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


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