Only a small unexciting tour today! We go to the Kremlin.
Our guide, Ms Klebb picked us up early and we had a short uneventful drive to the Kremlin main entrance.
Well as usual here, expect the unexpected and one of the ubiquitous soldiers on guard at the equally ubiquitous barrier fence blocking the path pointed toward another entrance just down the way (there are a lot of ubiquitous barrier fences with soldiers guarding them in Moscow this time of year)
The value of getting there early was obvious, we were only two hundred in the queue, it must be busy in Summer.
After the compulsory standing around and wait time was up, the gates opened and we all filed through, submitted to the mandatory security scan and grope, then we were in. Quite an anti-climax really as it all looked very ordinary, in a Moscowy fantastic architecturey sort of way.
Our first stop was through a dowdy little door into the "Armoury". After more mandatory groping, and divesting ourselves of coats we were admitted into one of the most amazing places you could ever imagine. This is where Russia's Crown Jewels are held, what an Aladdin's cave. There are no replicas here! They have beautiful gold and silver stuff galore, the coronation dresses of all the empresses the original gilded coaches and sledges they used. Guns and swords with gold and diamonds embedded in them, suits of armour (well it is the Armoury), just too much treasure to describe. Kat lost it here, it was all we could do to drag her out when the time came to move on. She was really impressed and has been talking about getting out old Tolstoy movies now that she will be able to understand the context and relate to the times and places.
The rest of the tour was spent wandering around looking at and in churches (golden domes anyone). A tour of Russia is mostly a succession of beautiful and opulent religious buildings and palaces.
We saw the wing of the Senate building where the President has his office.
There was also the worlds largest bell, the Tsar Bell, broken bell that is. When it was being made back in dickety, ordinary people donated metal objects to the cause and it has lots of gold from jewelry in it. The story is that when it was going through the critical cooling phase after being cast, the building it was housed in caught fire and water from fighting the fire got onto the bell making it cool unevenly, ruining the integrity of the metal. When they lifted it out of the mould a big chunk cracked off, as you can see. The other big thing here is the worlds largest bore canon, the Tsar Canon. It was supposedly built to shoot at the Turks in the 16th century but was never used in battle. The big canon balls in front of it are actually too big for it, that being typical of Ordinance Corps world wide obviously. It was really designed to fire stone grapeshot anyway.
The Kremlin was a fantastic and interesting tour that is for sure.
After the tour, we had the afternoon to mooch. For dinner, we randomly chose a restaurant by virtue of the fact that we could see through the door that it was a restaurant. It is fun trying to order a meal from an incomprehensible menu from a non-English speaking waiter but we ended up with a beautiful rack, of lamb that is.
Well tomorrow we have a very early start so TTFN.