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Tuesday 11 September 2012

[Monday 10 September 2012]
Moscow to St. Petersburg
According to the “Booking Document”:
Moscow to St. Petersburg
Walking/shopping tour of Old Arbat Street and tour of Moscow’s Metro before transfer to railway station for day train to St. Petersburg (departing 16:30 arriving 20:45 but times may vary)
Transfer from Hotel to Moscow Railway Station
Transfer from St. Petersburg Railway Station to Hotel
Spend 4 nights at Sokos Olympic Garden on a bed & breakfast basis
a. An additional note at the end of the “Booking Confirmation” document says:
Half-board upgrade

But there was also the postponed “half-day tour of the Kremlin including a visit to the Armoury Chamber” to fit in. So the revised plan was that instead of the transfer to Moscow Railway Station being from the hotel, we would load our luggage on the coach in the morning, do the Kremlin tour, go on to Arbat Street and the Metro, rejoin the coach, and go from there to the station. The phone rang our wake-up call at 6.00am. Janet got up at 6.15am… finished the packing, then we went for breakfast ca.7.45am. Again, I included «бекон» in what I ate. We got all our stuff together and went down to Reception. Check-out was just the straightforward handing over of the door cards. Лидия arrived ca.8.45am, but the coach didn’t arrive for several minutes. I went to sit down to conserve my right leg. When the coach arrived, the luggage was loaded in its bowels, then we boarded and went off for our Kremlin visit. A “kremlin” per se is a fortified enclosure, and there are kremlins in a number of Russian cities. I hadn’t realised that until this trip. When I saw the date-and-time display on the coach, I realised it was “Nine Eleven” and mentioned this to Janet.

Click on the photos, below, for a larger view.

09:34:56 Again, a traffic queue as we approach the Kremlin

09:37:24 Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on the other side of the Moskva River, demolished by Stalin in 1931 to make room for a “Seven Sisters”-style Palace of the Soviets. Building of this was halted by the Second World War, and a replica cathedral was completed on the site and consecrated in 2000.

09:41:36 One of the reasons for the traffic queue:…

09:41:36 …police controlling traffic to the Kremlin

Moscow Kremlin and City Centre
  1. The Armoury Chamber
  2. The Assumption Cathedral
  3. The Annunciation Cathedral
  4. The Archangel's Cathedral
  5. The Patriarch's Palace, the Twelwe Apostles' Church and One-Pillar Chamber
  6. The Church of Laying Our Lady's Holy Robe
  7. The Ivan the Great Bell-Tower, the Assumption Belfry and the Filaret Annex
  8. The Tsar Cannon
  9. The Tsar Bell
  10. The Faceted Chamber
  11. The State Kremlin Palace
  12. The Terem Palace
  13. The Grand Kremlin Palace
  14. The Arsenal
  15. The Senate
  16. The Kutafiya Tower
  17. The Trinity Tower
  18. The Commandant Tower
  19. The Armoury Tower
  20. The Borovitskaya (Grove) Tower
  21. The Water-Supplying Tower
  22. he Annunciation Tower
  23. The Secret Tower
  24. The First Nameless Tower
  25. The Second Nameless Tower
  26. The Peter's Tower
  27. The Mascworetskaya (Moscow River) Tower
  28. The Sts Constantine & Helen Tower
  29. The Alarm Bell Tower
  30. The Tsar Tower
  31. The Saviour Tover
  32. The Senate Tower
  33. The St Nicholas Tower
  34. The Corner Arsenal Tower
  35. The Middle Arsenal Tower
  36. The Secret Gardens
  37. The Alexander Gardens
  38. Gift shop and excursion centre
  39. The State History Museum
  40. The Church of the Intercession (St Basil's Cathedral)
  41. The Manege
  42. Okhotny Ryad Shopping and Entertainment Centre
  43. GUM Department Store
  44. Moscow State M.V. Lomonosov Uneversity

K - Left luggage
T - Public toilet
+ - First aid
Б - Cash point
M - Underground station

09:51:40 Approaching the Borovitskaya (Grove) Tower, the public entrance to the Kremlin (№20 on the map)

09:52:32 Kremlin north-west facing wall

09:52:58 The Borovitskaya Tower

09:55:04 Kremlin north-west facing wall

10:02:28 The Borovitskaya Tower from within the Kremlin. About to enter the Armoury (№1 on the map)
Photography was not allowed in the Armoury. We were each issued with a small radio-receiver with an earphone, so that Лидия could address us all without having to raise her voice. It was there that we saw jewel encrusted crowns (mostly sable-trimmed caps), orbs and sceptres; gowns and robes, with much gold thread in evidence; chairs and thrones; many carriages, with intricate decorations and carvings, and a troika sleigh; other treasures, e.g. ornately framed icons and gold and silver bound Bibles; all sorts of plates, vessels and other items, of gold, silver, ivory, porcelain and enamel; suits of armour and ceremonial swords and guns; etc. The Fabergé collection was somewhat disappointing, with only a few Easter eggs to be seen and a number of gaps where the items had been removed for other exhibitions.

11:45:48 South wall of the Armoury (№1 on the map). People can be seen entering (lower left).

11:47:58 The Grand Kremlin Palace (№13 on the map)

11:49:58 The Grand Kremlin Palace

11:50:30 View over the Kremlin wall across the Moskva River

11:51:46 Domes of the churches just beyond the Grand Kremlin Palace: the Annunciation Cathedral (№3, left); the Archangel’s Cathedral (№4, right); the Ivan the Great Bell-Tower (№7, centre, background)

11:54:16 The Assumption Cathedral (№2)

11:56:04 The Annunciation Cathedral (№3)

11:56:12 The Annunciation Cathedral (№3)

11:59:10 Fresco in the entrance of the Annunciation Cathedral. Beyond there, photography was not allowed.

Iconostasis of the Annunciation Cathedral (photo from Wikipedia)

12:11:14 The Ivan the Great Bell-Tower, the Assumption Belfry and the Filaret Annex (№7)

12:12:56 Entrance to the Dormition/Assumption Cathedral (№2)

12:13:48 Window of the Palace of the Facets (№10), with a reflection in it from the opposite side of Cathedral Square of the tower of the Ivan the Great Bell-Tower

12:14:28 The Church of Laying Our Lady's Holy Robe (№6)

12:15:10 The Church of Laying Our Lady's Holy Robe (№6)

Again, photography was not allowed in the Dormition Cathedral, but I found a photo on the internet that gives some idea.
Seemingly, in the Dormition Cathedral, every available space was covered with paintings, even the four huge supporting pillars — which reminded us of how Egyptian temples must have looked when they were covered, except that the Cathedral’s pillars were topped by arches, whereas the Egyptian ones were topped by straight lintels. I availed myself of a few minutes’ sit-down on one of the benches in that church. Back outside, Лидия took us to see the broken “Tsar Bell”—

12:38:16 The Tsar Bell (№9)

12:38:54 The Tsar Bell (№9)

12:40:08 The Tsar Bell (№9), broken during casting in 1737 and never rung
—and the Tsar Cannon.

12:42:44 The Tsar Cannon (№8)

12:43:46 The Tsar Cannon (№8)
Then we made our way out by the Trinity Tower (№17). On the way there, we passed on our left the State Kremlin Palace (№11) built in Khrushchev’s time, and on our right the Arsenal (№14).

12:47:14 The State Kremlin Palace (№11)

12:47:28 The Trinity Tower (№17)

12:48:12 The Arsenal (№14)

12:48:44 The Arsenal (№14)

12:49:54 Bridge and the Kutafiya Tower (№16) viewed through the arch of the Trinity Tower

12:50:36 The Middle Arsenal Tower (№35) and the Corner Arsenal Tower (№34) viewed from the bridge. Note the Italian-style crenellation on the wall of the bridge.
Back outside the Kremlin, we waited for the coach. I managed to find a low wall to sit on to rest my painful right foot.

12:55:26 View back at the Kremlin from where we waited for the coach

13:13:00 Trolleybus and “Seven Sisters” building
The coach deposited us outside a “Seven Sisters” building near the junction with Arbat Street. The first establishment I noticed in that street was a McDonald’s. Some of our party went off on their own to explore the Arbat district, but we stuck with Лидия, who took us on the Metro to show us some of the very ornate stations.

13:30:48 We were deposited outside a “Seven Sisters” building just round the corner from Arbat Street.

13:30:58 We were deposited outside a “Seven Sisters” building just round the corner from Arbat Street.

13:32:56 The branch of McDonald’s, found almost immediately after entering Arbat Street

13:38:18 Entering the Smolenskaya Metro station, round the back of McDonald’s

13:39:02 Лидия shows us a plan of the Metro.






13:47:02 «Смоленская»


We went first to “Ploshchad Revolyutsii”, two stations away from our entry-station “Smolenskaya”, which had revolutionary-style bronze statues either side of its arches.


13:59:28 Rubbing the muzzle of the dog is supposed to bring good luck.




From there we back-tracked to the next station “Arbatskaya”.



14:07:26 «Арбатская»

Then we went onwards two stations to “Kievskaya”.




14:16:02 «Киевская»

Finally, back one station to “Smolenskaya”.






We used the loo at McDonald’s, but the queue at the counter seemed to preclude my partaking of a «Биг Мак». I say “seemed”, because we had arranged all to meet up at a street corner opposite McDonald’s at 2.45pm. But at 3pm not all of our party had reconvened. I managed to perch uncomfortably on one of the low concrete posts that had chains slung between them. Finally, we upped and went to outside the “Seven Sisters” building, and waited a long time there. Лидия seemed to spend a long time on her mobile phone, sometimes talking quite agitatedly. I think the coach was stuck in traffic somewhere. Лидия even mused, half to herself, about taking us all on the Metro to the railway station. (Presumably, at this time, the coach, with all our luggage aboard, was more easily in reach of the station than of us.) My right foot was distressing me, so I went and sat on the bench in a nearby bus shelter. It was after 3.45pm that the bus finally rolled up, then it made very slow progress indeed through nose-to-tail traffic.

16:01:58 Crawling in the Moscow nose-to-tail traffic snarl-up
Лидия had given us our train tickets.

Сапсан (Sapsan, “Peregrine Falcon”) is the type of train we travelled on, known to manufacturer Siemens as Velaro RUS EVS.
It seemed unlikely that we were going to make the station for the scheduled 16:30 departure time; in fact, we were marginally late. Then the station parking-lot attendant seemed to be getting obstreperous with our driver. Eventually, we were out of the door, and the driver was frantically offloading our luggage. During this activity, one of the feet on one of our cases got broken off. So there we were, rushing in line to get to the station platform. Some railway official was petulantly waving us on, stabbing at his watch with his forefinger in annoyed fashion, and I in equally annoyed fashion called out, «Я знаю! Я знаю!» (“I know! I know!” — parroted from a line in Shostakovich’s 13th Symphony). I didn’t get time to photograph the waiting train, but here are photos from Wikipedia and manufacturers Siemens:
Once aboard, it was a bit of a muddle, because it wasn’t clear from the tickets what our seat numbers were. We were in the right coach, though. We all managed to get our cases stowed in the fairly adequate luggage recess, then sit and relax, realising how fraught our last coach ride through Moscow had been. It was only then that I realised that we hadn’t seen Лидия to thank and farewell her.

16:53:10 In the spacious Sapsan train
Janet went off and found a sales counter, where she bought two bottles of Pepsi Light (perhaps 0.6ℓ) for us, and a small pack of Pringles and a Snickers bar for me.

“ЕСП-СЕРВИС” (“ESP-Servis” — wonder if “esp” is short for “express”): Пепси-Кола Лаит (Pepsi-Cola Light), Принглс (Pringles), Сникерс (Snickers).

I transferred all the photos so far from today to the “little feller” and edited 59 of them (18:04–20:36) for much of the 400-mile journey. There were recorded announcements on the train in a female Russian voice and in English in a male British voice. The stations the train stopped at sounded to me like /tver/, /belaraja/ and /tʃudava/, and must have been Тверь (Tver), Болого́е (Bologoye) and Чудово (Chudovo).



19:40:26 Editing the photo taken at 12:55:26
As well as a static sales-location there was also a trolley-service on the train. Janet had another Pepsi and I a small bottle of red wine. When we arrived, got off the train, and started wheeling our luggage to the exit, a very stirring piece of orchestral Russian music started up from the station loudspeakers. “It makes me proud to be Russian!” I said. A woman was looking for the “Intourist” party, and our appearing obviously relieved a great deal of anxiety. She led us to the coach, and introduced herself as «Вера». One of the first things I noticed was the sound she made when unsure of what to say next: something like “mnyi” /mnjɪ/ (perhaps spelt in Russian characters «мне»). Brits might say “er” and people from the USA “ah”, but «мне» sounded so Russian! (Although Лидия had spoken with a Russian accent, I hadn’t noticed any utterance like «мне».)

The hotel seemed quite a long journey from the city centre. I deciphered illuminated shop signs, etc., en route, some of which amused me, e.g. «ФИТНЕС ЦЕНТР», “Fitness Centre”; «СЕКОНД ХЕНД», “Second Hand”. We were deposited at the hotel, and after milling round the opened trunk of the coach for our cases, entered and checked in. The lifts had a sensor that you touched your door key-card against before you pressed the button for your floor. The translation on the wall for «лифты» was not “lifts” but “elevators”. Our room was tiny compared with the one in Moscow, though I suppose it was about standard for most hotels.…
 As quickly as possible we went down to the restaurant and were shown to a large round table with a sign “
INTOURIST” on it, where the others who were on half-board also sat. There was a log fire burning in the fireplace that we passed. Dinner was a buffet, with hot and cold food available.

Photo of the restaurant, taken on 15 September 2012. The entrance and reception-point of the restaurant is left of the fireplace. The buffet is to the left of that, mostly out of shot. Our table this evening was out of shot to the right, under the overhang of the mezzanine floor.

Back up in the room, Janet unpacked what was needed, showered and went to bed. I found that there was a free wi-fi internet connection, so typed this message:

From: John E Cooper
Date: 11 September 2012 19:52
To: Chris Woodhead
Subject: St Petersburg

Hi Chris,
Just testing really: found a wi-fi connection named “PeterStar”. (Arrived in St Petersburg by train from Moscow a couple of hours ago.)
This made me chuckle: “РИВ ГОШ”. It took me a few seconds to realise that it was “Rive gauche”! And many such things one finds.
Card from Moscow is hopefully wending its way to you.

“19:52” was the time back home, so it was 22:52 when I attempted to send the message. There was some error message back, though, that the server couldn’t connect to “” or something like that, so I assumed that the e-mail wasn’t sent. [Chris did in fact get it — on 24th September 2012!] Edited 13 more photos from today (23:28–23:48) before going to bed.
[Wednesday 12 September 2012]

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