An early ‘8:30am on the bus” starts our day again. Our plans for today are to visit the State Armory Museum, walk around the Kremlin Grounds, some free time and then a 7:00pm concert to be given by the Zlatoust Choir at the Ilia Glazunov Picture Gallery.
We find that nothing has changed since yesterday – the traffic is slow and unpredictable. It takes over 1 hour 10 minutes to go the normal 30-minute drive into the city center again. Along the main street are literally scores of banks each displaying the current conversion rate from roubles to USD – around the 31 roubles to 1 USD.
Red Square is the ‘center’ of the city with the Kremlin backed up against it. To enter the Kremlin after paying the entry fee, we are scanned by machine as well as Russian eyes. Those in ‘authority’ do not know that smiling is a lot easier than frowning. So you feel these burning sets of eyes going straight through you. Today, we can only take pictures if we can see sky – in other words it is forbidden inside buildings or be ‘destined to hard labor in the harshest conditions’ of the local ‘salt mines’. The word kremlin means a fortress or walled town; the one in Moscow is the biggest and most famous of all. The earliest rampart was of earth and wood, but successive rulers raised and strengthened the defenses after attacks. There are 20 towers along the wall of the kremlin; each one has its own history and architectural quirks.
The State Armory Museum began in the 16th century as weapons workshops. These palatial buildings developed into a center for Russian arts and crafts, employing the most-talented jewelers, icon-painters, printers, leather-workers and embroiderers. The Armory became a museum in 1851 and its collections were expanded with treasures from churches and private collections after the October Revolution. The highlight of the gallery is the display of royal regalia and thrones. In many ways, The Armory reminds us of the Vatican but I think the Armory has much more wealth in the form of precious stones and handcrafted clothing with some beautiful coaches donated from other countries.
In the Kremlin grounds, are many famous buildings; the Bell Tower of Ivan the Great, the Archangel Cathedral, The Cathedral of the Annunciation, The Cathedral of the Assumption, five Palaces, the Armory and the Senate, the Arsenal and the former Supreme building for the Soviet Congress.
We come back to the ship for lunch and a short amount of free time before returning to Red Square for free time. Lyn and I wander the area visiting the underground 3 level shopping plaza, and witnessing the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier. The guards march goose-step style with a straight leg coming up to waist height. We all meet at 6:30pm and are taken to an interesting picture gallery for a one-hour concert performed by a small Russian choir. I say interesting, because the large paintings contain famous people from mainly the USA, the USSR and the UK. Even Marilyn Munroe, JFK and Bill Clinton with Boris Yeltsin are there. Someone suggested the paintings are Russian Porn as there are few nudes amongst the politically famous. The music is Russian classical and unaccompanied; very well done and impressive. As the main tourist season to Russia is coming to an end quickly and the weather gets very cold, this classical choir of 5 ladies and 5 males has replaced the regular ‘folk music’ concert for us to enjoy.
Our light buffet dinner begins after 10:00pm following our 1 hour 10 minute trip back to the ship. We chat until 11:30pm before retiring to our luxurious suite.