As you enter through the main gate you encounter the Arsenal, surrounded by a collection of Russian cannons and trophy cannons acquired from Napolean during the war of 1812. As we approached the square we were lucky enough to catch some of the soldiers who had been involved in the parade marching back to their headquarters. It is an impressive display when the Russian army is in marching mode, and look forward to seeing some of their big parades, where they bring out all the big guns and thousands of soldiers.
Speaking of big guns, as you round the corner into Cathedral Square you run into the Czar Cannon, which is a massive cannon built in 1586, for the purpose of “amazing the common folk and inspiring awe in the Tartars” who up till that time were regular raiders of Moscow. It is so big that it never actually worked, and anyway how the hell would they have loaded the 1 ton hollow cannon balls into it anyway… as we have come to realise of a lot of things here “only in Russia…”
Not far from the Czar Cannon, is the Czar Bell, this is another item of gigantic proportions, which was cast in 1733 and weighs 200 tons. It spent 103 years buried in the ground where it was being cast, unfortunately sometime during the casting process a fire broke out in the Kremlin, of which it was plagued by many, which set fire to the protective structure over the bell and burning rafters fell on the bell and as they tried to put it out with water, the water on the red hot metal caused the bell to crack. So they left it sitting in its casting pit till someone got sick of the sight of the big hole there and ordered it be pulled up and set on display where it can be found today.
Once in Cathedral Square you are faced with a number of cathedrals and buildings that have played an important part in Russia’s history, there is the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, where previously mentioned bell was meant to hang, The Cathedral of the Archangel Michael, The Cathedral of the Assumption, The Cathedral of the Annunciation, The Church of the Deposition of the Robe, Twelve Apostle’s Church, Church of the Nativity of Virgin Mary, and possibly one or 2 more…. These are an amazing collection of old buildings many hundreds of years old, which have been used to crown Czars, bless soldiers on the way to battle, and even as the burial place of a number of Czars, whose tombs are able to be seen in some of the buildings. These buildings are all in that classical Russian Orthodox style with gilded onion top roofs, and elaborately decorated inside, with paintings of important religious people and events, and many of them are covered in icons which are generally finished in gold leaf. Unfortunately photography inside these buildings isn’t permitted so can only post photos of the exteriors and some of the buildings are actually undergoing restoration so are covered in scaffolding, etc so we can’t see their full glory. Another sad fact is that many of these buildings are deteriorating and they are struggling to be able to maintain them and many may be lost in the years ahead if they are unable to find the money to restore them (this in a country which is seeking to create a moon base and land a man on Venus, I think it is). Other buildings we walked past are the Grand Kremlin Palace, which was built in 1492 and housed various Czars, including Ivan The Terrible.
After wandering around the cultural heart of Russia we headed back across Red Square to GUM, which was once the State Department Store and is now a classy mall among the biggest in Europe for some lunch and a look around at all the stuff we can’t afford…. Then we took a wander around the streets surrounding Red Square, finding the Russian State Duma building, where the Russian parliament sits and the Bolshoi Ballet Theatre. There are so many old buildings to see in this city I don’t think we will ever see a fraction of them, but will give it a good go.