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Published: October 8th 2020
I was not born a Cossack...nor a Tatar of the Golden Horde...a horseman of the outback nor the Snowy River.
I learnt to ride when I was four...but born to the saddle I was not.
We lived in Castle Hill...in those days a rural outer suburb of Sydney...our father the local doctor.
Led to the stalls with my big sister for our first riding lesson...stable door swinging open...a massive glossy-brown muscled beast on its hind legs rearing out...neighing nay braying...its hooves right there in front of us...bigger than big.
Just time to draw breath.
And in a flash I was out of there!!!
Pretty tiny...blonde and fast...really fast...as fast as my little greyhound legs would take me.
Out the farm gate...down the dirt road to Old Northern Road...the main road the circus used to march with us kids streaming behind when they came to town...camping on the hill across the road from the public school I would be going to next year.
Woooh...Stop...I'm not allowed to cross the road by myself...asking an older boy on a bicycle to let me cross with him...off again...as fast as my little legs would carry me.
Terror is a wonderful thing
I so nearly got all the way home...before Dad pulled up in his car beside me begging me to get in.
No way Jose...off like a rabbit...so fast I don't remember that he ever caught me!
I became a reasonable rider after that...the secret is the horse has to know who is boss.
I reckon at my first lesson the horse was just learning.
How about a bit of Tatar iron horse and horse head fiddle to set the scene? Moscow Kremlin
Four black metal horses leaping into a fountain...frozen for multitudes to photograph...probably the biggest crowd I'd seen in Moscow.
Alexander says, "10 million visited the Kremlin during the 2018 Football World Cup...not only a jewel of Russia...a jewel anywhere."
Probably my most favourite place in Russia as it turned out.
Security at the entrance gates so tight I doubt Putin will have time to meet and greet...I hear he lives here.
A feast of portraits...Vietnamese ladies in colourful traditional dress and bamboo nonla conical hats exuding joy as they pose...every nationality represented...Russians keeping an eye on all
of us...straight lines...checking IDs as if entering customs...some holding up progress...me a dancer so no delay in letting me in.
Through the Troitskie gate...Peter the Great's Arsenal lined with cannons from the Napoleonic Wars on our left...the Poteshny Palace then the State Kremlin Palace on our right. "Keep to the right...keep off the road"
barked through megaphones as errant folk approaching the cannons are chased away by guards disinclining to make their day.
I hear that is where Putin has digs...feel him smiling looking down...our repast will have to be another day. The Corridor of Cathedrals
Alexander leads past muraled faceted doorway arches...stop...into a heaving queue...gilded cupolas of the court churches and Czarina's Viewing Chamber peeping over white walls ahead...closed door on our right Denise & I would enter later...bunched crowds ahead...our queue turning left into the Dormition Cathedral for the start of a day of Wow Wow Wow...resplendent murals and carved ornamentation that could not but take the breath away.
First built in 1326 then fell down in 1474 and rebuilt...where Ivan the Terrible was crowned in 1547...ravaged by the Polish in 1612...freshly painted with frescoes in 1642-44...damaged by Napoleon in
1812...where Russia's last Tzar Nicholas II was crowned in 1896...the graves of 10 Metropolitans and 9 Patriarchs under the floor...round columns with saints with swords...special carved stalls of praying places for Patriarchs and Royalty...full to the brim with 62 icons and the most lavish paint job I have ever and are ever likely to see.
Built in dedication to the death of the Virgin Mary...its main icon a 1479 painting of the apostles moving on clouds to the deathbed of the Mother of God..."the Dormition"
. "Uspesky Sobor"
...the 'Cathedral of the Assumption' in the Guidebooks...'Dormition Cathedral' in the printed information I obtained inside...known as the Main Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin for 500 years.
Denise and I return later in the day and sit on the few pews available...bathing in majesty...sucking hallowed air deeply...determined to not let the memory of its ambience fade away..."NO PHOTOS"
Alexander leads us into Cathedral Square...Dormition (Assumption) Cathedral behind...Cathedral of the Archangel Michael ahead on our left...a parade of horses in the shade of the Granovitaya Chamber and the Cathedral of the Annunciation's golden towers ahead on our right...our group dispersing but me pressing as close to the front as I can...a
ring of guards keeping the heaving semi-circle of spectators from venturing in.
The lead white horse steps forward...its tall hatted rider in bright blue...head held high...one dressage step after another leading an entourage of bright blue riders...all horses with bright yellow long socks.
They wheel and salute the crowd...the crowd an organism craning in.
Goose stepping platoons of bright blue soldiers following...rifles spinning then to attention as the crowd audibly breathes in.
Alexander says I can choose to stay or leave as it will go on for a long time...Glenda saying she wants to stay...me choosing to stay but dallying to keep the Aussie group in sight...making sure they are not too far away...others doing likewise as its hard to drag one away from the soldiers and horses strutting in display.
A coiled arched doorway...the Cathedral of the Archangel Michael dating back to 1340AD...graves of Princes & Tzars...wall to ceiling frescoes and square columns to savour...a shrine to Dmitry on the Blood stolen by Napoleon then rebuilt...more saints with swords...into a garden complex that follows the Red Square Kremlin Wall...keeping our group in sight...a wave of touristos breaking over me...backs of familiar heads now gone.
Best to continue straight ahead...when found by Alexander he told they had turned sharp left...how embarrassing...they had only been 20 metres ahead.
Rejoined our group at the Czar Cannon nearby...glances of a few as if the only way to travel is glued at the hip...sorry but I prefer to inhale the ambience and smell the flowers.
Gotta embrace divinity while you can...not likely any of us will get the chance to return in this life or the next. The Czar Cannon & The Czar Bell
The Czar Cannon is 39.5 tons cast in the year 7094 of the Creation (1586 AD) in the third year of the reign of Czar Feodor 1...its wooden carriage blown up by the French in 1812...its present iron cannon carriage not built until 1835...its cannon balls each weighing one ton!
Remember Feodor? He was Ivan the Terrible's third son, Dmitry on the Blood's older brother...the one who ascended the throne at age 27 but as it was said he was "feeble of mind"
, his wife's brother Boris Gudunov kindly ruling as defacto Regent from 1585 to 1598 and then as the first non-Rurikid tsar from 1598 to
The Cannon was said to be Boris's idea, "to amaze the common folk and inspire awe in the Tatars".
Multitudes gawking...objective achieved!
Inscribed with an image and credits to Feodor...so who says Boris was not the loving brother-in-law?
Near the cannon is the World's Largest Bell that has never been rung...like all things Russian...it comes with a fascinating history.
Inscribed as cast in 7241 of the Creation (1733AD) in the reign of Empress Anna (Peter the Great's niece) and weighing 10,000 pounds...it is said this is wrong as the first casting failed and it was recast again two years later and was finally 2,000 pounds heavier at 200 tons...6.14m tall...6.6m girth...61cm thick walls and tongue 5 metres long!
Cast from the Great Assumption Bell that fell down and broke into pieces in the Kremlin fire of 1700.
For its rebuild a pit 10m deep and 10m across was dug next to a special foundry...two castings...the bell remaining in its pit under a log roof while engravers decorated it.
In 1737 one of Moscow's fiercest fires, The Trinity Fire destroyed its wooden roof and burning logs fell on the bell.
200 tons...never rung
threw water on the fire and when the fire was out a giant 11.5 ton fragment had broken off.
For the next 100 years the Bell sat in its pit until Czar Nicholas 1 had it raised onto a pedestal as he wanted to build a new Imperial Palace nearby...concerned (as you would) the sight of a giant pit would be embarrassing!
Gotta love the Tzars...the common folk may have had no money...but the Tzars always seemed to have plenty!!!
At 12:30pm we find we are filing out of the Kremlin but hang on...six of us want to stay...so we score 3 extra hours to 4:30pm when a bus will collect us to take us back to the ship.
So began our best time in the Kremlin...Denise & I doing what we do best...rockin' & rollin'...wandering...mixing with the locals & ors...non-tour moments that only the adventurous stumble upon.
Lunch with some Canadians and Americans buying steel from the Russians...their factory in Mexico...importing into USA to avoid Trump's tariffs...fascinating. Patriarch's Palace and the Church of the Synaxis of the Twelve Apostles
We return to the Dormition Cathedral where they let us in
on a simple word that our guide has gone and we were here earlier...sometimes a brief earlier visit is never enough.
On our exit we enter closed doors along passageways nearby discovering treasures that blew our minds.
Up flights of stairs to an entry manned by guards...Chinese with tickets queueing..."Where can we buy tickets to venture in?"
I enquire. "Are you Australians?"
one asks spying the Socceroos emblem on my T-shirt..."World Cup...Aussie good"
... tickets for us not needed...inviting us in.
So we wandered among treasures that showed the Patriarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church were dripping in wealth as well.
If you can't get into the Armoury where the most priceless treasures are housed...try the Patriarch's Palace 'cos it can't be far behind.
It also includes Catherine the Great baptismal fonts and gifts to Her Greatness that are massively over the top.
The Patriarchate was established in 1589 during the reign of Fyodor 1. Prior to that the heads of the Russian Church had to be confirmed by the Patriarch of Constantinople and were titled Metropolitans.
In 1448 Metropolitan Jonas was the first to be elected by a Russian Synod without prior
approval of Constantinople and Holy Heirarch Job in 1589 became the first Patriarch of the Russian church, making the Russian church independent of the Catholic Church.
By order of Patriarch Nikon a three storey palace and church was built in 1652-1656. In 1681 a 5 domed Greek Cross church was built as a private church of the Patriarchs in the palace complex. By the end of the 17th Century a fourth storey had been built of which St Peter's Tent is the only part surviving.
Then came Peter the Great who in 1721 abolished the Patriarchy changing its name to Most Holy Governing Synod.
200 years later the Patriarchate was re-established in 1917 by the Local Council of the Russian church.
A year later in 1918 the Russian Revolution was in full swing and the Patriarch's Palace was reduced to a museum.
Fortunately it then became the repository of treasures from demolished monasteries as the communists abolished religious observance but still found it hard to destroy their religious iconoclasts.
In 1967 the first floor was open for exhibition and in 1987 the present display.
We accessed through closed outer doors so we found
a non-tour gem that only by chance we entered in.
Today there are treasures of the Patriarchs, gifts to Tzars, a 1681 Bible, manuscripts, embroidery, sacerdotal robes, furniture, tableware, portraits, gold and jewels to satisfy the most ardent traveller. Church of the Deposition of the Robe of the Holy Virgin
Another closed door...up a set of narrow wooden stairs..to the private church of the patriarchs built in 1451 on the orders of Metropolitan Jonas to commemorate the deliverance of Moscow from the Tatars on the Day of the Deposition.
We found a tiny church with about 80 items of sculptural images of saints, icons, crosses and my favourite woodcarving in all of the Kremlin...a pictorial carving of the Crucifixion with Russian peasants in clothing of the 17th Century looking on...my 'Wish photos were not forbidden moment''
in all of Russia!!! Russia by Night
A must is a river cruise of the Moska...a wander in Red Square...areas boasting the most street lights in the World...Russians smiling, chatting and enjoying what only Moscow at night can offer.
A farewell dinner on the ship organised by Simon, our elected MC...a champagne last
supper for Alexander and us 29 Aussies to say adieu. "Why don't we get that?"
the Americans and UKers crying as we clinked glasses for one last time.
I whisper in Tim the Maitre di's ear..."The Aussies are taking over the ship"
He smiles, "I have a problem with that David...you are outnumbered...we have 300 crew." "No problem"
, I whisper back..."We are Aussies. We are used to being underestimated. I'm just warning you. The Aussies are taking over the ship. Why don't you join us?"
He smiles...the smile of someone who appreciated the positive vibe many of us proffered on the Waterways of the Tzars cruise...camaraderie that uplifted those who shared this wonderous trip.
Some of us off to other countries first...some heading straight home...we for a few days in search of Moscow Blues.
Then to Uzbekistan to explore the Jewel of the Old Silk Road...the land of Tamberlaine:
Where the remote is our road...the exotic our pleasure.
Relax & Enjoy,
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