Today was our last day to visit sites in Moscow, and we
decided to try to visit two sites: the Armoury Chamber, where the treasures of
the Russian Royal families are kept, and Old Arbat street which is nearby.
We took a cab to the Kremlin again and got in line to
purchase tickets. The line was perhaps 30 yards long, but it moved very slowly.
So much so that it took us 90 minutes to reach the ticket counter. So we waited
from before 11:00 to 12:30.
The ticket lines are badly indicated. There were numerous
people who saw the one line, in the absence of any indication there might be
more, they got in the line and waited for half an hour or an hour only to learn
that this line was for the Amoury, and if they wanted only to visit the
Cathedrals there was another shorter line inside, and even a kiosk with no wait
at all where one can pay with a credit card. So tourists end up waiting a great
deal of time.
When we finally arrived at the counter, we learned that there
were entry times associated with the tickets. We purchased ours at 12:30 but
wouldn’t be able to enter the museum until the 3:30 session. Oh and the credit
card machine was down. It was good I had enough cash. We decided to walk to
Stare Arbat Street about 15 minutes from the ticket office. It was a very
touristy street with people in costumes, fast-food restaurants, and lots and
lots of souvenir shops. There was a Coyote Ugly bar, and more. It was somewhat
picturesque, but it didn’t look like the old pedestrian street it was supposed
to be. We bought postcards without finding anything else that interested us,
and then walked back to the Kremlin.
I suggested we try our luck and getting in earlier than our session
indicated. We arrived at the door at 2:45, there was no line to speak of and the
ticket taker let us right in, that was good! We picked up our audioguides,
which would take us on an hour tour. Photographs were forbidden, but I saw
quite a few people taking furtive photos, and there are many wiki-photos online.
Highpoints included, arms and amour from the medieval period,
the collection of silver gifts given to the monarchs by foreign ambassadors.
Such gifts were prerequisite for an audience.
There was an incredible collection of carriages from
different periods, and a large closed sleigh used by Catherine the Great for
her trip from St Petersburg to Moscow for her coronation. She made the trip in
only three days, the sleigh pulled by more than 20 horses.
Several Fabergé eggs were on display, in all their ornate complexity
and precious materials.
Most impressive to me where the thrones and crowns. The
famous Monomakh's Cap, supposedly given by the Emperor (Constantine IX) of the
Eastern Roman Empire in Constantinople to Vladimir Monomakh, his grandson and
forefather of Ivan the Terrible. This has all been debunked, but it was a
powerful narrative to underscore the legitimacy of the Russian monarchy.
There is a regalia belonging to Boris Godunov, and quite a
few others important pieces as well. There is also an exhibition showing how
royal clothing changed from being Asian in origin, the Kaftan was favored until
Peter the Great who wished to Europeanize Russia and refused to receive anyone
who was not dressed in the European manner.
Interesting stories all.
Our hour-long tour was impressive and sufficient. We walked
out into the rain and called a cab, waiting under an umbrella until he
arrived. Back at the hotel we changed
and gathered what was needed for the evening and took another car to the Irion’s
where we arrived a little after 6:00 pm. We saw a moving truck in the street
moving out the last of the American personnel being transferred. Diana told us
that others had moved out earlier in the day. The townhouse next to theirs on
one side was empty.
Inside we sat and talked about day’s events. It had been a
particularly sad one in the Embassy, the day when most Russian employees had be
let go. Hervé arrived a little late, after 7:00 pm, and after a bit of
conversation we moved to the table for dinner. By the force of events it had to
be somewhat improvised, but it was delicious all the same and we enjoyed it
very much. At the end of the meal we cleared to table for a Bible Study which I
gave for about 50 minutes: a selection of stories from the Bible and lessons we
can learn from them.
After the Study we had dessert and compared the stories of
how we were called by God and other important milestones in our lives. It was
very interesting and encouraging to be reminded of a divine hand present and
active in our lives.
Finally close to 10:30 we said goodbye for the evening, and
I called a cab for the drive back. Traffic was lighter so we made good time.
Now we hope for a good night’s sleep before our last full day in Russia.