On January 9, our first day back in Moscow after traveling the Golden Ring, our guide, Aleksandar, gave us a bus tour of Moscow. We saw several monuments to Russian leaders and artists as well as important buildings such as members of the seven sisters, building constructed by Stalin and prime examples of soviet architecture, as well as the Cathedral of Christ the Savior which is the tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world and is the site of the original premier of Tchaikovksy’s 1812 overture. ( This is the overture where Tchaikovsky employed cannons as instruments #thuglife).
We also had the opportunity to walk in the Red Square today where we were overwhelmed with the sheer size of the Kremlin and the beauty of GUM the mall across from it. We are confident that that might be the most beautiful shopping center any of us had ever been in.
GUM all decorated for the holiday season. This is an example of Soviet style decor that includes fruit, cards, and candy since people were very poor in Soviet Russia and did not have ornaments.
We could not help but mutter “Лепота” (Beautiful-old Russian) under our breaths as we looked upon the famous St. Basil’s cathedral. I believe there are no photos that could truly capture its beauty but this one will have to do.
St. Basil’s Cathedral
At the end of the day we all looked forward to returning to the square to explore the armory, Kremlin, and ice cream at GUM, of course. 🙂
After, this we had a tour of Novodevichii monastery where Peter the Great sent his sister Sofia so she would not undermine his rule. The incredibly beautiful monastery is also the site of the Swan Lake, the inspiration for Tchaikovsky’s ballet, Swan Lake. Unfortunately, swans no longer come this lake. We also had a tour of the Novodevichii cemetery where many famous Russians have been laid to rest including Anton Chekhov, Mikhail Gorbachev’s wife, Boris Yeltsin, Stanislavsky and so on. Unfortunately, I cannot remember them all because it was so cold that I thought my feet were literally going to fall off. I am sure I was not the only one and I hope someday we might all be able to return in the summer time, hopefully.
After having arrived in Moscow the night before, early this morning we headed out of Moscow and to Sergeev Posad, the site of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius. But first, we had a masterclass in the art of Russian Matryoshkas. Here, we learned about how the first matryoshka was made as a toy resembling all the siblings in one family. It was named after the eldest sibling, a girl, whose name was Matryona.
Our attempt at painting our own matryoshkas. I think we did well. In the words of our instructors, “There is no such thing as an ugly matryoshka!”
After, our successful masterclass in matryoshka painting, we toured the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius. St. Sergius supported Prince Dmitri Donskoi in his aim to unit the local Princes against the Tatars. This lead to success at the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380. St. Sergius also made toys for children that were very cute. At the Trinity Lavra, we walked through the refectory with the Church of St. Sergius. In this beautiful church, the current patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church was selected. We saw the Trinity Cathedral which was built in the 14th century and decorated with frescoes painted by the greatest icon painters of medieval Russia, Andrej Rublev and Danill Chyorny. Andrej Rublev’s masterpiece, “Trinity,” was painted for this church but now lies in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. We toured the Assumption Cathedral where we saw the coffin of St. Sergius which he made himself. The coffin is 187 centimeters long, so we came to the conclusion that St. Sergius was a tall man.
Assumption Cathedral-Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius
Since it was cold in the Trinity Lavra that day, we warmed up quickly with some lenten pirog which were delicious and then headed to Rostov. Here, we toured the Kremlin which was built in the 17 century by the Rostov Metropolitan of the time, Iona. We toured the Assumption Cathedral which was currently in the process of being remodeled. We then got a tour of the museum where we learned about the Rostov art of enamel. While we were there, we had to be careful not to walk into the paths of sledding children. There was much joy and celebration in the central courtyard due to Orthodox Christmas Eve.
We finally made it to Jaroslavl that night where we enjoyed our first Russian dinner. Some of us were even able to make it to church service in observation of Orthodox Christmas Eve. All in all, we had a very busy and beautiful first day in Russia.