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2 Oct – Moscow

Today was Kremlin day. No its not a nuclear bunker, its the ancient citadel of the city, a walled “city-within-a-city”. The present stone + brick one dates back from the 16th century and replaces previous wooden Kremlins destroyed by fires. Inside there are many government buildings (closed to the public) but also ancient cathedrals (about 8) where the Tsars were christened, crowned and buried.

The history of Moscow is kinda funny. In brief way back when Moscow was more of a state than just a city, the mongols had been run out European Russia, and Ivan the Terrible came to power – he was the first to call himself Tsar. Ivan beat the Mongol “policemen” the tartars out of their stronghold of Kazan. To celebrate he built St. Basil’s. Ivan then went a little crazy, beginning terrible civil wars, and the lowest point being in a raging fury, he struck his eldest son dead with a blow to the head. Ivans other son Dmitri was very sickly. When Ivan died, the boy’s uncle Boris was appointed until he came of age, however Boris’s advisor Prince Shuisky “just happened” to be on hand the day the boy was horribly murdered in a monastery garden, and Boris became Tsar “by popular will of the people.

Then a boy appears saying he is the real Dmitri and that he wasn’t murdered, at this point in time Boris dies, his son was done away with quickly, leaving false Dmitri to be installed on the throne by his powerful backer – the King of Poland. The Russians gathered, marched on Moscow, retook the city, captured false Dmitri, executed him, loaded his remains into the Tsar Cannon in the Kremlin, and fired them “in the direction of Poland”. So needless to say the Cannon is still in the Kremlin and we saw it 🙂

Now you would think Muscovites would be well you know “once bitten twice shy” .. Nope, a second false Dmitri appeared and the whole thing happened all over again! They managed to find arrest and execute the second one. Prince Shuisky (Boris’s advisor)declared himself Tsar but finally this was too much and he was arrested and executed. A Congress of Barons then met and decided Michael Romanov, would be the new Tsar, and so began a reign that continued until 1917.

We wandered around and in the cathedrals and buildings contained with the Kremlin for sometime. The cathedral’s in the Kremlin have been kept/restored immaculately, the drawings/paintings on the walls and ceilings are quite amazing. The cathedrals also hold quite a large collection of religious iconstasis, paintings and other religious items.

Having exhausted ourselves on churches, bells and cannons we headed for the pancake place again, and I am sure a few of the girls recognised us all – they had ‘oh no not them again look’. All things considered we ordered reasonably easily and then headed back to the Kremlin ticket office to get tickets for the Armoury. Entry into places like the Kremlin or museums is a little different, as foreigners we pay doubtful sometimes triple the local price, and its not cause we got scammed, its the normal advertised thing, and then in most places if you want to take photo’s you must purchase a separate permit to do so … Our tour guide refers to these practices as the ‘price for not living a Russian lifestyle’.

We managed to get Armoury tickets and spent another few hours there looking at Royal carriage, dresses, silverware, jewels, swords, suits of armour – human and horse – and all things royal which was pretty neat. After the six of us had finished in the Armoury we headed for the Cathedral of Christ the Savior which was another immaculate church. These churches are pretty impression so Michelangelo’s must be out of this world!

From the cathedral we headed for dinner, tonight at Yalki-Polki, a chain of rural-style Russian eateries. It has an all you can eat salad bar which is very tasty and does some pretty good kebab sticks. We were a little more successful in the beer and vodka stakes tonight and Lisa and Kath now have us all hooked on raspberry vodka (lolly water or a slapper drink really just without the soda) – very nice indeed.

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