Reflections of Russia

June 28, 2013

My trip to Russia has taught me how my preconception of a country can be totally wrong.  I expected to find a cold grey environment where people look miserable and oppressed but instead found a vibrant place with colourful buildings and radiant people.

St Bazil'sThe Colourful St Bazil’s Cathedral and Bright Walls of The Kremiln

The Kremlin is not the dark prison I thought it to be.  Inside there are magnificent palaces, museums, art galleries and churches.  I was not allowed to photograph inside the Kremlin palaces and museums but I was allowed to take photos of the interior of St Bazil’s.

Inside St Bazil's CathedralInside St Bazil’s Catheral

Vibrant PeopleVibrant people on the streets of Moscow (notice the cleaners in the background).

Moscow MetroThe Magnificent Moscow Metro

There were police and soldiers about but no more than you would find in any capital city such as London.  In Russia they commemorate two major wars, the 1812 war against Napoleon and the Second World War against Hitler.  I briefly wondered why they seemed to disregard the First World War and then remembered that the Russian Revolution occurred part way through it.  People still queued to view the embalmed body of Lenin but I declined to join my fellow tourists in line, preferring instead to wander around the centre of the city on my own taking photographs, something I had previously thought I would not have been allowed to do.

Kremlin SoldiersSoldiers Guarding The Tomb of The Unknown Soldier and The Eternal Flame near The Kremlin.

I dined in a superb Georgian Restaurant just a few yards from our hotel which served excellent sea food from the Black Sea.

Georgian CafeGeorgian Restaurant

St Petersburg was much less crowded than Moscow and the palaces even brighter and more accessible.  It seemed very apt that the Russians decided to change the name back from sombre Leningrad to its pre-revolution title.

Winter PalaceThe Winter Palace in St Peterburg

Unlike those in Moscow, I was allowed to photograph inside most of the palace interiors although there were some rooms where photography was not allowed.

Inside The Winter PalaceInside the Winter Palace

Food and drink was half the price than in Moscow, which was almost the same as in London (expensive).  I highly recommend the Literary Cafe, not far from The Winter Palace.  The menu contained quotations from Russian writers in English and Russian.  This week the writer was Alexander Pushkin.  Their Snack Hussar (red caviar, smoked salmon, pancakes with a tot of Vodka) was wonderful.

Literary CafeThe Literary Cafe, St Petersburg

Our Russian guides made little reference to the Soviet regime apart from its contribution to defending the country in World War Two.  I was surprised to find how much of the Tsars era had survived and was proudly displayed.  Boris Yeltsin was proudly referred to as the first Russian President.

Russian MemorialMonument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad

Russia is a wonderful place to visit.  It is not possible to understand all aspects of a country on just a brief visit to two cities but my first impression is that it is no better or worse place to live than most other countries in the developed world.

Keith Jahans
Editor, Peatmore Press

Travels in Russia – Day 7

June 7, 2013

St Petersburg, 7 June 2013

This morning I ent shopping in the street next to our hotel and bought a hat and a Russian Doll.  Then I took a closer look at the Church On The Spilled Blood.

Another View of The Church On The Spilled BloodAnother View Of The Church On The Spilled Blood

Then we took a coach trip to see The Catherine Palace an opulent building named after The Empress Elizabeth’s mother and Peter The Great’s second wife.  On the way we passed by a monument to Lenin.

Lenin Monument

The Catherine PalaceThe Catherine Palace

Inside The Catherine Palace 1Inside The Catherine Palace I

Inside The Catherine Palace 2Inside The Catherine Palace 2

Inside The Catherine Palace 3Inside The Catherine Palace 3

Inside The Catherine Palace 4Inside The Catherine Palace 4

Much of the palace was badly damaged during the German invasion in World War 2.  The famous Amber Room (where it is forbidden to film) was looted and much of it carried away. However, a great deal of the building has been restored but  more is needed to be done and building work and scaffolding was much in evidence.

Photo of German Bomb Dropped On Catherine Palace Wich Failed To ExplodePhoto of German Bomb dropped on Palace in World War II

Outside The Catherine PalaceOutside The Caherine House

My visit to Russia ends tomorrow so to end the day we dined for a third and final time in the Literary Cafe in Nevsky Pr a few hundred yards form our hotel (The Nevsky Grand) where I ate another Hassar Snack (red caviar, smoked salmon, pancakes with a tot of Vodka) followed by a Russian beef roll, baked potatoes, grilled vegatables and washed down with dark Russian beer and more vodka.

Keith Jahans
Editor, Peatmore Press

Travels in Russia – Day 6

June 6, 2013

St Petersburg, 6 June 2013

 One side of the incredible green, white and gold Winter Palace dominates the heart of the city in Palcace square.  In front of it stands the Alexander Column named after Tsar Alexander I to comemorate the 1812 victory over Napoleon and we passed through here in order to enter the palace and view the treasures of the Hermatage Museum.

The Winter Palace and Alexander ColumnThe Winter Palace and Alexander Column

A Closer View of The Winter PalaceA Close Up View Of The Winter Palace

Soon after entering the palace we climbed he lavish staircase named to celebrate Christ’ baptism in the River Jordan.

The Jordan StaircaseThe Jordan Staircase

Inside The Winter Palace 2Inside the Winter Palace 1

Throne RoomInside the Winter Palace 2

Inside the Winter Palace 1Inside the Winter Palace 3

Inside the Winter Palace 3Inside the Winter Palace 4

The whole tour took about 2 hours.  When it was over I departed to a cafe for a much needed Russian beer as it was yet another hot sunny day.

Keith Jahans
Editor, Peatmore Press

Travels in Russia – Day 5

June 5, 2013

St Petersburg, 5 June 2013

We arrived in St Petersburg at 8.30 am local time, dropped our luggage off at the hotel (The Nevsky Grand), grabbed some breakfast and then embarked on a tour of the city.

  St Issac's Cathedral

St Issac’s Cathedral

Statue of Tsar Nicholas The First, St Issac's Square

Statue of Tsar Nicholas The First, St Issac’s Square

The Winter Palace

The Winter Palace

Church On The Spilled Blood

Church on The Spilled Blood
(where Tsar Alexander II was killed by a terrorist bomb in 1881,
restored in 1997 after communist regime used it as a store house for potatoes etc.)

This evening we had an excellent meal just a few minutes walk from our hotel at half the price we paid in Moscow, rounding it off with two glasses of complenentry vodka. Tomorrow I hope to explore the city in more depth.

Keith Jahans
Editor, Peatmore Press

Travels in Russia – Day 4

June 5, 2013

Moscow, 4 June 2013

 About seventy kilometers north west of Moscow lies the Sergiev Posad Monastery and we travelled by minibus to view this important centre of the Russian Orthodox Church.  The monastery was found in 1345 by St Sergii of Radnonech and is currently home to 300 monks.  The relics of the saint are preserved in the Cathederal there and are regularly visited by pilgrims.  I was allowed to photograph inside the grounds and most of the churches but not the monks and not inside the cathederal where the relics are held.

Cathederal at The Sergiev Posad Monastery

Cathedral at the Seriev Posad Monastry where the relics of the Saint are kept.

Many of the buldings ere covered with scaffolding and netting as the whole area seemed to be undergoing renovation as can be seen by the builing to the left of the Cathederal.  There was an argument between our guide and the monastry guide about the Russian Authodox Church definition of a cathederal and I am afraid that I am still none the wiser.

 That evening we travelled to Moscow Railway Station where we boarded the over night sleeper train to take us to St Petersburg.

Moscow-St Petersburge Sleeper Train

Moscow-St.Petersburg Train

Travelling By The Moscow-St Petersburg Train

Travelling by the Moscow-St.Petersburg Train

Keith Jahans
Editor, Peatmore Press

Travels in Russia – Day 3

June 3, 2013

Moscow, 3 June 2013

Today I got inside the Kremlin.  Thia is something I thought impossible for a British man to do.  The Kremlin is not an austere fortress.  It contains palaces and churches.  There is evidence that it contains the seat of Russian Government but it is evident that most of the administration is done elsewhere.

Inside the Kremlin grounds

Inside the Kremlin 2

Inside the kremlin1

It is prohibited to take photos inside the palaces and churches.  However, I was amazed at the many treaures of the Tsars such as Peter The Great, Ivan the Terrible and Catherine The Great were on display.

The President's Office Inside the Kremlin

The President’s Office iside the Kremlin but I was told that it is hardly ever used

Leaving The Kremlin

Leaving The Kremlin

Keith Jahans
Editor, Peatmore Press

Travels in Russia – Day 2

June 2, 2013

Moscow, 2 June 2013

This day we visited Red Square and  St Basil’s Cathedral.  We travelled there by Moscow’s magnificent Metro; the walls and ceilings of which are really a work of art.

Moscow Metro 1

Moscow Metro 2

Moscow Metro 3

There was a terrific sporting display in front of the Kremlin.  Astro-turf was laid out and teams of footballers and vollyball players were going hard at it.  A far cry from the days when Red Square was used to display Soviet Military Might.

Football outside the Kremlin

The Square and St Basil’s Cathedral was much different than I expected.  It hot vibrant and in such constrast to the austere photographs I saw in the fifties, sixties and seventies.

St Bazil's Cathedral and Red Square

The famous onion domes of St Basil’s Cathedral at the end of Red Square

St Bazil's Cathedral 2

A Sparkling View of St Basil’s Cathedral

Inside St Bazil's Cathedral

Inside St Basil’s Cathedral

Red Square from Inside ST Bazil's Cathedral

A View of Red Square from Inside St Basil’s Cathederal

My trip to Moscow has shattered my illusions of it being a cold drab deprived city devoid of the joys of life.

Keith Jahans
Editor, Peatmore Press

Travels in Russia – Day 1

June 1, 2013

Moscow, 1 June 2013

We arrived at Moscow airport to find it hot and sunny.  The temperature is around 22oC which means that the warm clothing and rainwear I packed is totally superfluous.  The minibus which took us to our hotel led us passed a park with a lake where people were swimming.  The Katarina Hotel where we are staying overlooks a canal leading off the mighty River Moscova.  We unpacked, had a light evening meal then went for a short walk along its concrete banks.

Katerina Hotel, Moscow

Katerina Hotel (our room is just behind the flags facing the canal

Moscow Church

I do not know the name of this nearby magnificent church but I hope to find this out when we meet up with our guide tomorrow.

Moscow State University

We walked back as the sun was setting.  I believe the large building on the horizon is Moscow State University but I should again be able to confirm this tomorrow.

As I was writing this blog at 11 pm (Moscow time) I was interrupted by a superb firework display which I could see from my hotel window emanating from the banks of the river.  This was a perfect ending to a great day.

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