This morning I worked, before we prepared to head into
town. There was a chance of rain in the forecast but since the Armory museum
(one more we want to see) in the Kremlin is closed on Thursdays, we decided to take a boat cruise on the Moskva River
to see Moscow from the water. There were supposed to be incredible views of the
The Irions had told us too that leaving from the Ukrania
Hotel (now the Radisson Royal) would allow us to visit a centerpiece of their
lobby, a scale model of the Kremlin. So we caught a cab to the hotel, one of
Moscow’s seven sisters,
constructions built under Stalin’s orders in a very recognizable style called Stalin’s Empire
. We recognized it from
having seen Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science, which many Poles call Stalin’s curse
. This was offered to
Poland as a gift of the Soviet Union, but then when financial difficulties
ensured, Stalin required repayment. Several times over: the gift that keeps on
The style is clunky (the Poles also call theirs the elephant
in lace underpants), but it was obviously meant to impress through height and
mass, which it does. We walked inside the impressive lobby and followed the
signs to the model. It was truly well and beautifully done. Through headphones
we followed a narrated presentation with lights identifying various structures,
and mimicking sunrise, daytime, dusk and night when lights around the walls and
on bridges over the river illuminated the scene.
The model was painstakingly built in the 1970s for a trade
show in the US, where it was displayed for some months. At the end of the
exposition, Neil Armstrong asked to buy it to put it on permanent display, to
which offer he received the reply: Moscow
is not for sale.
Marjolaine commented that she wished we had seen the model
first before going to the Kremlin, because it would have helped us better
understand the geography of the place. We’ll have to go back now.
At 12:30 we walked out of the hotel and to the boat landing
where we bought tickets for the lunch cruise, a leisurely two and half hour
trip to the Kremlin and back. We sat on the upper deck as far forward as we
could go. When the boat cast off at 1:00 and we started down river, a brisk
wind blew on us. Marjolaine put on both her sweaters and I put on my jacket,
the first time I’ve had to wear it. Summer in Moscow can mean temperatures in
the 80s or in the 50s F, not exactly like Dallas….
We watched the buildings drift by, some obviously of Soviet
origin, others pre-Revoluation, in the French style, still others more modern. We
passed several wooded parks, among them Gorky Park, probably the most famous
one in Moscow. As we approached the very heart of the city we passed the 300
foot tall statue honoring Peter the Great, who began the Russian Navy and moved
the capital from Moscow to St Petersburg. The statue is not, in my opinion very
beautiful, but it is big. It’s the eighth tallest statue in the world, and
figures on various lists of the ugliest too. Big!
Farther along we came to the golden-domed Cathedral of
Christ the Savior, which was built to thank God for the Russian victory over
Napoleon. It was here that Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture was performed for the 1st
time in 1882. Of course Stalin had it torn down, in 1931. He didn’t want to
thank God for anything. Stalin planned to construct a gigantic Palace of the
Soviets in its place, to be taller than the Eiffel Tower. My building is bigger
than your building! Construction began but was halted by the German invasion,
when its materials were dismantled to be used to build and repair
infrastructure. Construction never began again after the war.
In 1990 permission was given to the Russian Orthodox Church
to rebuild the Cathedral which was completed in 2000. That same year the
Romanovs were canonized. Boris Yeltsin lay in state here in 2007. This is where
the feminist punk band Pussy Riot staged their guerrilla protest in 2012, aimed
at the Church and Vladimir Putin. They were arrested and jailed before later
A short distance beyond we came to the walls of the Kremlin,
which we enjoyed seeing from the water. The Grand Palace is most impressive,
and later we had a fairly unobstructed view of Saint Basil’s. Just past the
Kremlin as the boat turned about, we could see another of the Seven Sisters
just head, the Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building. Again, big and ostentatious!
On the way back to the hotel I ordered some lunch: breast of
duck with purée. Since the boats are run by the Radisson, I trusted the food
would be excellent and it was, and because the dollar is very strong against
the ruble right now, it was quite reasonably priced.
We moved under cover to eat, which turned out to be good
because rain came for a few minutes as I ate, and more people crowded under the
Since we were going against the current on the return, the
trip took half again as long, and we enjoyed the whole time.
As we disembarked back at the Radisson, we debated what to
do next. It was 4:00 pm and drizzling. We could walk across a nearby bridge to
the new Arbat quarter, centered on a pedestrian street, colorful and lively.
But under rain? We decided to head back to the hotel so I could work and then
we would make it an early night.