Again, an early morning, too early, which possibly might have been due to a few Russian Standard Imperial vodkas the night before, but the data on that is indeterminate. Again the morning’s portion of the day’s activities would be based around another group tour, again in the Kremlin. But this time we were going into the Grand Kremlin Palace.
The Grand Kremlin Palace was the traditional abode of the tsars, and built around the earliest palace constructed in the fifteenth century by Ivan the Terrible. You have to admit, European rulers have much cooler monikers than say, American presidents. We have Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator. Russians have the aforementioned Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Alexander II the Liberator, and many more.
Anyway, access to the Grand Kremlin Palace has to be arranged far in advance and details of your passport have to be sent for approval, so it’s not something you can show up and get tickets for if you just happen to be in town. Also, you have to use a guide supplied by the Kremlin and ours didn’t speak English so the Exeter guide had to translate. So having this arranged through Exeter eased the difficulties enormously.
The palace interiors have been restored to their previous glory, and glorious they are indeed. When you realize that the tsars actually lived most of the time in St. Petersburg, and the Grand Kremlin was only used mostly on ceremonial occasions, you get a real idea of how much money and power these rulers possessed.
The Grand Kremlin is now used for ceremonial occasions by the Russian Federation president, like state dinners and the like. Some pictures of the interior can give you a basic impression of how magnificent the palace really is. And ensconced inside are the original place rooms from the fifteenth century cause the Romanovs and their predecessors apparently never threw anything away.
After the Grand Kremlin, we all again met up with our individual guides and went on our individual ways. For us, there was a tour of the Novodevichy Convent cemetery. The cemetery was impressive, though that seems such an inadequate word. Seems like pretty much every famous politician, military leader, scientist and actor are buried here. Apparently Russians like them some elaborate and ostentatious monuments for their dearly departed. Westerners seem to like building tombs when they want to show off after they’re dead. Russians go a completely route. Check out some examples below. We could have spent the rest of the afternoon here, perusing the last resting place of the assembled notables, but alas, there was lots more to see and this was our last day in Moscow, so we had to rush off.
After a quick walk through the convent grounds we decided on the Tretyakov Gallery. Other options included the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, but Mary was holding out for seeing the Impressionists at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Since the Pushkin specialized in Impressionists, if would probably be too much of much. And there was also the rebuilt Christ the Holy Redeemer Cathedral, but we’d seen enough religious buildings for one visit.
The Tretyakov Gallery was created originally by a Russian merchant named, you guessed it, Tretyakov in the Nineteenth century. The original collection and the subsequent museum is dedicated exclusively to Russian art. Lots of things you rarely if ever see back in the West.
Before touring the gallery we needed to get some sustenance, especially the life giving liquid called coffee. Кофе or kofe, in Russian. The two restaurants closest to the gallery were closed for unknown reasons, at least according to Anna, our guide, but I suspect because it was Sunday. Now that the Russians are allowed to have religion again, some are doing it with a passion. So we settled on the next nearest location, which turned out to be a vegan restaurant. Far be it from us not to try a new experience, so vegan it was. The restaurant was pretty much what I envisioned a vegan eatery would be like in the US, which is to say, kind of hippyish. Not that I would know, because I’m fairly sure I have a bit of vegan intolerance, kind of like lactose intolerance, but without the bloating and gas. Well, a little gas, it is vegan food after all. A vegan restaurant in Russia is especially interesting, since insofar as we were able to determine from our time there, it appeared that the typical Russian meal seems to consist of multiple courses of meat, with either sour cream or butter on all of it. As to the actual vegan food itself, let’s just say that, as I had suspected all along, vegan is not my thing.
So to finish up the day, and to walk off the somewhat undercooked and under seasoned vegan meal (are vegans against salt too?), we spent several hours in the Tretyakov, and it was awesome. Can’t say enough about it, so I’ll just say very little. If you want to see some art that you will be hard pressed to find elsewhere, this is definitely the place to go.
We had plans in the evening to go to a Ukrainian restaurant for dinner that was themed as a farm, complete with ponds, grinding mill and a flock of either geese or ducks, I can’t remember which and really, does it make any difference? Apparently Russians are mad for themed restaurants, as well as elaborate cemetery displays. Well, they do say that travel broadens the mind. But we were pretty much exhausted from a long day of touring, so we decided on a light bite in the hotel and packing for we’d be moving on to St. Petersburg in the morning.