Russia in 72 Hours: Day 3 – Moscow

0730:  We were awoken by the gentle rocking of the Grand Express as is rushed past the suburbs of Moscow. The train guard brought us the breakfast (a selection of porridge, or toasted sandwiches with tea or coffee) which we ordered the night before.

0814: Train pulled into Moscow. There was some confusion when we got out, as our driver and guide were not there to pick us up. We called the GoRussia emergency contact number, and was told the driver was on the way. The driver eventually arrived at 0835.

0900: Arrive at hotel. Rightly or wrongly, we had assumed that there will be an early check-in arranged for us by GoRussia, but this was not the case. But the reception staff were really helpful and opened the hotel spa so we could shower and refresh. (Tip: The hotel has a sauna and steam room, so pack your swim suit. It’s a great way to refresh after a long train ride.)

0945: Breakfast at hotel. Good buffet selection available.

1030: Olga, our guide to Moscow arrived at the hotel, and our 1 day tour of Moscow started at the nearest underground station.

We alighted at Ploschad Revolyutsii metro station. This metro station, (like a number of others in Moscow) is richly decorated. Ploschad Revolyutsii has a number of statues of Soviet figures, personifying the strength and power of the state and the people.

1125: We arrived at Red Square and joined queue to see Lenin’s mausoleum. The mausoleum houses the embalmed body of the Soviet leader and is a must see site for many tourists. The queue took about 45 minutes and this was due to security checks. According to Olga, we were lucky, as usually the waiting time is 90 minutes. (Tip: Lenin’s mausoleum is only included on the GoRussia tours that depart Helsinki on Thursdays. This is because if you depart on a Wednesday, you will be in Moscow on a Friday, when the mausoleum is closed. So, if this is a must see, make sure you pick the tour that departs on the Thursday (that will get you to Moscow on the Saturday, when the mausoleum is open).

1215:  After the security check, we walked along the red wall of the Kremlin and past a number of other burial sites of a number of prominent figures.

The mausoleum stands above all of them, shaped like a pyramid. You can take photos from far, but it is not allowed to pose infront of the mausoleum and take pictures. In-fact, you are not allowed to loiter around much at all. The guards hurry you along. No photos are allowed inside and you need to put phones and cameras away before they let you inside. Once inside, no talking, no stopping and absolutely no photos. Inside it is kept dark and you walk past the embalmed body of Lenin.

1230: From here we headed onto the adjacent side of the Red square to St Basil’s cathedral. Also known as the Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed, it is one of the most popular symbols of the Russia. Formerly a church, it is now a museum. The colourful design has no parallel in Russian architecture and it is not known where the design influence came from. Each of the 10 cupolas houses an individual church. Each of these are quite small, but are richly decorated.

1315: After St Basil’s Cathedral, we visited the GUM. This is a shopping centre, to rival any in the world. Beautiful classic building, and plenty of international brands and (for some reason) a water fountain filled with melons!

1345: We left the Red Square, walked around the corner and entered the Kremlin.

Kremlin in Russian means citadel and it is a complex that includes several palaces and cathedrals, and the Grand Kremlin Palace. The complex now serves as the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation and as a museum. We visited several war artefacts in the courtyard and a couple of the cathedrals.

1445: At the Kremlin armoury museum. The Museum holds the collection of Royal dresses, carriages, plate and jewellery to go with the palaces we saw in St Petersburg yesterday. Also among the collection were the Imperial carriages, gifts received from other countries, religious vestments, jewellery and coronation dresses of the Russian Empresses (Some of the dresses had 45 cm waists!). This was a very impressive collection. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed inside the museum.

1615: Finished at the Kremlin. Walk around a Kremlin Gardens, with a quick stop for a cup of tea.

1715: Back to the underground to make our way back to the hotel. On the way we stepped out to look at a few more underground stations.

1815: Back at hotel. Our rooms were ready, so we checked in. We had time to relax and rest up before catching the Grand Express back to St Petersburg.

2230: Transfer to train station to catch the Grand Express to St Petersburg.

2340: Our 1 day tour of Moscow is over, and the train leaves for St. Petersburg. Tomorrow, we will visit the Grand Hermitage museum.

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