May and June have a bevy of Russian national holidays on the calendar, which Jeonghee and I have been using to good effect. Last week I wrote about our first trip close to Kazan, and in June we will go to St. Petersburg, but for the next couple of weeks I will write about our visit to Moscow.
May 9th is Victory Day, celebrating Russia’s role in Germany’s defeat in World War II (called the Great Patriotic War here). Every year there is a massive parade of soldiers and military vehicles through Red Square which is only viewable by invitation . However, Russian citizens crowd the streets leading into and out of the Square to see the procession on either side of it, and to view the military aircraft that pass overhead. We headed straight away from the train station to the embankment under the Ustinsky Bridge and were fortunate enough to get a prime viewing spot for the airshow.
After seeing this patriotic display, which honestly reminded me of a 4th of July airshow complete with children waving red, white, and blue flags (of a different configuration) and vendors selling nationalist knickknacks of every type, we headed to our hostel- Galina’s Flat. We chose this one for price and because it mentioned cats, which were as friendly as advertised. Even this was a cultural experience, as Galina’s place is a cramped Soviet-era flat whose lack of amenities actually made it a more interesting story than the typical hostel.
Our next step was Novodevichy, housing both a Russian Orthodox Convent and a Cemetery with the final resting places of scores of famous Russians. Our Cyrillic wasn’t quite up to the task of finding everyone we were interested in (Sergei Eisenstein and Chekhov in particular), but it was a strangely peaceful place to take a stroll on a beautiful spring day, taking in the large variety of tombstones and monuments and speculating about who they commemorate.
This one’s easy- it’s Boris Yeltsin
The Convent was very pretty to wander around in and take in the architecture of, but much of it was closed for Holidays and renovations, so we couldn’t go inside anything.
Since it was supposed to rain the next day, we elected to head to Kolomenskoe Park for what proved to be effectively our last destination for the day. This was because it’s a massive park, with a variety of historical buildings to explore, some reconstructed and some relocated from locations around Russia. They symbol of the Park is the UNESCO Wold Heritage Site Ascension Church, closed for the day but gorgeous in its design and river bluff location.
Also of great interest is the stylistically mishmashed Tsar Alexey Palace, whose dazzling array of roofs in particular were originally built without any nails.
As for the rest, pictures will speak louder than words, so imagine walking around on a breezy Spring day as I show you what we saw:
From Arkhangelsk (near St. Petersburg), Peter the Great’s log cabin and a beautiful church:
The fortress tower of Bratsk (in Siberia).
The gate tower from the Saint Nicholas Monastery in Keralia (near Finland).
And the Our Lady of Kazan Church, which, nope, isn’t actually from Kazan:
Our final stop on the day would be our first the next morning- the famed Bolshoi Theater across the road from Red Square. We took in some of the late Victory Day revelry, bought some Soviet-era pins to gift later, and then headed back to Galina’s to rest our exhausted feet. Oh, and we grabbed a street food snack of course- a delicious monstrosity comprised of a hot dog in a wrap along with alternating layers of mashed potatoes, pickles, and onion bits with all the sauces of course. A delicious end to a wearying day.