Published: September 21st 2011September 20th 2011
Walt and I left St. Petersburg on Sunday early in the morning. Ten different trains run daily between the two cities. We chose the fastest one and made the trip in four and a half hours. We quickly realized that we only had the hotel address in English, but we did have the hotel's phone number. In the future, we need to remember to have the hotel send their name and address in the country's native language.
Our friend, Jim Hammett, arrived on Sunday afternoon. He will be traveling with us as far as Singapore.
Moscow is more of a business center than a cultural center like St. Petersburg. The Moscow River gave the city its name. High rises abound here along with a mixture of many styles of architecture. When Stalin was the ruler he commissioned 7 buildings of the same design to be built on Moscow's 7 hills. They are known as the Seven Sisters. Speaking of Stalin, he is no longer revered in Russia. All of his statues have been removed.
Today, new apartment complexes are being built and are much more attractive than the old Soviet cheaply built gray ones. During Soviet times, up to
4 or 5 families shared an apartment. Each family had its own bedroom but shared the other living space.
The primary religion of Russia is Orthodox. There are many giant cathedrals and many more small churches. Throughout Moscow, there are additional small Orthodox buildings that are called chapels. No services are held in them and some cannot even be entered. They are more like shrines where people leave flowers, candles, gifts. Many other religions are practiced here but their religious facilities are often in outlying areas.
Many of the Orthodox churches in Moscow are now considered museums and don't function as churches. I found that women have to cover their heads in functioning Orthodox churches because they are considered to be sinners. As infants, both female and male babies are baptized. The priests takes the males back into the inner sacred part of the church. That is the only time in his lifetime that he will be allowed in that part of the church. Girls never have that opportunity. At baptism, the baby's body is completely immersed in holy water. The priest uses oil to make the sign of the cross on the hands, feet, eyes, and forehead.
many more women than men in Moscow. The women are dressed stylishly, wear high heels, and makeup. They are dressed ready to go to war for a MAN! Our guide told us that unmarried Russian women can no longer get a Visa to the U.S. I believe this is a result of so many choosing to marry Americans and stay in the U.S.
Our hotel is located close to Red Square and many historical sites. The Kremlin is a large walled citadel. It contains the President's offices, 4 main cathedrals, 20 Towers, the Palace of Congresses, and more. Outside the walls are Red Square, Lenin's Mausoleum, State History Museum, G.U.M. department store complex, St. Basil's Cathedral, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Prime Minister's offices are down the street in a high rise called the White House.
During WW II, the Kremlin was covered with green net to camouflage it. A fake Kremlin was built from cheap materials across the river. This was in hopes the Germans would bomb it instead of the real Kremlin.
Children are required to attend school for 8 years. Parents can decide whether their child will start at 6 or 7 years of
Center of government for Russia
age. If a child wants to go to the University, they stay in school 2 more years and then go 5 years to the University. Other students might choose to go to technical school for two years to learn a profession.
Walt and I have met several very interesting tourists/foreign business people in Moscow. We met a young Ukranian lady who now lives and works in Scotland for a high end fabric company. We met a group from the Northeast (U.S.) headed to Mongolia to trek and observe Mongolians training young boys how to use eagles to catch and kill small game. We met a curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art headed to the "Stans" and leading a tour of art patrons. Walt met a retired college professor from my hometown, Rome, GA. He now owns a business in Beijing. He just arrived on the TransSiberian and told Walt that he was the sole passenger in his train car. He was bored stiff for 6 days.
Today, we visited the Novodevichy Convent and on the grounds was a government run cemetery reserved for notables - government officials, top military officers, authors, artists, dancers, etc. Every grave was marked with
Cathedral inside the Kremlin
There are 4 Cathedrals inside the Kremlin. Moscow is often called "Golden Headed" for its many gold onion domes.
an elaborate headstone that had a head sculpture or an etched portrait of the individual. It also showed symbols related to their work. It was clear to us that the most popular gravesite was that of Gorbachev's wife. She has been compared to Jackie Kennedy. Her grave had dozens of fresh red roses and other beautiful flowers. There were many graves of military officers who helped defeat the Germans as they attempted to take Moscow in WWII. Russian Presidents and other senior officials, who die while serving their country, are buried in the Kremlin. The cemetery, itself, was a history lesson.
We board the train late tonight and will probably not have internet access for 4 days. Our next stop will be Irkutsk where we will stay for a couple of days.
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