Day Four - The Kremlin
I get up in much better spirits. This is a big, vast country and the forthcoming distances seem foreboding and overwhelming. For some other reason, the prospect of of stepping outside of the relative sanctuary of the hotel strikes fear inside me. And I don't know why. These people aren't any worse than the Arabs of Tunisia and they aren't generally trying to sell me something all of the time. No perhaps its something else, like they all look like they are going to mug you or something. They all look like they are sleeping off a hangover and their choice of dress, black leather jackets and black trousers, seem to reinforce the shady side of Russia.
I receive a reply from a text from my sister who tells me the seven year old nephew Tom is enthralled with our trip and is following our progress on a big map in the loft whilst playing with his train set. This gives me a much needed boost, as I remember describing our projected trip on my atlas to him only last Friday. We must not let him down now. Fancy being inspired by a seven year old! I think for a while about how my Grandfathers must have felt whilst they were abroad fighting for their kith and kin. A long way away from their loved ones and only a second away from death at most times. Must have been hell.
Breakfast is chaotic: as the place is so large, all of the bacon and eggs disappear within afew minutes so I settle for eggs and pineapple with coffee and juice.
After this ruck, we collect our bags and put them in left luggage for the day whilst we go and change some money, purchase postcards and stamps and then time to get our Trans-Siberia tickets.
Collecting our tickets proves to be rather a protracted effort as we go to the first Intourist office on the left of reception, who promptly send us to the one on the right of reception which we can't find. Upstairs is another Intourist office where we explain as best we can what we want. We are dealt with by four different women who always leave us with the phrase " we will be with you in exactly three minutes". And they were! Why three minutes I don't know. Maybe they've tried to emulate their German counterparts.
Cousin Pete reckons they were in the systems, however it eventually transpired that they were in the right office which was the collections office, not the train and air tickets office. Work that one out then.
Having accomplished that task, a measure of a westerner in a Russian system, its off to have a gander at Cosmonauts Park over the road from the hotel. As we pass the entrance, there is a huge statue of French General de Gaulle! What's he doing here?! I can't remember the Russians liking him that much?
It's quite warm as we go down the roadway to a dodgy looking subway to view the old Soviet architecture amid a pleasure park. This contained a "Wild Mouse" rollercoaster - the same one as used to be at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, so beloved of my sister when she was younger.
Having perused the park for a while, Cousin Pete is anxious to get some track mileage in, not being on a train for some 12 hours now. He is one of a small band of people in the country known as "Grislers" or Track Bashers; their sole aim in life is to travel as much train track as possible and thus they end up in some very obscure parts of the world.
So part of this trip is for Cousin Pete to do some "extra!" mileage and so we head off to the nearest metro line which is going to take us to it's junction with "Line 9" of the underground system.
After obtaining two tickets relatively easily, we end up in Moscows much vaunted Underground system, very ornate stations but hot and very crowded, even though we aren't in the rush hour peak. We arrive at our destination station "Alexandrovsky Sad" and look out for The Kremlin, which proves a little difficult and we go round in circles for a while.
I have always wanted to see The Kremlin. It's one of the places in history that were always on the Television News, along with Pad 39a at Cape Canaveral where the moonshots always took off from, when I was a boy. Today, Vladimir Puttin is expecting visitors from Portugal as their are Portugese flags everywhere along with a heavy Police and secret service presence.
Next to The Kremlin is a really nice and well kept park which we walk through as it affords us some shade from the sun. The locals are a mixture of school kids abd young people relaxing. We walk around to Red Square and I'm impressed. It's just like it is on the Television.
Having taken some photo's of Lenin's mausaleum and the surrounding buildings, we naturally gravitate to St. Basils Cathedral - this is the one with the famous onion tops. It's got so much Russian heritage associated with it even the Soviets didn't pull it down.
Inside its quite dark with stalls and guides strategically placed in case you wanted some souvenir. We didn't as we wanted these from the prize - Vladivostok!
Having had another walk around the outer walls of The Kremlin, and nearly found ourselves on camera, we decide that a visit inside the citidal is in order, for the sum of 300 roubles or about £ 6. Bargain really. This was a real eye opener as inside The Kremlin is bigger than the outside, a sort of Tardis.
Our first sight was a rather good collection of old cannon, most of which bore the famous "N" of Napoleon, which I'm sure are booty from the Campaigns in the early nineteenth century. Dave Orton would well approve! Also, there is a new bit which looks like a West End theatre. We aren't sure what that is as the place is crawling with guards. Also, there many Japanese and Chinese tourists crammed into the photo stops made it difficult to linger long at each place.
There are six churches inside, all built by differrent Tsars. Ivan the Terrible built one with a massive bell tower (!) which outside had a huge bell that was broken with a large chunk taken out of it. What the significance of this eluded us at the time as our paper guide was very limited.
We toured the churches in turn, welcome of the break in the searing sun to be in the cool. In each church though, we followed the same choir who always had their latest CD available for purchase! Perhaps they aren't so different from the Tunisians after all!
The tour took us a good five hours and included a stop in a very nice Italien style garden. These are kept in fine and sharp shape although I was surprised to find this in the seat of all Russian authority.
Having finished the tour, because the place was closing, we left for our one last look at Red Square and some more photos. We then found our way back to the Metro Track 6 back to the Hotel Cosmos. This was accomplished not without difficulty as Track 6 is marked in Orange and was hidden by another service colour. Eventually we worked it out and managed to translate back the stations as we needed them. If you do go to Moscow dear reader, take careful note of the name of the station as it's usually in cyrillic and not English type letters. We needed "Vdrikh" which used the same track as the "Blue line".
Having reached the hotel, I fired up the phone to recieve some much need encouragement from the family and girlfriend back in the UK. We then retrieved our luggage, sat in reception, wrote our postcards and waited for our taxi to the station which would mean the start of our journey on the Trans-Siberia and a mere 6,000 mile or 9,288 kilometers!