An inviting new world with legendary tales of long ago
Written by RJ Animo
On a freezing cold February morning, anyone visiting this almost 900 year-old city would be captivated by the grand Moskva River and the scenic beauty of greens and colossal architectures surrounding it. The Grand Duchy of Moscow has a strange charm that marries its legendary past and the power of the modern era.
Moscow is the capital city of Russia, and of the former Soviet Union. It is also a major political, cultural and scientific center in Russia and in Europe. The ages of drama and domination, the rise and fall of a gigantic world, left the present a beautiful home to the Muscovites, and a very interesting destination to tourists.
Today, it is perceived as a city full of history. And not only that, it has also moved on in time like the rest of the world. The streets of buildings from the 15th to the 20th century make up the world-renowned architectures of Moscow. Night life became livelier with old factories and deserted warehouses converted into riveting art galleries and fascinating underground clubs. Yield into the city’s dynamic scene at night and walk by day through the city’s many sights.
From artistry and history, Moscow is indeed a brimming bowl of creativity.
The Moscow Kremlin has played a significant role in Russian life for over eight hundred years, from medieval bastion to modern power centre. Today, two-thirds of the territory is not open to tourists, but the extraordinarily-preserved third holds many things and places that will leave you at awe.
Two of the main squares of the Kremlin National Park Museum are the Sobornaya and Ivanovskaya. Long ago Kremlin was a town clocked up with the busy everyday life of the people. Then the citadel was divided into squares and streets, with some keeping their original names through the centuries.
The walls and towers of the Kremlin were erected during the reign of Grand Duke Ivan III, by the Italian architects Antonio Gilardi, Marco Ruffo, Pietro Antonio Solari, and Aliosio de Carcano, who came to Moscow to work on the project by special invitation. The towering red-brick Kremlin walls and the mighty towers have protected the city since then.
And, who could not notice the magnificent cathedrals and churches within the Kremlin walls? Each of these churches played a vital role in the history of the Orthodox Church, and of the Russian state itself. The stories that lie within them are as interesting as the buildings themselves.
Moscow is well-known for its many attractions ̶ from the squares and streets, to the walls and towers, as well as the churches and cathedrals. Among the best are Saint Basil’s Cathedral, with its elegant onion domes; the controversial Cathedral of Christ the Savior and its vast copper domes, and the colossal Seven Sisters, a group of Moscow skyscrapers built by Stalin as a symbol of a new era in Soviet Power.
The enormous Palaces and Buildings of the Kremlin are equally impressive to the rest of the city. The buildings have their own charm. The Great Kremlin Palace is the residence of the Russian Tzars. The Terem Palace, though a bit smaller, was also home to the Russian royals. And, the Poteshny Palace now houses the office of the Kremlin Commandant. Also worth checking are the Senate Building, State Kremlin Palace, The Arsenal, Faceted Chamber, The armory, Tzar Cannon, and the Tzar Bell.
The first stop for tourists, The Red Square, is the heart and soul of Russia. From the 16th Century St. Basil’s Cathedral, one of the most famous pieces of architecture in the world, to the constructivist pyramid of Lenin’s Mausoleum, Red Square is opulent of Russia’s tempestuous and captivating past.
The name of the square was derived from the word ‘krasnyi’, which once meant ‘beautiful’, and has only come to mean ‘red’ in contemporary Russian. Once a slum area inhabited by criminals, peddlers, drunkards and those whose status were not welcomed inside the official boundaries of the city, Red Square came into its way of advancement in the 20th Century. It was made most famous as the site of official military parades demonstrating to the world the might of the Soviet armed forces.
At present, Red Square has been a venue for rock concerts, expensive classical music performances and a whole range of large-scale events from fashion shows to festivals of circus art. Moscow held the millennium celebration here with a stupendous firework display and street party.
Also located here are the St. Basil’s Cathedral, now a museum; Kazan Cathedral; Kremlin Wall; Lenin Mausoleum; Statue of Minin and Pozharsky; Resurrection Gate and the Iberian Chapel;GUM ̶ the shopping Mecca for tourists; and Lobnoe Moesto ̶ a circular stone platform that stands before St. Basil’s. It was constructed and used for proclamations, and some say, for public executions.
The magical air of Red Square is loved by the Muscovites and is deemed unforgettable by the visitors. But behind the massive splendours are the brutal pains of the past that remain silent and unspoken to those who lay foot on the square.
The Third Rome
Moscow is the eastern center of Christian civilization after the fall of Constantinople. The many grand cathedrals and monasteries built in the city are evidence of this. In olden times, when church and state were all but united, these places of worship became totally the warrant of power and prestige.
The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was magnificent. And, St. Basil’s Cathedral is a favorite to many because of its captivating charm. Among these grandiose and extravagant cathedrals are the Kazan Cathedral, Cathedral of the Annunciation, Cathedral of the Assumption, Cathedral of the Archangel, and Cathedral of the Twelve Apostles.
The rise of Moscow is linked to its significance as a religious center of Russia. They had built monasteries around the city despite constant attempted attacks of Mongol forces, and this perhaps brought them the plan for the solidification of the Russian Orthodox faith. However, during the Bolshevik administration, they closed these monasteries. Some were used as prison camps. After the downfall of the Soviet Union, they were returned to the church and since then, great work has been done to restore them.
World Capital of Museums
Would it be a surprise? Definitely not, taking into account that there are more than a hundred museums in the city. Anyone will find anything that will suit their interests and passions.
The Museums of Art and Art History are worth a visit. You will find the rarest and most beautiful paintings, sculptures, and graphics, both of Russia’s masters and foreign artists. Russian folk crafts, elegant jewelry and the finest Russian chinas can be found in one of these museums. Other interesting must-sees are the All-Russian Museum of Applied and Folk Art, Aleksei Bakhrushin Central Theatre Museum, State Pushkin Museum of Visual Art, State Tretyakov Gallery, State Museum of the East, and the Andrei Rublev Museum of Ancient Russian Art. There are also a number of Biographical and Historical Museums.
But more amazing, given the classical and unique beauty of the old architecture in the city, is the fact that Moscow was never behind the modern age and new technology. Among the Museums of Natural History, Science and Technology is the Yuri Orlov Palaeontological Museum that exhibits dinosaur skeletons, many rare specimens, and extinct living creatures that once inhabited the planet. The Moscow State University Zoological Museum houses an extraordinary collection of land and sea invertebrates, collected by the German naturalist Karl Semper in the Philippines. The fascinating displays in Moscow Polytechnical Museum at the Ilinsky Gates on cybernetics, space exploration, and atomic technology will amazed you. And of course, the Cosmonautics Memorial Museum is a thrilling experience for both adults and children to learn about space exploration, interplanetary satellite flights and many more.
A walk in the park, a breath of fresh air, green scenery, and the many colors of nature relaxing your eyes are quite impossible to score in most big cities. But here in Moscow, with more than a hundred parks within the city, and the countless gardens and boulevards and squares, you would fall in love. There are many sights to see; from wildlife and nature and botanical gardens to historical gardens. Most parks offer activities that will make your visit more enjoyable and worthwhile.
A car would be convenient but in this great city you wouldn’t want to miss out on anything. It is a big city, and a beautiful one at that, making everything worth seeing. A walk around the city would be perfect. The historical places are reachable on foot. And, the Green Moscow’s air and sceneries would be difficult to resist. So grab your jackets and scarves and feel the warmth of your hearts as this lovely city whispers magical tales of long ago, and of an inviting new world.
Moscow is indeed a city of wonder. The drama of the past partnered with the ingenuity and brilliance of its people create a city that captivates one’s soul.