|Breakfast today consisted of an omelette and a strawberry pancake (an ongoing theme). It was nice to start with but I am soon realising that that is the norm for my Russian friends! We had some luck today, we were to get a private transfer to Vladamir, then catch the local bus or train (4 hours to Moscow). Reason being Moscow is notorius for traffic jams. However, our driver offered to take us into Moscow up until the traffic turnedor the worst at which stage we could then catch a train. This would not have been enjoyable due to all our packs. The part where luck was with us is there was actually no traffic jam, and we went all the hotel, happy days! The hotel location is fantastic, within 20 minutes walk to all the sights, but situated in a lovely quiet safe residential area. After a freshen up we went out exploring. I accompanied a south African family for the day, there are two daughters 24 & 23 whom are studting medice and engineering. thus I had to rely on my humour rather than my smarts to keep up! he he he!
We walked to Red Square, a mighty 2km long, with the plaques of past leaders lining it. Red Square began life as a slum, a shanty town of wooden huts clustered beneath the Kremlin walls that housed a collection of peddlers, criminals and drunks whose status left them outside the official boundaries of the medieval city. It was cleared on the orders of Ivan III at the end of the 1400's, but remained the province of the mob, the site of public executions, and rabble rousing, until much later.
The square's name has nothing to do with communism or with the color of many of its buildings. In fact it derives from the word 'krasnyi', which once meant 'beautiful', and has only come to mean 'red' in contemporary Russian. Popularly, it was also known as 'Fire Square', reflecting the number of times medieval Moscow burned. Red Square came into its own in the 20th Century, when it was most famous as the site of official military parades demonstrating to the world the might of the Soviet armed forces. Two of these will be remembered forever. The first was the parade of 7 November 1941, when columns of young cadets marched through the square and straight on to the frontline, which by that point was less than 50km from Moscow. The second was the victory parade on 24 June 1945, when two hundred Nazi standards were thrown in front of the mausoleum and trampled by mounted Soviet commanders in celebration.
Since Perestroika, however, the emphasis has moved away from official pomp, and Red Square has been used increasingly for rock concerts, big classical music performances and a whole range of large-scale events from fashion shows to festivals of circus art.
At the opposite end is St.Basils. Although it's known to everyone as St. Basil's, this legendary building is officially called "The Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin by the Moat". The popular alternative refers to Basil the Blessed, a Muscovite 'holy fool' who was buried on the site.
The Cathedral was ordered by Ivan the Terrible to mark the 1552 capture of Kazan from Mongol forces. It was completed in 1560. That's pretty much all the genuine history that's known about this celebrated landmark. There, however, scores of legends. Nothing is known about the builders, Barma and Postnik Yakovlev, except their names and the dubious legend that Ivan had them blinded so that they could not create anything to compare. However it is believed the architect was uneducated and when built, the Cathedral was all white to match the white-stone Kremlin, and the onion domes were gold rather than multi-colored and patterned as they are today. We were lucky enough when inside to hear some monks singing, the acoustics were just lovely.
It was a great day, a hot day at 30 degrees, in the late afternoon we headed back to the hotel for a kip and a shower then went back out for dinner. We people watched with amazement at the fashion (questionable) and hairstyles. Both Rats tales and Mullet are high fashion here (!) After dinner we went to travek by the amazing metro with its marble, mosaics and monuments at many of the stations. Just before our last station the train just stopped. We looked around wondering what was wrong when a stern guard approached us, yelled at in Russian and kicked us off. Apparently service was closed for the night! Thank god for my iphone gps! I had downloaded a map earlier, the gps located us and pointed us home whilst tracking our footsteps. Phew!