On the road: Some more sightseeing spots in Moscow

In September 2019, I spend a few days in Moscow, with some friends of mine. To round off, I will tell you about three more excursions in Moscow, to the Cheryomuschkinsky Rynok, around the Saviour Cathedral and to the Sparrow Mountains.


Reading the outlets on the Cheryomuschkinsky Rynok (Черёмушкинский Рынок)

The Cheryomuschiknsky Rynok is a welcoming covered market located south of the Sparrow Mountains. While it is raining, we enter and stroll along the stands. There is everything from souvenirs to meat, cheese, fruit, vegetables, sweets, wine and restaurant… they have a wonderful website in Russian – look at the photos.

I love to read the Russian transcriptions of English or French words, because they represent phonetically, what we say, and the Russians did listen carefully, before writing down. They believe that the French and the English use far too many letters, sometimes inconsistently. I think that Russians have a point here. Let us look at a few examples.

Now we are at a meat stand. “Стейк”, spelled out “steik”, is “steak”. And we can buy several steaks: рибай (riba-y) is rib-eye, Нью-Йорк (Nyu-York) is New York; and Портерхаус (porter-kh-aus) is porterhouse (the Russian do not have the “h” and replace it by their “х” (“kh” like “Loch Ness” or “Buch“).

Let us move to the cheese stand. Таледжио (Taledjio) is Taleggio; Фо-ле-пи (Fo-le-pi) must be Fol epi, Горгонзола is clearly Gorgonzola, Блю Чиз or Blyu Chi-s is Blue Cheese; Дор-блю or Dor-Blyu is Dor-Blue.

Russia also knows of the Swiss Müesli. Here you can buy “батончики мюсли” or “myusly bars”. Note that “Müsli” are “small mice” in Swiss German. What we Swiss eat is “Müesli” (small mush), not “Müsli” (small  mice).


Around the Saviour Cathedral

Zurab Tsereteli (*1934) was the favorite artist of Juri Luzhkov , mayor of Moscow from 1992 to 2010. Some of Tsereteli’s projects in Moscow were the reconstruction of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior (1999) and…

… the 98m tall Peter the Great monument (1997), which seems somewhat odd to me with the sails that look a bit like hanging laundry. Peter the Great had learnt shipbuilding in the Netherlands and I am not sure, whether he would have installed such sails that may not really be useful for sailing. Actually rumors tell us that Tsereteli first called his monument Columbus and intended to give to the US. The US refused the gift. The rumors continue that then Tsereteli redefined his monument as “Peter the Great” with the intention to place it at Saint Petersburg. But they did not want the statue either. Finally Tsereteli’s Peter the Great found his place not far from the Savior Cathedral.


The “Sparrow Mountains”, formerly called “Lenin Mountains” – relaxing in the forest along the Moskva river

For some hours, the sun shines. We take the metro to the Sparrow Mountains that formerly were called Lenin Mountains. Through the autumn forest we walk up to the viewpoint to look at the skyline with the golden cupolas of the Novodevichy Monastery (Новодевичий Богородице-Смоленский женский монастырь) and with some of Stalin’s sisters (skyscrapers in socialist classicism or “Zuckerbäckerstil”) in the background.

In 2012, I zoomed the Novodevichy Monastery in…

… and we then visited the monastery that was founded after Moscow had conquered Smolensk. In the center is the golden Cathedral of Smolensk (Смоленский Собор, 1525).

This is the Gate Church (Преображенская Церковь, 1688, Baroque style of Moscow – in Russian it is the Transfiguration church).

We walk down through the forest to the river Moskva. There would have been a cable car to bring us up and down. In the background we can see the modern Moscow city…

… now zoomed in. Moscow City (Москва-Сити) was started in 1992 to create a city in the city with high sky scraping buildings for half a million inhabitants, something like a Manhattan on the river Moskva. In the meantime, the city in the city has become a clearly visible landmark in the skyline of Moscow.


Saying good-bye to Moscow

This was my third stay at Moscow, first in 2002 with Ernst, second in 2012 with a group traveling from Saint Petersburg to Moscow, much of it by bike, and, in 2019, it is my third time, now with three friends. We are on our way to Usbekistan, with a five day stop over in Moscow to explore the capital of Russia. I think of going again to visit more of this lively town. Now we look forward to discover Usbekistan.

On the road – visiting some museums at Moscow: Tretyakov Gallery and VDNKh

End of September 2019, I stay in Moscow with friends. The weather is chilly and wet. Visiting museums keeps us dry and warm. Let  me tell you about some impressions from the Tretyakov Gallery and from the VDNKh.


Russian art in the Tretyakov Gallery – worth seeing a third time

Today is another rainy day. We take the metro to the Tretyakoswkaya station to visit the Tretyakov Gallery. Pavel Tretyakov (П. М. Третьяков, 1832-1898) was a Russian merchant. In 1856, he started to collect Russian art from former centuries until his time, with the target to make his collection available to the Russian people. He exposed his paintings and sculptures. Also his brother was an art collector. In 1892, both brothers handed over their art collection to Moscow – and the city duma accepted the donation. In 1902, the artist V.M. Vasnezov (В.М. Васнецов, 1848-1926) designed the building of the Tretyakov Gallery with the famous frieze. The statue of Pavel Tretyakov stands in front of the museum.  In 2012, I had acquired the guide book with this title page that shows the entrance to the Gallery with the statue of Tretyakov.

Source: Третьяковская Галерея – путеводитель, 2011

The gallery displays Russian art until today.

Vasnezov’s paintings are exhibited in the Tretyakov Gallery. This is his the Tsarevich Ivan on a grey wolf (Иван Царевич на сером волке, 1889).

V.M. Vasnezov: Tsarevich Ivan on a grey wolf

A lady teacher stands in front of the Tsarevich with his princess, surrounded by a group of children – about eight years old – and their parents. She explains fervently, what happens here: The son of the tsar, the prince, takes the princess home. They are sitting on a wolf that is carrying them through the dark, dark forest. The only bright spot are some white flowers. The prince protects his princess – his eyes observe attentively the dangerous forest. “And how do you know, this is a princess?” the teacher asks, “well, look at her shoes. Fine and precious shoes with pearls. Does your mum wear such shoes with pearls for work? No, she does not, because she is not a princess. But from the shoes you can tell that this is a princess”. – The lady teacher makes Vasnezov’s painting come to life for the children, and also for their parents and for us.

In addition, Vasnetsov has painted this very Russian portrait of the Bogatyrs (Богатыри, 1898) which refers to the ancient times, the years of the Kievan Rus in the 9th to the 13th century. The Rus existed as a loose connection of principalities under the lead of Kiev. The bogatyrs were heroes or bold warriors that fought for their princes and principalities (in addition, some of them were mercenary soldiers in foreign service). The three Bogatyrs checking the horizon for dangers have names: In the middle is Ilja Murowetz, to his left Dobrynya Nikitich, and to his right Aljoscha Popowich.

V.M. Vasnezov: Bogatyrs 

Levitan’s Over Eternal Peace (Левитан, 1869-1900, над вечным покоем) attracts me, not far from here. The gallery guide book points out that the landscape paintings of Levitan can be compared with the prose of A. Chekhov, and, as a matter of fact, they were friends. Wikipedia quotes a reviewer who said that the painting “Eternal Peace” looks at the relationship of human existence and the eternal life of nature (“рассматривается вопрос об «отношении человеческого бытия к вечной жизни природы»”). The small church with the cemetery contrasts with the lake disappearing in the clouds and the horizon (it is the Udomlya Lake north of Tver). Levitan is considered to be the master of romantic landscapes. This small church in the middle of eternity reminds me of the many churches that I found around Kizhi.

I. I. Levitan: Over Eternal Peace 

I am always impressed by the hall with the painting “the Princess of Dreams” (Принцесса Грёза, 1896) by M.A. Wrubel (1856-1910, М. А. Врубель). His paintings look like Art Nouveau – they are dancing and swinging along.

M.A. Wrubel: the Princess of Dreams

In addition to his paintings, some of his maiolica work is exhibited, such as the grim Sea King (морской царь, 1898). Oh yes, I remember, it was the grand-father of my long year Russian teacher, P. K. Vaulin, who instructed Vrubel to master the art of maiolica.

M.A. Wrubel: Sea King

All these pieces of art belong to the period that the gallery guide book calls “second half of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century”. A group of artists left the Imperial Academy of Arts, and, in 1870, founded the Association of Travelling Art Exhibits or Peredvizhniki (передвижники). The most famous painting of this group of artists is Ilja Repin’s Barge Haulers on the Wolga, which is exhibited in the Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg (here, I studied Russian painting from the 19th back to the 11th century and from the late 19th century until present in detail). The Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg had been initiated by Tsar Alexander III and then inaugurated by his son, Nicolaus II, in 1898. Both the Russian Museum in Petersburg and the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow were founded almost at the same time, around 1900.

Before leaving the Tretyakov Gallery, I want to show the icons collection to my friends. Where are the icons? I ask the guardian. He tells me that they have moved to the Andrey Rublev Museum (Музей Древнерусской Культуры). So I have to go back to my photos taken in the Tretyakov Gallery in 2012 to show the Archangel Michael (Архангель Михайл), the Savior (Спас)  and the apostle Paulus (Апостол Павел) painted by Andrey Rublev in the beginning of the 15th century.

When going to Moscow the next time, I will include the Andrey Rublev Museum in my visiting plans.


VDNKh (ВДНХ – Выставка достижений народного хозяйства)

To return from Sergiyev Posad to Moscow, we took the bus number 388 and after about one and a half hours we arrived at the metro station VDNKh which is the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy (Выставка достижений народного хозяйства). The rocket can be seen from far and reminds us of the fact that in the 1950’s the Soviets were the first to start conquering the space.

The exhibition area was initiated 1935-39, then closed during war, reopened in 1954, first as an agricultural exhibition, later enhanced by an industrial area. For the first time, I came across the exhibition in 1968/69, when I started to learn Russian via TV (“Russian Language for you” or “Русский Язык для Вас”). One of the lessons was about a guided exhibition tour by a young lady. She proudly showed the household aids available, one of them being an electric coffee grinder. The young lady put some coffee beans into the grinder and forgot to close the lid. She turned on the grinder, and the coffee beans flew around. “Oh”, she said, and she started to clean up the mess. The educational book was an official Soviet edition and I did enjoy their humor.

After the 1990’s, the exhibition area of the VDNKh was closed. In 2014 the Soviet architecture of the exhibition area had been renovated and the exhibition area became an open air museum, including some sports offerings.

This is the main entry gate with the Soviet couple showing the success of harvesting corn. The gate is welcoming the visitors to the ВДНХ or VDNKh.

Behind the main entry gate, Lenin looks down at the visitors – his face expresses pride and strictness.

We enter the Space Pavillon with the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics under the rocket. I was here already in 2002. From that time, I remember one room with the Sputnik, Sojus, Vostok, Luna and Lunokhod. Furthermore I remember, the spacesuits of Belka and Strelka, the first (small) dogs that went into space, the spacesuit of Gagarin (he was very small) and small tubes for borzhtzh (the Russian soup) and liver – how delicious. Now I find the exhibition much enlarged and it included the Russian-US cooperation in space.

The official Website of the Cosmonautics Museum names 15 exhibits, some of them being

  • A duplicate of Sputnik I (один/one) that the Soviets had sent to the orbit on October 4th 1957. I was six years old then, and my father told me: “Look, with this Sputnik a new area is now starting: We begin to conquer space. You will see more of that, remember this date, when you get older.” And I do remember this date, now that I am much older.
  • The conserved bodies of Belka and Strelka, the dogs that were sent to space in August 1960, along with the landing box. I could not find their spacesuits now.
  • The spacesuit of Gagarin and his successors. Gagarin was sent to space in August 1961 (Wostok I). Yes, I see the suit again and Gagarin was not tall, he measured 1m57. I learn that he died early – in an aircraft accident.
  • The spacecraft Soyuz designed in the 1960’s which is, in its fourth generation, still in use today, also by the US (that gave up their Spaceshuttle in 2011).
  • The model of the base station Mir. I enter it and feel, how small the space is for human beings that are courageous enough to fly to space.
  • The model of the first Lunokhod (Луноход-1) with the original control unit.
  • The spacesuit of Michael Collins, the third man on the flight to the moon who did not put his foot on to the moon. He stayed in the shuttle. Printed on the white suit are the NASA sign and the US flag.

It is an interesting museum.

We say good-bye to the space rocket and return to the city center and to our cosy hotel Matreshka.


Sources: Christine Hamel: “Russland – von der Wolga bis zur Newa”, Dumont Kunstführer 1998. Eva Gerbeding: “Moskau”, Dumont Reisetaschenbuch 2018,; various Wiki-entries; В. Родионов et alii, “Третьяковская Галерия – путеводитель”, 2011; various Websites (linked in on the spot).

On the road – visiting the gorgeous Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius in Sergiyev Posad

When spending a few nights with friends in Moscow in September 2019, we visit the magnificent Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius. From the Jaroslawl station in Moscow, we take the express suburban train (Elektritschka or электричка) to Sergiyev Possad (70km, takes about an hour).


The artist welcomes us in Sergiyev Posad

From the train station at Sergiyev Posad it is a short foot walk to the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius. On the way, we come across this artist who has painted the monastery, when there was some more blue sky. Now he has returned (though it is more cloudy) to complete his painting here and there. He tells us that he used to be a professional artist. He seems to be in his seventies. He loves his profession and his eyes express the wisdom and serenity of age.

We stop for a while chatting.

Then we take our own pictures – just photos: The golden cupola surrounded by the blue star dotted cupolas shines in the sun – this is the Maria Assumption/Dormition Cathedral.

To the left we see the Refectory with the rectangular “tower” that covers the refectory church. Behind the Refectory stands the Belfry – 88m high. The Holy Gate is the main entrance on the right hand side, under the green roof with the small golden cupola.

I remember, what Ernst said, when we had returned from Saint Petersburg to Moscow in 2002: “Now I do feel like some original Russian churches with cupolas, let us go and visit Sergiyev Posad.” I was happy, we took the suburban train and in the lavra, we hired a young lady as a tour guide. Now, 17 years later, Ernst accompanies me in my heart.

Alongside stands selling matryoshka dolls (матрёшки), we reach the Holy Gate and main entrance to the Sergius monastery, which is, my Dumont says, the most important monastery of Russia (p. 160).


Overview of the main sights in the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius

Let me first give an overview of the main sights of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius (direction east to west).

The blue line shows the outline of the defensive wall surrounding the lavra, whereby the main gate is now at the bottom (on the photo above, it was on the right hand side). I have placed the main sights in the sequence they appear, but in reality, they do not fill the whole area surrounded by the wall, but only half of it.

The buildings we see in the lavra are mainly from the 15th to the 18th century. They range from the specific Russian church building style of the 15th and 16th century (based on Byzantium, later with elements from Italian Renaissance, numbers 3,4,7) to Russian baroque, first (after 1600) the Naryschkin baroque from Moscow (2,6,8) and, after 1700, the baroque from Petersburg (5,9,10). (See below “some background information”).


Entering through the Gate Church of Saint Baptist’s Nativity 

Right after the entry gate, we come across our first church, the Gate Church of Saint Baptist’s Nativity (2, 1692-99, Предтеченнский Храм, Naryschkin baroque of Moscow). Small golden cupolas dance on the rectangular building decorated with lively geometric patterns and slim columns.

Behind the Gate Church of Saint Baptist’s Nativity, the confusingly rich world of the lavra churches opens up.


Where the monastery began: Sergius and the Trinity Cathedral

The first church built from stone is the Trinity Cathedral (3, Троицкий Храм), erected in 1422 above the grave of Sergius, the founder of this lavra. White limestone and golden roofs – breathtaking elegance. There are three apses. The facades are divided into three parts with swinging gables. Attached to the Cathedral is the small Nikon church, like a little brother (for more details about Sergius see below under “some more background information”).

The grave of Saint Sergius with his relics is where the pilgrims stand in line. The photo is from the book “siehe die Stadt, die leuchtet”, published in 1989. Inside, we encountered a line of pilgrims as well.

“Trinity” refers to the three angels visiting Abraham who serves them a meal (well, when they arrived, they looked like vagabonds. After Abraham had invited them, they turned out be angels). The trinity with Abraham and the three angels is a reoccurring representation in the Russian-Orthodox churches. The iconostasis of the Trinity Church holds the Trinity icon of Andrei Rublev – now as a copy. The original is in the Andrei Rublev museum of Moscow. I scanned Rublev’s Trinity from Hamel’s Dumont Kunstreiseführer about Russia (photos are not allowed inside the church).


The central complex around the Assumption/Dormition Cathedral with its blue cupolas

The Assumption/Dormition Cathedral (4) makes up the center of the lavra churches and it is surrounded by the Holy Font with chapel and cover (6 and 6a), the Church of Holy Spirit (7), the Belfry (5) and the Church of the Icon of the Godmother of Smolensk (10).

The Holy Font with the cross is covered by playful columns (Сень над чашей с крестом). This is the newest construction in the monastery, 1873, on this photo contrasting with the oldest from 1422, the grand Trinity Church.

The covered Holy Font with its cross stands very close to the Assumption/Dormition Cathedral and there is a reason for that. It stands where the Cathedral first had the narthex.  This was the place, where believers once bought candles and filled in the intercessions, before entering the Cathedral. However, the narthex was destroyed during the siege by the Poles (1608-10). A spring was then detected here. It was said that the water of this spring healed a blind monk. Also in 2002, our young tour guide asserted to us that the holy water has healed many people. In the late 17th century, the tiny red-white chapel was built above the spring, and later, in 1873, the Holy Font was covered with the columns.

The Maria Assumption/Dormition Cathedral was built in 1535. The Russian name “Успенский Собор” alludes to “Maria Dormition” or to her passing away, but the translators often talk about “Maria Assumption”, because this is, what we in the west celebrate on August 15th.

To the right, the slim Church of Holy Spirit with its one blue cupola has been constructed earlier than the Dormition Cathedral, in 1476 (церковь Сошествия Святого Духа).

Both white churches (made from lime stone obtained near Moscow) show the Russian style: The Dormition Cathedral has the typical round gables (sakomars) and the Church of Holy Spirit has the Kokoshniki reminding of the traditional Russian headdress of women (the swinging gables of the Trinity Cathedral are similar).

And yes, this cat lives in the lavra, too. May be it has heard a mouse under the ground.

The Tsar Boris Godunow (1598-1605) has been buried near the Dormition Cathedral. The family grave of the Godunows looks like a little house (to the left of the entry door).

The lavra is full of cupolas and you can play with them… these are the cupolas of the Dormition Cathedral and of the Church of Holy Spirit, seen from the Refectory; they appear behind the golden-brown cupola of the small Mikheyev Church.

Also near the covered Holy Font (and hence close to the Dormition Cathedral) is the Belfry from 1770 (Колокольная). Its blue and white decoration reminds me of some baroque churches in Saint Petersburg.

Now, I zoom in the small and finely decorated сhapel above the holy spring (Успенский кладезь с часовней), just in front of the Dormition Cathedral. The chapel from the late 17th century shows the playful Naryschkin baroque of Moscow. The finely carved slim white columns on red ground give it some airiness. The tower is decorated with the geometric patterns that we have already found at the Gate Church of Saint Baptist’s Nativity.

I very much like the graceful white Church of the Holy Spirit, made by skillful masters from Pskow. Clustered pilasters divide the facades into three parts topped by the headdress like “Kokoshniki”. In 2002, the tour guide told us that the small tower with the blue cupola is a belfry that can only be reached from outside via a ladder; it is rare that Russian churches have an integrated belfry. Usually the belfry stands separate.

In the background appears the Refectory with the small Mikheyev Chapel attached.

The medaillon showing Christ decorates the facade above the entry door to the Church of Holy Spirit.

The Refectory (1686-92, Трапезная) shows beautiful Naryschkin baroque of Moscow.  Its geometrical pattern reminds us again of the Gate Church of Saint Baptist’s Nativity. The “tower” hides the Sergius cathedral (храм), which to me seems to be very, very luxurious.

Just close to the Refectory is the elegant small Mikheyev church (1734). Mikheyev was a former abbot.

Behind the Belfry is the red church of the Godmother of Smolensk (1745-48, baroque of Saint Petersburg). It looks like the hermitage of a landscape garden.

The white tower belongs to the hospital chuch of Saints Zosimas and Sawwitiya (1635-38).

The abundance of impressions makes us hungry. We eat in the small canteen next to the golden entry gate. We have fish soup (ukha, уха), Russian ravioli (Pelmeni, пельмени) and herring under the fur coat (yes – it is called like that: селёдка под шубой. This is herring “under” a cover of beetroot salad).

We say good-bye to this magnificent monastery ensemble. I am happy to have seen it a second time now, and, after having studied it at home using all my sources available, I would not mind seeing it a third time.


Some more background information about the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius in Sergiyev Posad (Свято-Троицкая Сергиева Лавра)

The Trinity lavra started off in 1340, when Saint Sergius of Radonesch (Сергий Радонежский) retreated to the forest north of his home town Radonesch to live as an ascetic hermit. More hermits joined him and Sergius built the first wooden church (according to the young tour guide that we had hired in 2002, he was a carpenter and hence built the church himself. He even knew the moment of his death six months ahead and timbered his own coffin, she said, and later pilgrims took splinters from the coffin such that it had to be protected under glass. Sergius is a much venerated person decorated with legends).

The support of Sergius was important for getting rid of the Tartar yoke. Sergius blessed Prince Dmitry Donskoj of Moscow before the battle against the Mongolian Golden Horde near the Don river in 1380. Donskoj defeated the Mongols, and this first victory counts as having set off the liberation of Russia.  As a matter of fact, the Mongolian Golden Horde was under pressure, challenged by Timur (1336-1405), also with a Mongolian background (we will soon meet Timur in Usbekistan). Perhaps Sergius was a bit similar to Niklaus von der Flüe of the 15th century who also had political influence on the first cantons of early Switzerland.

The monastery flourished and became wealthy, as they were always on the winning side of politics.

  • This started in the 14th century, when Sergius supported the unification of the Russian principalities under the lead of Moscow and supported their fight against the Mongolian Golden Horde.
  • Then, in 1608-10, the monastery withstood the Polish besieging it for 16 months.  This supported Russia’s survival (in danger after the conquest of Moscow by Poland) and the subsequent rise of the Romanow dynasty.
  • And last, they supported young Peter by allowing him to grow up here, protected from the revolts of the Streltsy. When Peter became Peter I the Great, he thanked the monastery later for that.

For my understanding, I divide the main sights of the Trinity Lavra into three phases:

  1. Classical Russian style, influenced from Byzantium, from the wooden Russian churches and later by Italian renaissance architects: The first church was the Trinity Cathedral (1422) erected above the grave of the founder Sergius and containing the trinity Icon of Andrei Rublev.  Around 1450 pilgrimage to the grave of Sergius started. The Church of Holy Spirit (1476) and the Assumption/Dormition Cathedral (1585) followed, the latter being initiated and sponsored by Iwan the Terrible.
  2. Naryschkin baroque style of Moscow: In 1608-10 the monastery was besieged by the Poles for 16 months and could not be conquered. The monastery was admired for its boldness, and the first Romanow Tsars gave them donations in the 17th century. The Moscow/Naryschkin baroque buildings remind us of that: The Gate Church of Saint Baptist’s Nativity (1692-99), the Refectory with the included Church (1686-1692) and the Chapel above the Holy Spring (late 17th century).
  3. Baroque style of Saint Petersburg (founded in 1703): Peter I the Great, was a generous donator for the Sergius Lavra as well, as at the age of 10 (1682), he had fled here with his mother, after the revolt of the Streltsy. The buildings of Saint Petersburg baroque style commemorate that: The Belfry (1741-70), The Church of the icon of Godmother of Smolensk (1745-48) and the Mikheyev Church (1734, it has a Dutch roof, as Peter, after having studied ship building in the Netherlands had good relations with Dutch craftsmen and architects).

There are only two monasteries in Russia that are called Lavras. Empress Elizabeth (a successor of Peter I the Great) edited a decree to elevate the Sergius monastery to the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius. The second Lavra is dedicated to Alexander Newsky in Saint Petersburg.

Since the 15th century, the monastery with the grave of Sergius has been an important pilgrimage site. The pilgrims needed catering and wanted to buy souvenirs, such as icons and wooden toys. A small town emerged around the lavra. Today, Sergiyev Posad is THE Center for the production of matryoshka dolls – and, as a matter of fact, many of them are on sale on the street leading to the entry gate of the Trinity Lavra.


Sources: Christine Hamel: “Russland – von der Wolga bis zur Newa”, Dumont Kunstführer 1998. Hubert Faensen: “Siehe die Stadt, die leuchtet”, Koehler und Amelang, 1989; Eva Gerbeding: “Moskau”, Dumont Reisetaschenbuch 2018, various Wiki-entries and the excellent site Экскурсия по Троице-Сергиевой Лавре.

On the road – sightseeing at Moscow: The Metro

On our way from the Red Square to the Moskwa river, we get caught in the pouring rain and escape to the next metro station. Rain is a good opportunity to admire the underground palaces of Moscow.

The first lines of the Metro opened in 1935. New lines are added even today. The Moscow metro is one of the most efficient metros that I have ever come across. No Russian would run in their palaces to catch a train. There is just no need, because the next train is sure to come in about one minute.

Long escalators take the Muscovites into the underground. When I stand on them, I always hear the poem-song “песенка о московском метро” by Bulat Okudzhava (1924-1997):

“Порядок вечен, порядок свят.
Те, что справа, стоят, стоят.
Но те, что идут, всегда должны
держаться левой стороны.”

“The order is eternal, the order is holy.
Those on the right side, they are standing, they are standing.
However, those that are going (or walking), always have to
keep to the left side.”

(I have the cult vinyl record of Bulat Okudzhava that was edited in the sixties or early 70s by “le chant du monde“).

We visited some of the most beautiful metro stations.


Komsomalskaya  or Комсомольская

We start with the Komsomalskaya station on the ring. It was built in 1952 and received a prize at the Expo 58 in Brussels.

The hall is illuminated by chandeliers and is decorated with mosaics.

There are also mosaics on the ceiling. They show some heroes of Russian history such as Nevsky (who conquered the Baltic Sea and Karelia for the republic of Novgorod) or Donskoj (who defeated the Mongols for the first time). This is Alexander Nevsky.

At the end of the gangway, we find the mosaic “МИР” which means both “peace” and “world” in Russian.


Majakowskaya or Маяковская

The Majakoswkaya Station has been completed in 1938. The ground is stable here, and hence the columns could be built slimmer, which gives the station a “dancing airiness”. The station won the main prize at the New York exhibition in the same year.

The cupolas are painted with various scenes showing sports such as this ski springer.

We leave the metro here through the exit built into the Tchaikoswky Concert Hall and we have coffee with cake in the cosy attached restaurant. A performance for children ends in the Concert Hall and the young connoisseurs of art fill the restaurant with joy and laughter.


Square of Revolution or Площадь Революции

My favourite metro station is the Square of Revolution (Ploshchad Revoluzij). A line of Soviet heroes forms a guard of honour for the Muscovites rushing by. And there are some statues that shine such as this dog’s nose. The passer-bies quickly touch this nose and utter a wish that will be fulfilled – for sure!

This is statue of the Soviet hero Nikita Karazupa with his dog Indus – he was a frontier-guard.

Also this coq accompanying the handsome, strong woman, seems to bring luck and is therefore shining.


Arbatskaya or Арбатская

Arbatskaya was the last station we visited. It was built in 1953, another solemn palace.

The entry building of the Arbatskaya forms a star.


Turning to the Arbat

The rain has stopped. We leave the Arbatskaya station and stroll through the Old Arbatskaya Street.

Bulat Okudzhava is here. I say hello to him who wrote and sang the poem about the metro of Moscow.

I also like his ode to the Arbat, called “песенка об Арбате” that ends with the words: “Ах Арбат, ах Арбат, ты моё отечество” – “Ach Arbat, ach Arbat, you are my homeland.” Yes, in the late 19th and in the early 20th century, the Arbat was the area, where artists and intellectuals lived. Also Bulgakow made “Master” live here – he is the protagonist of his wonderful novel “Master and Margarita” written in the 20’s and 30’s of the XXth century.

We select a Georgian restaurant in the Arbat and have a delicious dinner with a glass of red Saperavi wine.

On the road – sightseeing in Moscow: Red Square, GUM and Kremlin

With three friends, I spend a few nights in Moscow. We stay in the pricy and friendly hotel Matreshka (Матрёшка), conveniently located in a dead-end street between the Bolshoi Theatre (Большой Театр) and the Lubyanka (Лубянка).  It is end of September, chilly and wet.


The Red Square – the Center of Moscow

First we visit the Red Square (Красная Площадь) which is the center of Moscow. The pavement shines in the sun that from time to time breaks through the heavy rain clouds. Saint Basil’s Cathedral is at the end of the square, to the right is the Kremlin wall and to the left the department store GUM. I remember, when I entered the Red Square in 2002 with Ernst, he kept on saying “this guy is crazy, this guy is crazy.” He was alluding to the German pilot that landed his Cessna here in 1987. Well, I believe the Red Square is large enough to land a small plane here – it measures 300mx70m.

The Red Square is called Красная Площадь in Russian, and originally, krasny (красный) meant “beautiful”. Later красный changed its meaning to “red”. Indeed, the red wall of the Kremlin really makes this “Red Square” look “red” and “red” was also the color of the communists.

We visit the many chapels of Saint Basil’s Cathedral (Собор Василия Блаженного, building started around 1600 under Ivan IV, the Terrible). We enter all the  chapels and find some wonderful singing at various places. Then we are surprised by more rain, as the photo taken from the Cathedral to the Russian State History Museum and to the department store GUM shows.

In the evening, we want to see the Red Square from above, enter the Hotel Ritz at Tverskaja, “glide up” to the top floor and have a good glass of wine.

From our chairs, the view down to the ground floor is breath taking.

On the balcony, we find this gorgeous view of the Russian State History Museum with the statue of Zhukow, the Red Square, Saint Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin. (Zhukow invaded Berlin in 1945 and accepted the surrender of the Germans).


The traditional department store GUM

From the pouring rain, we escape into the GUM (Государственный (Главный) Универсальный Магазин). This department store was built in 1893. It is huge with its 200 stores on three levels spread over 250m versus 88m. We buy criminal stories written by B. Akunin in one of the stores. I look forward to reading them.

We have lunch on the terrace under the umbrellas.

We watch a fairy tale teller with a group of children. Very lively, she talks about the bandit (разбойник) that, indeed, suddenly appears round the corner. The kids give him some money (it is a chocolate coin of ten rubles). And, because this is a good bandit, he does not keep the “money”, but hands it over to me… we all laugh together. Russians are excellent at entertaining children; even grown-up tourists enjoy that.


The gorgeous cathedral square in the Kremlin – worth seeing a third time

On the second day, we visit the Kremlin with its splendid Cathedral Square. It is my third time here, and it IS worth seeing it again. This a good overview that I found in the Internet.

The Dormition Cathedral (Успенский собор, the main and oldest cathedral) 

The Dormition Cathedral (Entschlafenskathedrale) celebrates, what we call “Maria Himmelfahrt”. It is the oldest Cathedral of the Kremlin, built in 1475-1490 by Aristotele Fioravanti. It mixes Russian traditional and Italian Renaissance architecture. The five golden cupolas shine, when the sun breaks through the clouds. Inside is the throne of Monomaxos alluding to the dynastic link of Iwan IV with Byzantium – he used this throne to pray (“Betstuhl”).

Next to the Dormition Cathedral we enter the small Church of the Deposition of the Robe (when Maria died and was accepted in Heaven, she left her robe in the grave, Церковь Ризоположения Пресвятой Богородицы)). No photos allowed in the pretty church with its frescoes. Behind the church are the joyful, slim cupolas of the Terem Palace, which used to be the main residence of the Russian Tsars.


Annunciation Cathedral (Благовещеский собор, house church of the Tsars)

Now, we have to stand in line with a large group of Chinese tourists to enter the Annunciation Cathedral. After having entered, I see Jonas just to the left. I stop to breathe: I remember, when I was here with Ernst and we enjoyed looking at Jonas being swallowed and spat out again by the whale. Inside we admire the solemn iconostasis with the works of Andrei Rublew, Teophanos the Greek and the School of Moscow. The Cathedral was built by masters from Italy and Pskow between 1484-1489. In 1560 Iwan IV renovated the church and since then, it has had nine cupolas, because conquering Kasan lasted nine days. These churches are full of symbols.


Dormition Belfry (Успенская звоница)

The Belfry was built by an Italian architect from 1505-08. It is 81m high. The cupola has been added by Boris Godunow and his name is written there. The belfry is also called Dormition Belfry, because a dormition chapel was added later and then transformed to a bell wall (звоница). In Russia, bell walls are used to make music with the bells – beautiful, I have experienced that in the monasteries on the Golden Ring around Moscow.


Archangel Cathedral (Archangel Michael, Архангельский собор)

Also, the Archangel Cathedral (Erzengel Kathedrale) has been built around 1500 (1505-1508) by the Italian architect Aloisio Lamberti de Montagnana (called Alevis Nowy). Inside it is a Russian church forming an equilateral cross. The grand dukes and the Tsars up to Peter I the Great are buried here. Their wives are in the crypt. From Peter I the Great on, all Tsars are buried in Petersburg. Only Boris Godunow is in Sergiyev Posad. Outside, the horizontal structure of the facade and the conch like shapes show Italian (Venetian) Renaissance influence.

Again and again, the sun defeats the clouds and the cupolas shine golden, just for some minutes. We cannot leave this place – it is too beautiful.


Tsar Cannon (Царь пушка)

Behind the Cathedral Square, there are two more attractions. The first is the Tsar Cannon. I remember, how Ernst laughed, when he saw the cannonballs. “These cannonballs have never been used for THIS gun”, he said. And I do think that he was right, they are just too large for this gun. Do you not agree?


Tsar Bell (Царь-колокол)

The Tsar Bell is one of the hugest bells ever casted in the world. But when taken out of the casting pit, it broke. Hence it has never been used, but being so large, it has been placed in the Kremlin and has served as an attraction since 1836. I admire the courage of the Russians – I think, they show that sometimes you have to give it a try, even if not being always successful.

We look back to the Belfry, the Dormition Cathedral and the Archangel Cathedral with their golden cupolas.

We leave the Kremlin  to have lunch – a borshch (Борщ) and dumplings  in one of the traditional Soviet Restaurants that now can be found all over in Moscow, the Varenichnaya.


Sure, whenever I get a chance to go to Moscow again, I will visit the Kremlin and the Cathedral Square again. It will be my fourth time then, and it will be worth it

Sources: Christine Hamel: “Russland – von der Wolga bis zur Newa”, Dumont Kunstführer 1998. Hubert Faensen: “Siehe die Stadt, die leuchtet”, Koehler und Amelang, 1989. Eva Gerbeding: “Moskau”, Dumont Reisetaschenbuch 2018, and various Wiki-entries.