Day 4 - Moscow, Russia
|Tuesday, July 2, 2002: Around 3:30 AM, the ship made its way into the narrow channel leading to St. Petersburg. It was already light out, so we watched out our window as we passed all sorts of interesting military yards and small islands.
|We're up anyway, so why not get out the birthday cards and presents and celebrate Tom's 34th birthday? He looks delighted with his new presents. Of course, his primary gift is getting to visit Moscow on his birthday.
|Sunrise in St. Petersburg was at 4:45 AM. We could see the city in the distance, but we hadn't yet reached the harbor.
|When we reached the harbor, we were greeted by an aging sign with Russian letters. Tom was able to decipher it: Leningrad.
|In the spooky quiet of early morning, it was amazing to realize that we were finally in Russia.
|There were a handful of people scattered around the harbor.
|Several hours later, we had made it through immigration and were off on our trip to Moscow.
|But first, we drove through St. Petersburg to the airport. Being fans of hot, golden French Fries, we were thrilled to spot our first Russian McDonald's ...
|... and our first Russian Pepsi sign ...
|... and our first Russian Coca-Cola bottling plant.
|We arrived at the airport and were still thrilled by all of the adorable Russian words.
|Onboard our Pulkovo flight to Moscow on a Tu-154, we marveled at the 70's orange and avocado decor.
|Finally, we arrived in Moscow, and our first photograph is of McDonald's. Typical Americans, huh?
|Average Russian street scene -- but isn't that a TGI Friday's on the left??
|Finally, we arrived at the Kremlin for the first portion of our tour. The Kremlin! Somehow, we've made it our entire lives without realizing that the Kremlin is not a single building -- it's an entire walled complex consisting of many buildings.
|We've thoughtfully photographed the map so you can see the layout.
|Our first stop was the Armory, which isn't actually filled with ammunition, but with priceless treasures such as this beautiful gold clock, Faberge eggs, formal wear, jewelry, china, thrones and carriages of Russia's ruling elite.
|It's a gorgeous building with lovely vaulted ceilings like this one ...
|... and this one.
|Here's a lovely little garment, fit for a czarina.
|After we toured the Armory, Birthday Boy Tom posed for one of many "I-can't-believe-we're-really-here!" photos.
|At this point in the day, every view of an onion-domed church was a good reason to take a photo.
|Also on the Kremlin grounds are many lovely cathedrals. We're sure they all have interesting historical backgrounds, but if you want that kind of information, you're on the wrong website. Here's Debbie standing in the middle of a square surrounded by four of them. Here's one ...
|... and another ...
|... and a third.
|Wait! What's this? A slight commotion, and suddenly some very important people came out of one of the cathedrals and got into a waiting limo. Police directed the procession of cars away. Debbie was convinced that the passenger in the first car was Russian President Vladimir Putin, even though we were told that the VIP was the Grand Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, not the President. She later spotted President Putin several more times: selling souvenirs, strolling Red Square and driving our tour bus. Maybe she's not so good at recognizing him after all.
|More beautiful onion domes. They're everywhere.
|Still on the Kremlin grounds, we finally approached some of the government buildings where the President and Russian government go about their work.
|How exciting to see Russian soldiers marching on the roads of the Kremlin. Tom was convinced he had died and gone to Tom Clancy heaven.
|After our morning at the Kremlin, we had a tasty lunch at the National Hotel, one of Moscow's finest. It was indistinguishable from any other opulent European five-star hotel except for the view of St. Basil's Cathedral from the dining room.
|Here's a menu of the tasty food we were served. Note the adorable Russian text and Tom's birthdate at the top.
|After lunch, we drove through Moscow to ...
|... the KGB Museum, housed in the former KGB headquarters. This building is known as the tallest building in Moscow, because (drum roll, please) "from the top floor, you can see Siberia."
|Finally! The highlight of our trip -- seeing St. Basil's Cathedral and Red Square in person. Getting this photograph was the entire reason for our trip. Humor us and click on the photo to see a larger view of our favorite photograph. From here on, the rest of our lives will be a crushing disappointment after this perfect day.
|Now, let's take a slow walk around Red Square. Here is the GUM department store on the left when facing St. Basil's.
|It's a huge building, ...
|... extending the entire length of the square.
|There's St. Basil's Cathedral at the end of the square, ...
|... and Lenin's Tomb on the right.
|We'll come back to get a closer look in a minute, ...
|... but we're still scanning the square at this point. Vendors are scattered around the square.
|We headed into GUM department store to do a little shopping. It's actually a mall, not an American-style department store. Boutiques line both sides of this long corridor.
|We bought this set of 10 matryoshka nesting dolls here from a kiosk in the middle of the corridor.
|Afterward, we went back out onto Red Square to get a closer look at Lenin's Tomb. All marble, it's a sight to behold.
|It's so shiny, that we took a photo of ourselves in the reflection. You'll have to look at the larger version of the photo to spot us in the lower right side of the shot.
|St. Basil's Cathedral is so pretty in the summer sun that we took pictures from several angles as we headed toward our bus.
After our afternoon at Red Square, we boarded our flight back to St. Petersburg and declared it a very good birthday indeed.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy