Moscow Kremlin and the Red Square
The Moscow Kremlin, or simply the Kremlin, is the oldest structure in Moscow, and it is viewed as one of the greatest architectural feats in the world.
It has been conferred the World Heritage Site status by UNESCO for its historic and cultural value to Russia.
The Kremlin consists of four cathedrals and four palaces, all enclosed within its walls and guarded by towers.
And right beside it is the Red Square, the best-known city square in Moscow.
Surrounding the Red Square are several tourist attractions, such as St. Basil’s Cathedral and the huge Russian GUM department store, where you’ll find the best collection of the most fashionable shops in Russia. Indeed, once you get to the Red Square, you can go in any direction and you’ll definitely find something interesting to see.
Saint Basil’s Cathedral
Saint Basil’s Cathedral towers over the Red Square, eliciting a sense of festivity with its whimsical colors and unique architecture. There have been numerous debates as to why the cathedral was made as such, with theories ranging from homage to Jerusalem churches to representation of the eight-pointed star.
Would you have guessed that this cathedral’s official name is “The Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin by the Moat”? Its popular name St. Basil’s refers to Basil the Blessed, a Muscovite considered a “holy fool,” who was buried on that site before the cathedral was built.
Currently, St. Basil’s is a museum. When the cathedral was being restored during the 1970s, workers discovered a spiral staircase within the cathedral’s walls. That staircase leads to the previously forgotten central church, which boasts of an amazing tented roof and tantalizing iconostasis from the 16th century – a wall of religious paintings and icons. Tourists can catch a glimpse of this gallery along with the patterned paintwork that designs the cathedral’s hallways.
Those wishing to hear mass at St. Basil’s must plan their visit. There is only one service at the cathedral yearly. It is held in October on the Day of Intercession.
The Mamayev Kurgan commemorates the Battle of Stalingrad. Also known as The Motherland Calls, this memorial complex holds the remains of Vasily Chuikov, one of the lieutenant generals responsible for the Soviet Union’s victory in the encounter.
The Battle of Stalingrad, which lasted from August 1942 until February 1943, snuffed out Hitler’s ambitions of total European conquest. This hill was the site of a very intense battle between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, which happens to be one of the most famous battles in history.
Both forces aimed for control of the hill in Stalingrad, now known as Volgograd, because of its strategic location over the city. Mamayev Kurgan rose 102 feet above sea level, providing a clear vantage point of the city, the nearby Volga River, and the area beyond it. It was said that whoever controlled the hill, controlled the entire city.
The Mamayev Kurgan is the site of one of the most notorious battles in history, and it is a humbling experience to step on where thousands upon thousands of soldiers have fought and died for their country.
The Summer Palace
If you are a fan of Baroque architecture, then the Summer Palace in St. Petersburg is a must-see destination for you. Constructed for Czar Peter the Great, the palace has porcelain ductwork and beautiful ornamental paintings that are a treat for the eyes.
The Summer Palace was built by St. Petersburg’s famous architect Domenico Trezzini sometime between 1710 and 1712. The small palace, consisting of just 14 rooms, was the summer residence of Czar Peter the Great until his death in 1725.
You wouldn’t think that the structure is a royal residence because of its modest exterior. The palace has a very high roof and big windows, allowing a significant amount of light to brighten the interior.
Tourists are allowed to visit the inside of the Summer Palace and see the rooms where Czar Peter the Great and his family once resided in. What you would see is a testament that in a country where everything is large in scale, a quaint palace still holds a sense of importance.
GUM Department Store
GUM (pronounced /goom/) stands for “glavnyĭ universalʹnyĭ magazine” or “the main department store.” While there are several GUMs in Russia, the best-known one is the one that faces the eastern side of the famous Red Square.
At first glance, you wouldn’t even suspect that the Moscow GUM is a department store. With its medieval architecture and glass roof, it looks more like a museum.
Although it began as a state-operated department store, it was fully privatized at the end of the Soviet era. Today it holds boutiques, fashionable brand names, and luxury goods.
The Tretyakov Gallery
The Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow is one of the largest museums in the world. Its exhibits span collections from the 10th century to the 20th century, providing a close look at how Russia developed from its early years to how it stands today.
The gallery was named after Pavel Tretyakov, the museum’s founder. Tretyakov, an affluent Moscow merchant in the 1850s, had a patriotic passion for collecting historic Russian artifacts and paintings. He housed his collections in his estate in Lavrushinsky lane, which is now the Tretyakov Gallery.
The Tretyakov Gallery is now a very important center for science, art, culture, and education in Russia. Its abundant and valuable collection of Russian icons, paintings, and sculptures is rich with history. Who would have thought that all this started with just a merchant’s patriotic hobby?
Located in Moscow, the Bolshoi Theater is a historic theater and opera company in Russia. It is the home of Bolshoi Ballet, one of the most famous and oldest ballet companies in the world.
During its early years, the Bolshoi was overshadowed by the Imperial Theater in St. Petersburg. However, as the seat of power shifted from St. Petersburg to Moscow, the Bolshoi gained recognition and continued to grow with the influx of dancers from all the regions.
The Bolshoi has hosted the performances of some of the greatest dancers and directors of their respective times. The ballet and opera of Russia have great cultural significance, not only to the country but also to the world.
Bolshoi means “large” or “grand” in Russia, and large and grand the theater and its performers are. Catching a performance in the Bolshoi Theater to marvel at the agility and grace of Bolshoi Ballet is a truly unforgettable experience.
In the Russian region of Siberia, you’ll find Lake Baikal, the world’s oldest lake, with a geologic age of 30 million years; the deepest lake, with a 744.4-meter average depth; and one of the clearest lakes as well.
In addition, Lake Baikal also holds the title for being the second most voluminous freshwater lake in the world, holding 20% of the world’s total unfrozen fresh surface water. With so much clean water in it, it is naturally an area of rich biodiversity, with 1,085 plant species and 1,550 animal varieties, 80% of which are endemic to the area.
Lake Baikal is also home to the Buryat tribes with their goats, sheep, cattle, and camels.
In 1996, Lake Baikal was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in 2007, it was declared a special economic zone.
The Singing Rocks
In the Astrakhan region lies the great Bogdo mountain, which is considered a sacred mountain by the Kalmyk people around it.
Although the Bogdo lies in the middle of a semidesert, the vicinity of the mountain itself is a nature reserve with more than 500 plant species registered.
Clay of various shades and colors, including the healing blue clay, is mined from the Bogdo mountain.
Beside the mountain are two lakes: one filled with salt water and the other, just 200 meters away, filled with fresh water.
The greatest attraction of the Bogdo mountain, however, is its singing rocks: a rocky face of shallow caves, hollow stones, and numerous cavities that produce a vague, murmuring hum with even just a gentle breeze.
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
With a balanced mix of Neoclassical and Baroque architecture, the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood stands tall in St. Petersburg. It is famous for featuring mosaics that take up a space of over 7,500 square meters.
Other names for the church include the Church of Our Savior on Blood and the Church of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The “blood” in the church’s name not only refers to Jesus Christ on his crucifixion, but also to Czar Alexander II, who was killed on the site in 1881. An intricate shrine of topaz, lazurite, and other stones now stands on the exact place where the killing occurred.
The restorers claim that the church has the most number of mosaics in all the churches in the world. A visit to the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood will take you on a tour of these pattern-bordered mosaics that focus on biblical figures and events.
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