Friday, July 9, 2010

Day 12 - The Kremlin


We had a free morning so could lie in a bit this morning - YAY!!
I got up dying for a wee but Syl was in the bathroom so I sat on the edge of the bed waiting for her to come out. I waited and waited and started getting desperate. I started to sweat and got up with crossed legs to knock on the door and asked her to please hurry up but she didn’t answer. I opened the door and there was nobody there! Phsew – I nearly didn’t make it. As soon as I sat down she came into the cabin – she’d been up and dressed and was back from breakfast! She brought me some fruit and yoghurt and tea for breakfast.
We saw Richard in the reception and told him we were going out for a walk in the park. He joined us and took us on a wild goose chase looking for an obelisk which wasn’t there! He was convinced that the bus driver had told them yesterday to look left at an obelisk in the park when they returned from their excursion. We walked up one path and down the other, all the way out the other side and back again but no obelisk. 
The word for 'ticket' in Russian is 'Kacca'.  We thought it was hysterical when we saw this sign for Kacca No.2 so Richard took a photograph of me straining in the chair and Syl pointing at the sign!  (OK - it seemed really funny at the time.  OK - you had to be there!)  After our walk we returned to our boat. 
After lunch we joined our bus and tour guide for a visit to the Kremlin. "There are many cobble stones" warned Mikhail.  "We will manage" said Syl, and we did.
My gosh, what a surprise behind those red brick walls! No razor wire, no dark dungeons (that we could see) no goose stepping soldiers. There were policemen with whistles and we were told that they blow a whistle once if you walk in a restricted area, twice if you didn't move right away and on the third whistle you would be sent to Siberia!
The Kremlin is open to tourists but as some of the buildings are still being used by the Mayor, the Police and security services, there are places that are off limits. One has to walk exactly inside the demarcated areas and if you stray, they police blow a whistle. We all jumped when we heard a whistle blow the first time even though we knew that we hadn’t strayed away from our group. There are cathedrals and churches inside the Kremlin walls. I went inside the church of the Archangel Michael.  Its hard to describe the inside of the orthodox churches, every inch of the walls are painted with bible stories and icons, even the ceilings. There were concrete tombs lining one of the walls and ancient iconostas hanging on the pillars. It’s JUST amazing. There are gardens and flowers and it seems so peaceful inside - nothing at all as I’d imagined it to be. We were taken back to the boat in time for cocktail hour at 6:30pm with a farewell dinner at 7:30pm.  Everyone was swapping business cards and email addresses.
I can't believe that this is our last day!  I have been thinking of this trip for so long and planned it for so long and now it is over. I'm just really grateful that I was fit enough and well enough to manage the trip - at last.

Yesterday was pay day - pay your money over the counter!  We found our bill in the cabin when we got back from breakfast and could settle it between 10h30 and 12h30.  This is a cashless boat so you sign for everything and pay at the end. They use Units - one unit being equal to one euro.  Our bill didn't come to very much but its amazing how it adds up.  Those extra drinks at cocktail hour, gifts bought from the gift shop, extra excursions.  I used my travel card to pay so that we could keep our rubbles for the airport duty free shop.  R1 = 4 Rubbles so we just divided everything by 4.
Patty told you about our morning in the park. The old bus and marine terminal building is a wonderful example of Soviet architecture with round tiles showing pictures of workers on railways,  ships, iron and steel workers, railroads, etc. 
At lunch more people gave us their cards or contact details.  If we took them all up on the invitations to visit them we could travel for 5 years and have free accommodation from Shanghai to Canada! 
After lunch we joined bus number 21 for the last time for our tour of the Kremlin.  This is actually a fortified, walled city containing gardens, museums, churches, cathedrals and the seat of the government.  You hear the expression "OY!" a lot in Russia and I must say that "OY!" doesn't come close to describing our surprise at the Kremlin.  I'm not going to try to add to Patty's description.  Instead I'll just add a few more photos that ususal.

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