I boarded the night train to Moscow and attempted to find my bed, and found myself a bit confused. Everyone was still in the days seats at this point, and the seat which I thought was mine was occupied. Someone who heard that I spoke English helped me and showed me to my bed; the reason I had been unable to find my bed was because the numbering system works differently for the seats versus the beds. The set up of the car was… well, I felt like the whole car was just one big room in a hostel. There aren’t room separations; every bed is accessible by the hallway that stretches through the car. I found the whole situation to be tremendously amusing. The beds were comfortable enough, and I slept well during the night. At about 6:30AM, they turned on the lights and said that we needed to start getting our things together because we would be arriving soon. Just after 7AM, we pulled into the station, and I had to set off in search of my hostel. I boarded the metro and after a long journey, complete with a few mistakes, I got off at Smolenskaya and followed the directions to Buddy Bear hostel, where I would be staying for the next four nights. I arrived at about 10AM, and although check in wasn’t officially until 2PM, they let me have my bed, so I lay down to take a nap. Although the train beds were sufficient, I hadn’t slept as long as I would liked, and needed a bit more sleep. When I woke up later, I set off to go and see St. Basil’s Cathedral, which I would presume to be the first tourist stop for most people. On the way, I passed the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, which is a grand and beautiful white cathedral, topped with golden domes. I went inside, and the interior was magnificent. I then passed the Kremlin and headed to the Red Square, where I gawked at the Historical Museum, and St. Basil’s Cathedral, less commonly known as The Cathedral of Intercession of Theotokos on the Moat. St Basil’s is absolutely remarkable; its story goes as follows: Tsar Ivan IV commissioned the Cathedral to be built, and once it was completed, he had the architect blinded so that he would never again be able to create anything so beautiful for anyone else. The interior of the cathedral is nowhere near as breathtaking as the exterior. I then wandered the surrounding areas and bought some food at a grocery store before heading back to my hostel for the night so that I could make dinner.
I decided that Friday was to be a shopping day, so I spent a great deal of time browsing the wares of Stary Arbat, which is the go-to place in Moscow for your souvenir shopping needs. After a great deal of deliberation, I decided on two matryoshka, one for me, and the other for Rachel, one of my very best friends, who will be receiving the matryoshka for her birthday. I feel it is necessary that I mention that Rachel is studying Russian, and subsequently, I thought of her constantly during my stay in Russia.
On Saturday, I got chatting to another of the short-term residents of the Buddy Bear Hostel, and as we were both heading out in search of food, we decided to dine together. We ended up just down the street from the hostel, at a restaurant that served traditional Russian food. After some thought, I chose the stewed rabbit, accompanied by a beer. After our late lunch, we each went off to see the city. I headed for the Red October Chocolate Factory, again passing the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Next to the factory is a giant statue of Peter the Great, that stands in the river. The factory was no longer operational; the many buildings that used to comprise the factory have been sold off and are now art galleries, and shops. I then headed for a nearby park, where I sat and read for a while, before heading back to the hostel, where I cooked dinner for myself once again.
I decided to devote Sunday to the Kremlin, which was a wise idea because there’s so much to see inside. Visitors are only allowed in certain areas of the grounds, and the entry ticket admits you into the five cathedrals in the courtyard. The cathedrals are each exquisitely beautiful, and each one is substantially different from the others. After visiting four of the of the cathedrals, as the fifth was not open to the public at the time, I went to the Armoury, which displays treasures from the Tsars’ treasuries. After the Kremlin visit, I headed back to the hostel and made dinner again.
Monday was a strange day. I was awoken by another of the hostel guests who informed me that there had been some bombings at two of the Metro stations, one of which was Park Kultury. The hostel where I was staying was equidistant between Smolenskaya, and Park Kultury, so it was a surreal feeling to be told that the metro stop closest to where we were staying had been attacked that morning. I was asleep when it happened, but it’s difficult not to feel shaken in a situation like this. I decided that I wouldn’t do much that day, despite it being my last day in Russia; I just thought it would be wiser to avoid crowds. I checked out officially, and put my bag into the storage room, and headed off to a café down the street. I ended up staying there and writing for a few hours, before I headed back to the hostel where I hung out for a few more hours before I needed to head across the city in order to catch my bus to Riga, Latvia. I weighed the options and decided that I would take the metro across the city to get to the bus station, because the alternative via tram was far too confusing, and I felt that my journey would be without problems. I got to the station just fine, though I felt that there was definitely a palpable level of tension in the air. I arrived early at the station, and had to wait for a while to catch my bus, but before long, I was headed on my way to Latvia, and saying goodbye to Moscow.
The Church of Christ the Savior
One of the domed ceilings of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior
The Historical Museum
St Basil’s Cathedral!!
These angels with three sets of wings were ubiquitous in the Russian cathedrals. I think they’re lovely.
The Historical Museum, with the Voskresensky (Resurrection) Gate
St. Basil’s Cathedral… get ready for lots of pictures of this.
The Kremlin clock tower
Statue of Alexander II
The Red October Chocolate Factory
A view of the Kremlin from across the Moskva River
The Cathedral of Christ the Savior
The giant Peter the Great statue
One of the towers on the Kremin walls
The Kazan Cathedral, in Red Square
The Lenin Mausoleum. I didn’t actually get to go to this, as I was planning to go on my last day, when I just didn’t feel like venturing out into the crowds.
The Church of the Twelve Apostles, in Cathedral Square, in the Kremlin
The top of the The Church of Laying Our Lady’s Holy Robe, inside the Kremlin
The Cathedral of the Annunciation, inside the Kremlin
The Cathedral of the Assumption, in Cathedral Square, in the Kremlin
The Ivan the Great Bell Tower, in Cathedral Square, in the Kremlin