February 14, 2011

Moscow : Red Square

Is it possible to cover Moscow in a day? If you ask me that question, my answer would be a firm NO. However, if you really don't have much time on your hands, I guess covering the legendary Red Square and its surrounding will be pretty good enough for you.

The square borders with the red walls of Kremlin, and then there's the red St. Basil's Cathedral, the red State Historical Museum, and the red Lenin Mausoleum. So, I thought it's only natural that they named this plaza as Red Square. But I was wrong. The name Red Square didn't actually refer to the large amount of red brickwork around the square, nor from the link between the color red and communism. 

It was originally a reference to St. Basil's Cathedral. The cathedral was definitely a sight to behold. It was beautiful. And it is where the name came. The square, right in front of the cathedral, was then named Krasnaya Ploschad. It simply means Beautiful Square. But the Russian word 'krasnaya' can mean either 'red' or 'beautiful'. So I guess, over time people just refer the square as Red Square, referring to the beautiful red cathedral and its red surrounding.  

Just outside the Kremlin, stretching along its western wall is the Alexander Garden, one of the first public parks in Moscow.

Numerous species of trees and ornamental bushes decorate the garden and blossom at different times of the year. I was lucky as I get to enjoy the breathtaking blossoming flowers. 

Walking along the park, you'll come across this ruined grotto at the foot of Middle Arsenal Tower. It was decorated with debris from the Moscow buildings that had been destroyed by Napoleon's army.

At the park, I didn't know what this guy did; he was being cornered by a few guards and police.

Being a busy body tourist, I went nearer to see what it was all about.

Hahaha... No la, actually I wanted to take a picture with the horse and the police because we didn't get to see this back home, police riding a horse patrolling KL. Cool eh?

Anyway, further up from the grotto, is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a war memorial dedicated to the heroes who perished in the World War 2.

Two guards stand at attention on each side of the tomb and every hour on the hour there's a changing of the guard ceremony. Interesting I must say. Seen with a star there, Leningrad is among the hero cities during the war. 

Since 1967, there is an eternal flame at the tomb, where in Soviet legacy and in nowadays Russia, it is the highest symbol of respect to the soldiers who were killed in the wars. 

Nearing to Red Square, there is a famous 4 horse fountain.

only 3?

it's 4!

Dunno what is the significant of the 4 horses though.

But I can conclude that Muscovites seem to love fountains. I see fountains everywhere in Moscow. This is another fountain nearby Red Square.

As we walked around the park, the first red object caught my eyes from afar. The State Historical Museum, looking splendid in its bold red paint, really attracted me.

This statue of Marshal Zukhov, is one of the few statues from the communist era. He was the leader of the Russian forces in several battles.

Main entrance to the Red Square is through the Resurrection Gate, just a few hundred meters from the statue of Zhukov. The first stone gate leading to Red Square was erected in 1535, and when the gates were restored in 1680, the double passage was surmounted with 2-storey chambers crowned by 2 high roofs similar to the Kremlin towers. An Icon of the Resurrection was placed on the gate, from which the gate derives its name.

As you can see from the picture, there's a small chapel there and the locals heading to Red Square or the Kremlin usually visit the chapel to pay homage at the shrine, before entering through the gate.

Just in front of the chapel is a bronze plaque marking the location of Moscow' Kilometre Zero, the marker from which all distance referencing Moscow are measured. 

It’s a popular custom for tourists to stand on the plaque, and throw coins over their shoulders for good luck or to make a wish.
Then it was over to the impressively beautiful State Historical Museum. If you love history, this is the place for you.

Admission fee is 250 rubles. Only problem was, it had a lot of things to look at but unfortunately there was no explanations in English. So I had no idea what anything was. Only from my readings later on I got to know that this museum houses the development of Russian civilization, ranging from relics of the prehistoric tribes inhabiting present-day Russia, through priceless artworks acquired by members of the Romanov dynasty. 

On the northeast corner of Red Square, you will see Kazan Cathedral, a replica of the original 17th century cathedral that was torn down in the 1930s.

Then we walked over to Glavnyi Universalnyi Magazin, or in short, GUM (it's pronounced as goom).

GUM's grand entrance

A huge modern mall, GUM boasts an elegant interior comprising 3 parallel arcades centered on a fountain and overlooked by galleries. 

Many of the stores feature high fashion brand names; locals refer to these as the exhibitions of prices, the joke being that no one could afford to actually buy any of the items on display. The price of designer brands here are unbelievably more expensive than other part of Europe! 

Moscow is actually one of the most expensive cities in the world, and is also home to more billionaires than any other city. Thus, yours truly could only gawk at those tempting handbags... T_T As a consolation, I diverted my attention to the mall's magnificent architecture and beautifully arched skylights.

Finally, there was Vladimir Lenin, his body was well preserved, making him look like he was dead only yesterday when the fact is he died in 1924, inside the Lenin's Mausoleum.

It was very dark inside the tomb, and it was quiet and cold, with soldiers all over the place. I was actually scared. It was kinda creepy, I mean, he was dead 87 years ago!

Visitors are kept moving, so you only get to spend a few minutes inside the mausoleum before you're showed the exit by the guards. On exiting the mausoleum, visitors pass the cemetery at the Kremlin Wall, where among others Stalin, Brezhnev, Andropov and Gagarin are buried.
queue to enter the mausoleum

The mausoleum is open on Tuesday to Thursday and Saturday from 10am-1pm. The entrance is free and visitors are expected to line up at the northwest corner of Red Square. Sometimes the queue can be very long so you might wanna be there early. And please note that bags and cameras are not allowed in, you need to store them in a nearby cloak room.

Finally, at the end of the square, lies its main attraction, the fabulously ornate St. Basil's Cathedral.

But I guess, it deserves an entry of its own. Wait for it.


Lady of Leisure said...

i suka visit bangunan2 yg ada history mcm ni.. u r so lucky babe :)

rara said...

yup.. russia is so full of history.. very interesting. :)