To begin our Moscow trip we got up at 4:30am and boarded a bus that took us to a bullet train to Moscow. The trip took about 4.5 hours. When we arrived it was a 2 day whirlwind of activity.
Met our guide as we got off the train and began the counting. We were a group of 60 students and Geno and I were responsible for 30 of them. They were VERY well behaved and always on time when we set various meeting times.
On our way to lunch we got to see a little of Moscow from the bus. This is a huge city, the traffic is thick like you would expect and there is quite a mix of old and new architecture. Our guide was a strong Russian woman named Olga (of course) and she had been doing this for many years. We had a great lunch of Borch, Schnitzel Chicken Breast and ice cream and then we visited two cathedrals. First up was St. Basil's which is in Red Square near the Kremlin.
St. Basil's is an incredible. It use to be a church but now is a museum. It was built from 1555-1561 and is a world famous landmark. You will recognize it in the pictures, I am sure. There are different chapels inside and we saw several of them on our tour. The paintings on the wall are beautiful and it is said that there is no other Russian building like it in the world. This was another breathtaking experience.
After St Basil's we had some free time so we visited GUM which is a huge department store with many smaller shops inside. The building is about 3 stories and the ceiling is domed glass. The bottom hallway was completely filled with flowers. It was so beautiful inside. What a treat to have a chance to look around in there!
Our next stop was The Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The guides had warned us that they were very strict about covering our shoulders and not wearing shorts or capri pants. This church is the tallest Orthodox Christian Church in the world and is the second church to be on this particular site. It took 40 years to build during the 19th century and was destroyed in 1931 during Communist rule. Strangely enough after it was destroyed there was a huge hole that was transformed into the worlds largest swimming pool, Moskva Pool…WHAT!!! The cathedral that we see there today was finished in 1994.
Our second day began with a metro ride. Sounds lame, but it was awesome. We visited two stations in particular that were breathtaking. There were beautiful murals and mosaics depicting different portions of Russian history. Who knew the metro would be so beautiful.
We then spent the rest of the day in the Kremil where we toured the Armory Chamber which houses the royal treasures such as carriages and amazing silver tea services. We saw Catherine the Great's coronation dress…no pictures allowed but I could list two more huge paragraphs of the things we saw. We also toured the grounds of the Kremlin and visited one of the Cathedrals.
After dinner we went to the ballet had the opportunity to attend the ballet. We saw Gisselle at the Russian National Ballet Theater, which is right next to the Bolshoy. The theater was lovely, it was probably about 90 degrees in there…no AC, but the performance was beautiful. I can't remember the last time I went to a ballet but we really enjoyed ourselves.
One of the big highlights of the trip was taking a sleeper train home from Moscow to St. Petersburg. We had an 11:30pm train and we arrived in St. Petersburg and 8:30am. We were a little apprehensive about what the train conditions were going to be like but we were so excited once we figured out how to get all the students on and everyone had a compartment to sleep.
There were narrow hallways lined with compartments for two people. We were traveling first class so we had slippers, a bathroom kit, bottled water and a snack waiting for us when we arrived in our compartment. The benches later turned into our beds with down comforters and pillows. There was even a TV in the compartment. We spent an hour or so with some students and faculty in the dining car where we had a few drinks and then relaxed and slept in our compartment. When we arrived all the students were up and ready to go AMAZINGLY, and we made it back to the ship but 9:15 or so.
WHEW! A whirlwind trip! Moscow was amazing and overwhelming. We are so glad we got to experience this city!