Sunday, July 4, 2010

Day 11: Red Square

(Patty outside the De Beers jewellry store in Moscow)
Today was full of optional excursions – most of them not accessible for wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, walking canes etc. There are a number of older people on board who use aids but Patty is the only one in a chair.
There was a full day excursion to Sergiev Posad to visit The Monastery of St Sergius, one of the most famous Goldring destinations in Russia and a pilgrimage destination for Orthodox Christians. It is a full day tour being about 2 hours outside of Russia. We didn’t want to be gone all day so we gave that a miss. The other tour was to the Novodevitch Convent (New Maiden Nunnery) but that wasn’t accessible for wheelchairs either so we didn’t go there. We could have gone to the Military Museum (also a physical challenge) but we opted instead to share a taxi with Greg and Kathy which dropped us at the Red Square where we spent a couple of hours window shopping in the Gum (pronounced Goom) department stores.

The building is an enormous, ornate, glass roofed structure that takes up the entire eastern side of Red Square. One of the passengers had visited there in the 1980’s and told us that it had been a dismal market hall with over 1,200 small stalls badly stocked, with surly stall owners. The building has been stunningly refurbished and is now home to boutiques displaying all the main name brands in clothing, cosmetics, jewellery – even a De Beers, which we couldn’t resist photographing to show our brother who worked for De Beers for about 25 years.
We met up with Greg and Kathy and had tea at a sidewalk café. Two teas, one small cranberry juice and a sprite came to nearly 1 000 Rubbles. Our taxi to and from town cost 4 500 Rubbles – about R1 000. We got back in time for lunch and sat with the Australian couples. Always good for a laugh!
I spent most of the afternoon putting photos on the blog, chatting to other passengers and just chilling in the Panorama Bar.  I brought Patty up for tea and cakes and then it was supper time again. We have both put on weight and can feel it when we get dressed!
There was an optional Moscow by Night excursion that started at 10pm and ended at 12:20am. We decided to get to bed instead!

This morning I heard Syl moving about and asked her what the time was.  "Twenty-five past seven" she said. 
"Wow!  Its still like mid-night" I said.  I got up to go to the toilet and washed my face.  She looked again at her watch and it was actually 4h35!! So, I went back to bed and stayed there until 7h30. 
After breakfast we ordered a taxi for 10am and on the way to town we stopped at a factory shop that supplies all the church, monastery and convent shops with cards and icons. Syl wanted a St James icon or card but once again they didn't have one.
The driver then dropped us close to the Red Square. I couldn't believe that I was really there! You see it on television with goose-stepping troops and military officers standing on the concrete steps, soldiers saluting the tomb of Lenin as they march past but you never imagine yourself in that square. It is over 70,000 sq m with cobble stones brought from around Lake Onega (where we sailed to visit Kizhi island).
The Lenin Mausoleum stands like a squat brick edifice almost in the middle of the square in front of the Kremlin wall. We didn't go into the musoleum but took a photogrph of it from the outside.
The best sight of all is St Basil's cathedral - the beautiful red, blue, green, white and gold onion domed church that is found on the covers of most guide books, postcards and adverts for Russia. 
Opposite the Kremlin wall is the Gum department complex.  What a beautiful 'shopping mall'! They have a long, large food emporium stocked with every imaginable food commodity, bottled, tinned, packaged and fresh. I wanted to take a photograph of the vodka display but a security guard shook his finger at me – no photos allowed.

Everything was very expensive and we didn't buy anything from any of the shops.  After having tea at a pavement coffee cafe we went back to the taxi rank at 1pm. 
I was quite pooped from the outing so had a little lie down while Syl sat upstairs and updated the blog.  4pm was tea time and then at 7:30 we went to dinner.  We watched a bit of TV in the room but the soccer match was too late so we switched off at around 10:30pm.

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