Thursday, September 26, 2013

Moscow - Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow
This is one of the most imposing and controversial building in Russia. This enormous and very expensive cathedral was consecrated in 1883 after the defeat of Napoleon. However it was singled out by the Soviet government for destruction and in 1931 was completely destroyed to make way for the proposed Palace of Soviets which was however never built. The project was replaced to become an open-air swimming pool – the largest in the world and kept at constant temperature of 27 degrees .
The huge Copper domes of the Cathedral that dominate the Moscow skyline

It was only after the fall of the Soviet Union that a decision was taken to resurrect the cathedral in a $ 360 million reconstruction project. The new cathedral was completed in 2000.

 View of the Moskva River from the Pedestrian Bridge in the front of the Cathedral.
Visited and photographed in August 2013.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Moscow - Red Square

The most important attraction  to go to  when visiting Moscow is the The Red Square. Steeped in history, this lively square in the centre of Moscow can be considered  the heart and soul of Russia and leaves a visitor amazed at the beauty and architecture of the place. It is believed that the square acquired its current name in the 17th Century. It was however only in the early 20th century that Red Square became famous as the site for massive military parades to showcase to the world the might and power of the Soviet Union.

View of Red Square from opposite ends
One interesting fact is that the name 'Red Square' has nothing to do with communism or many of the red coloured buildings surrounding the square. It comes from the Russian word ' Krasnaya' meaning red or beautiful.

The most striking structure that one sees on coming to the red square is St Basil's Cathedral. St Basil's cathedral was built in 1552 and actually consists of 9 churches that were consecrated in memory of major events.

 Picture above shows St Basil's Cathedral on the right and the Spasskaya Tower on the Left.

 Another historical structure facing the Red Square is The Spasskaya Tower which is the main tower with a through passage on the eastern wall of the Kremlin . The Spasskaya Tower was built in 1491 by an Italian architect.

Spasskaya Tower
The red star atop the Spasskaya Tower was installed by the Soviets in 1935

In front of St Basil's Cathedral stands the famous statue of Minin and Pozharksky. The statue commemorates Prince Dmitry and the butcher Kuzam Minin who as leaders of the militia repelled the Polish invasion 0f 1612. The statue was earlier in the center of the red square but was moved as it interfered with Stalin's plans for massed military parades.

 The Statue of Minin and Pozharsky

As one walks further down into Red Square and away from the cathedral on the Eastern side of the Red Square , you come across a grand cream coloured building on the right. This is Russia's most famous shopping mall - the state department store - GUM.

 The famous GUM store on Red Square
Front View of the GUM shopping Mall

On the  North side of the square is a small and charming church. This is the Kazan Cathedral which was built to commemorate the repulsion of Polish invaders in the 17th century. It was however demolished by the Soviet authorities in 1936. Work on restoring and rebuilding the cathedral was undertaken in 1990 which was completed in 3 years.

The Kazan Cathedral on the North of Red Square

At the far end North end of the Red Square is the State Historical Museum. Its exhibitions range from relics of prehistoric tribes that lived on the territory of present-day Russia, through priceless artworks acquired by members of the Romanov dynasty. The total number of objects in the museum's collection comes to millions.
 State Historical Museum

When Lenin, who was known as the Father of the Revolution died, it was decided that his body would be preserved and kept in a special resting place and hence the Lenin Mausoleum was built . The embalmed body of Lenin is laid in the mausoleum and can be seen by visitors.

 Lenin Mausoleum in Red Square

Needless to add, the Red Square in Moscow is an attraction that has to be visited by anyone going to Moscow. It leaves one in awe of the grandeur and beauty of the place.

 Anita with Poline our guide in Moscow
A newly wed couple paying homage at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier behind Red Square

August 2013.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Istanbul - Basilica Cistern

A fascinating place to visit when you are in Istanbul is the Basilica Cistern. This ancient cistern was built during the reign of Byzantine emperor Justinian in 1532. This is the largest of all cisterns in Istanbul.

This underground chamber is about 9800 sq mts in area with 336 marble columns holding the ceiling. As one descends down the 52 steps into the entrance of the cistern one is met with an eerie red glow reflected from the columns and water which is just a few feet deep and has koi fish in it.
The Medusa column bases located at the far end are not to be missed. These are two columns supported by upside down Medusa heads.
 Another interesting column that you will not miss inside the cistern is the 'Teardrop column'. This is located in the centre of the cistern
The one hour that I spent inside the cistern was certainly a most interesting and educative one. Be sure to hire headphones with the taped running commentary to guide you through the cistern. There is a small fee to enter the cistern.
The Basilica Cistern is a close 150 metres from Hagia Sophia and equally close to the Blue Mosque.
Visited in August 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

Moscow - St Basil's Cathedral

One Landmark in Moscow that stands out for its beauty and grandeur is St Basil's Cathedral, better known as the Cathedral of St Vasily.
St. Basils Cathedral
The building is shaped as a flame of a bonfire rising into the sky and contains 8 churches built around a central one. Also known as The Cathedral of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God upon the Moat, it was built in 1552 by Czar Ivan the Terrible. When built the cathedral was to epitomize the image of the Holy City of Jerusalem as a result of which, its nine churches which were consecrated in memory of major events of the Kazan campaign of Czar Ivan were built on a single foundation.

 The cathedral is now a museum though one service a year is held on the day of Intercession in October. The church has been a part of the Kremlin and Red Square UNESCO Heritage Site since 1990.
With Anita in front of St Basil's Cathedral on our vacation in August 2013.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Eating out in Moscow - Cafe Margarita

Musicians at Cafe Margarita
By the side of the picturesque Patriarch’s Prudy is an interesting café offering funky fare along with live gypsy and jazz music. This dark cosy single room café has been an attraction for both tourists and locals alike  for the last 20 years . 

Enjoying the Evening
This is a great place to come and listen to Russian classical and folk music played by trained musicians (both pros and students ). Though the food is basic and a bit overpriced, it really does not matter as most people come here to hear the musicians who play every night creating a wonderful atmosphere. There is a charge of 100R for the music.

Cafe Margaria
 Visited Cafe Margarita in August 2013.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sergiev Posad - Golden Ring Town

Visitors to Moscow have to include a visit to The Golden Ring towns which are located in the Northeast of Moscow to get a feel of ancient Russia. These ancient towns ( eight in number ) played a significant role in the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church.  These towns are among the most picturesque in Russia and prominently feature the onion shaped domes in their churches and monastries.
75 kms to the north of Moscow lies the town of Sergiev Posad - one of the Golden Ring Towns. Located in the city is the Holy Trinity Lavra ( Monastery of the Holy Trinity).

Cathedral of the Holy Trinity

Inside the monastery is the Trinity Cathedral which is the most important church on the site and where the remains of St Sergius lie. This is a white building with golden domes and was constructed in 1422.

The Holy Trinity Cathedral in the Monastery

Shrine over the Spring

On the right of the cathedral is the 'Shrine over the Spring' which was built when a spring of water sprang in the 17th century during repairs of the cathedral. The water is believed to have the power to heal the sick.  The water comes out of a cross shaped fountain that is covered with a colourful canopy.
Shrine over the Spring
Cross from where the Holy Water Flows
The Gateway Church of the Nativity of St  John the Baptist 

The Church was constructed between 1693 – 1699 over one of  the gates.  It displays the characteristic features of "Stroganov buildings" in intricate details and free treatment of classical forms. The lower part is cut by a gate arch. On both sides of the arch are staircases leading to the upper part with the cube of the Church surrounded by a gallery.
Church of the Nativity of St John the Baptist

Fresco on the Gate

Unfortunately, we could not see and admire the Holy Trinity Larva in all its beauty as the monastery is undergoing renovations for the 700th anniversary of St Sergius which will be celebrated in 2014. Iconic structures like the Cathedral of the Assumption, the Bell Tower etc were wrapped under canopies for repair work.
An interesting Russian Orthodox Church near the town of Sergiev Posad
Domes of a Russian Orthodox Church
Getting there: 
There are a number of options to visit Sergiev Posad from Moscow. There are trains every half hour from Yaroslavi Station and take about an hour and a half to reach. Trains start from 5 AM from Moscow and the last return train is at midnight. Buses leave every 15 minutes and take about 2 hours. Another option is to take a guided tour which of course is much more expensive.


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