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Published: August 29th 2020
Like a concerto the Russian rivers carried us in three movements...two fast outer movements and a slow lyrical middle movement.
I do not know if t'was its classical or purely Russian form but it was punctuated with cadenzas...brilliant dramatic solo passages where soloists play and the orchestra pauses and remains silent.
Soloists standing or sitting in front of the orchestra contrasting their skills verses the many other musicians of the orchestra that gives the concerto its unique sound.
There were so many highlights from idyllic sunrises to dramatic sunsets...so many cadenzas.
But the most magnificent of all...some call it a crescendo.
I call it Moscow.
There are cities and there are cities...then there is Moscow...blows my breath away!
On first arrival I was underwhelmed...docking on the Moska River from which Moscow draws its name...buildings lining the river bank so no sunrise pics this morning that's for sure.
Has the waltz of the rivers been replaced by brutalist city shores?
But in search of blues in Moscow I discovered its vibe...fell under the spell of its diatribe...gotta love this city...the highlight of one hell of a great ride.
9 million souls in and out daily...14 lines...212 stations...over 360 kms of
tracks...trains every 40 seconds...us entering from under the Moscow Dynamo Football Stadium...no wonder the Moscow Metro is the beating heart of the Russian Nation.
And they say it is all thanks to Stalin.
Construction commenced in 1931...opened in 1935...originally intended to be 10 stations and 80 kms of track...constructed by Russian workers with extravagant tiled facades, ceilings and statuary to highlight Stalin's might.
Russians may have been the workers but it was designed and supervised by British Engineers who had built the London Underground...their knowledge of Moscow's topography a knowledge if divulged, a potential of arrest or of early death.
We even saw machinery obscured in these railway stations...stamped from British factories .
Then came the Second World War and no better place for Air Raid Shelters during the Nazi Sieges of 1941.
The decoration was outstanding...passengers all tapping their mobile phones in silence between stations...then pouring out like ants from a hive...hands caressing lucky statuary icons smooth...up and down long steep escalators two abreast...in silence when coming in and out.
The highlight for me are we heard the stations we did not see are as innovative in ornamentation if not more spectacular
than the ones we did see...how good is that?
Emerging from the metro we pass the 1812 Patriotic War Museum on our left...gardens of yellow blooms to our right...impressive red twin towers with double arches...folk streaming in and out.
Alexander ushes us in and waits for exclamations as we breathe out.
This is the Voskrenenskie containing the Iverskaya Chapel and Resurrection or Iberian Gates...gasp...slow breathe out...Red Square...the famous St Basil's beckoning way ahead.
To our left the lolly pink, green and white trimmed gold domed 17th C Cathedral of our Lady of Kazan...the massive GUM Department Store stretching an eternity beyond that.
On our right the red State Historical Museum...and beyond it the walls of the Kremlin...the seat of Russian power.
Red Square began in 1493 near the Kremlin as a market area that was later destroyed by fire.
In 1508 a defence and fire prevention canal was dug along the entire east Kremlin wall joining the Neglinny and Moska Rivers about 50m wide...protecting the Kremlin from fires in the square.
St Basil's Cathedral was from 1561 known as "The Cathedral of the Intercession of the
Spasskaya Tower 1491
Moscow Kremlin from Red Square
Holy Virgin on the Moat".
The canal and moat were filled in 300 years later in 1819.
Over the centuries the square was used for markets...often destroyed by fires thus called "Pozhar"
until the late 17th C when it was called "Red"
from the old Slavonic word for "beautiful"
The name"Red Square"
was not officially adopted until the 19th C and retains that name to the present day.
In 1722 to celebrate victory in the Northern War against Sweden, Peter the Great had a triumphal gate to the square built in Roman design.
In 1804 the square was cobbled and in 1812 Napoleon assembled his troops there to celebrate the seizure of Moscow, using St Basil's Cathedral as stables for their horses.
Following the fire and retreat of Napoleon's French forces later that year, most of the damaged buildings were demolished.
In the 1930s Stalin pulled down the Iverskaya Chapel, Iberian Gates and Cathedral of our Lady of Kazan to make way for his May Day military parades during the October Revolution celebrations.
They were rebuilt in the 1990s and the Square revamped to its present splendour.
St Basil's Cathedral
Monument of Minia & Pozarsky
Led militia that freed Moscow from Polish forces in 1612
seen photos of the 1930 military parades and the foundations of the Cathedral of Kazan about one foot high are evident but otherwise the entrance area is empty space devoid of soul.
I see Napoleon's troops cheering and Russian despair...Yuri Gagarin waving...Russian soldiers, tanks and rockets saluting Putin...the multi coloured onion domes of St Basil's Cathedral dancing...another place I had only ever dreamed of visiting.
But I awake 'cos I'm no longer dreaming...St Basil's is ahead. St Basil's Cathedral
A building of exquisite beauty...an unmatched masterpiece of Russian architecture in a land brimming with onion domes ...position position position...spirits of the beholder to leap...the faithful...agnostics...nihilists even...to weep. But its aura is its magnet...its beauty its skin...its soul its history that beats like a heart within.
Moscow first appeared in chronicles in about 1147AD and thereafter became a centre of Rus culture which until the 16th Century was often under the control of The Golden Horde...the Mongolian khanates that ravaged from Asia to Europe...often called the Tatars...devastating Moscow not infrequently and much of what is now Russia as it turned out.
The Tatar conquests finally came to an end during the reign
of Ivan the Terrible...the first Russian Tsar 1547 - 1584...the one that extended the power of the Grand Duchy of Moscow into the Tsardom of Russia and the rise of the Russian Empire.
The final nail in Tatar control was Ivan's defeat of the Khanate of Kazan and its capital Kazan (730 kms downstream on the Volga) in 1555.
And to commemorate the victory ending centuries of Tatar Mongolian rule...Ivan ordered the building of Pokrovsky Sobor (the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin on the Moat)...nine domes for nine chapels...dedicated to the saints whose holidays coincided with highlights of the Kazan military campaign.
Nine chapels...the many faces of St Basil's...see Page 4 of my photos for highlights of each. Legends and Loincloth
My Moscow Kremlin Red Square New Guidebook tells me a Moscow street prophet, Basil the Blessed, was buried in the Cathedral's northeastern wall in 1557AD.
This holy man was an aesthetic like St Cyril see RUSSIA...There's something about Cyril
...a Holy Fool.
Under the guise of insanity and holiness...rejecting all shame and decency...able to say things to rulers that would cause others to lose their heads...Basil the Beatific canonised posthumously in 1588.
Records say he never wore any clothes and had begged for food all his life...so holy he was feared by Ivan the Terrible.
His icon is a Holy Relic at St Basil's...a painting of him wearing a loincloth.
Why? I wonder who ordered the adding of the loincloth!!!
We leave Red Square at dusk but the bus to the ship is running late...a big brother on guitar and his kid brother on drums...hair and sticks flying...Russian rock imbuing our souls as we wait...returning at night to bathe again in St Basil's ambience...uplifted by the spirits of past glories and bloodshed that inhabit this place.
Gladdened...enthused...inspired...cheered...elevated to fervent joy just by being in this magic space.
Relax & Enjoy,
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