On Sunday I returned to the Kremlin. There were several areas that I had not seen the day before and I wanted to visit them. As I mentioned previously, entry into the Kremlin is free but to see several areas, you must buy a ticket. One of those areas was the Diamond Fund. No photography is permitted here. The display contains all the jewelry Russia has collected or had made for the past several centuries. There are chunks of raw gold the size of dinner plates, for example. The largest cut diamond was 392 carats with hundreds, if not thousands, of uncut stones in the display cases. Also on display is what is said to be the world’s largest sapphire. The display also had crowns, necklaces, brooches, etc. worth millions of dollars. The size of some of the necklaces was amazing. There were three gold bars and one smaller silver bar, too. According to the printed guide, about two-thirds of the original display was sold off at Christie’s in London in 1927 to support the Russian economy. The collection was started by Peter the Great and specified that each successor should contribute some jewels.
I got in a line thinking it was to enter a particular cathedral. When I ask the two young people in front of me if that was what the line was for, they told me “yes”. It took about fifteen minutes for the line to make its way to the security gate where we walked through a scanner. The line wasn’t for the cathedral but for Lenin’s tomb. Obviously, they didn’t understand my question.
As you walk along the path to the display, there are the graves of prominent Russians like Stalin, Leonid Brezhnev and Yuri Gagarin, Russia’s first man in space.
Once you enter the sepulchral gloom you are not permitted to take pictures. I was allowed to carry my camera but the guards in the room don’t allow any talking or stopping as you pass the display. When Lenin died of a stroke at age 53 in 1924, two men were given the task of preserving his body and stopping the decaying process. It is an amazing sight. He is displayed in a dark suit and tie. He looks as if he could have died yesterday.
One of the other areas I had to buy a ticket for is Cathedral Square. This enclosed area is now a collection of museums.
On Monday I took my first train ride to Sergiev Posade. A city of about 100,000 located about an hour and half northeast of Moscow. It is one the holiest pilgrimages to see the Exalted Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius. There is a white wall around the monastery and inside, tourists aside, they say it’s like stepping back in time to medieval Russia. The monks have long beards, traditional black robes and klubuki hats.
The monastery was founded in 1340 and had great political influence. It was closed when the communists came to power. It was re-opened by Stalin in the 1946 as part of a pact made with the Orthodox Church for support for WWII. Today it houses an Academy and Seminary with about 800 in attendance. There are also another 300 monks assigned here.
Believers come to this well to wash and fill their water bottles with what they believe to be holy water.
The train ride was a local with 10 stops. Vendors come aboard to sell all kinds of things to passengers. Seating is on hard wooden benches three across.
The trip back to Moscow was a little more comfortable. I bought an express ticket…no vendors and soft seats.
I’ve been trying to try some Russian food at the cafe in the basement of my hotel. But I did find one Russian specialty place near the hotel.
Sorry, just couldn’t bring myself to try this one.
I leave Moscow later today for first overnight train ride to Kazan.
More to come…..