure already, and its difficult to believe we have only been here for a day and half. We’ve been enjoying the culture and people, the beautiful weather and stunning sights.
We are quickly understanding the meaning behind a quote of Nicolai Gogol, roughly translated as- “There is no measure stick to measure Russia”.
Fun Fact: The first Mother Superior of the New Maiden Nunnery (once reestablished in ’91) was a Professor of Mathematics at Moscow State University.