I've been here in Moscow for just over 6 years. However, that certainly doesn't mean that I've 'seen and done it all'. Anyone who lives in a place for long enough acquires a sense of ennui and familiarity about their surroundings and stops going out and looking. Passing by the statue of Yuri Gagarin - the first man in space - on the way to work each day, whilst always impressive, doesn't have quite the same effect that it had initially.
Today we took my parents on a tour around parts of the territory of the Kremlin. I went to see the Diamond Fund about 5 years ago but that was all. Later in the day I discovered that Olga, my sister-in-law and a native Muscovite, was also in the same boat - despite living here for 25 years! Luba, another one of our local friends who lives in Moscow and comes from Vladimir, a town on the Golden Ring, also lays claim to never visiting, and she is older than I am.
We met up with Olga and Tanya (her and Nat's mum) in the metro and walked through to the Kremlin's entrance near to the Lenin Library. After the customary searches we walked onto the territory and onto hitherto unexplored land. There were a few instantly recognisable sights, such as the State Kremlin Palace (erected during the Soviet era, and serving a multitude of purposes, including hosting concerts - Chris Rea is playing there soon; also, the Tsar Bell and the Tsar Cannon (the largest in Russia - one never rang, one never fired; and the large number of cathedrals. Tanya kindly guided us around several of the cathedrals - the Annunciation, Uspensky and Archangelsky. The Archangelsky Cathedral holds the tombs of many of the former tsars; the Uspensky was used for the coronations and presentation of decrees and the Annunciation Cathedral was used as a private cathedral - almost seems like an oxymoron! - on the Kremlin territory. All are richly decorated with Orthodox iconography and patterns, all across the walls and ceilings.
We had to stop our mini tour of the cathedrals at one point as a ring of people was forming around the central area. The security guards were putting up fences to make people stand in an orderly manner, in order to collect their child from the 'yolka' - the traditional Christmas tree party that was going on in the Kremlin. These are huge events and children from all across Moscow and Russia attend 'yolki' in their areas and towns. The guards were getting sarcastic at one point and just calling out 'grab a child, any child, take it if it's yours, pass it on if it's not.' We learned that there were close to 5,000 - 5,000! - children at yolki inside the Moscow Kremlin.