I walked from my hotel towards Red Square on Ulitsa Ilinka. 200 years ago this street was the commercial heart of the neighborhood Kitay Gorod (where my hotel is located); it was first settled by tradesmen and artisans in the 12th century.
This is my first morning in Russia (it wasn't early, maybe around 10am) but I quickly learned that most Russians do not go outside until the afternoon.
I started my day's sightseeing at the Lenin Mausoleum, where Lenin appears to peacefully lay for the rest of eternity. In 1924, against his wishes, Lenin was embalmed. An entire laboratory is dedicated to injecting the body with special fluids and maintaining ideal temperatures. Every 18 months he gets a makeover, a 30 day bath and a new suit.
You must go through security (metal detectors and a quick search) before entering the mausoleum, and you are not allowed to take pictures or linger in the heavily guarded area.
This was never on my list of things to do, probably because I didn't know it existed. I unknowingly became one of 1.5 million people who have visited the crypt this year.
Lenin died in Saint Petersburg, but his body has rested within the Moscow mausoleum since it opened in 1930; except when he was evacuated during World War II as Germans headed towards the capital (inspiring Weekend at Bernie's perhaps? 'Hi Nazis, this guy who looks like a plastic apple is actually our uncle...').
Directly across the square is GUM, which stands for Gosudarstvennyy universalnyy magazin, (I wonder if you get extra letters when you play scrabble in Russian), a collection of stores that opened in 1893, selling furs and silks and household items. Now it is filled with Western stores, like Christian Dior and Estee Lauder, along with cafes and restaurants.
At the entrance to Red Square is the Resurrection Gate, rebuilt in 1995 as an exact copy of the one completed in 1680, and destroyed by Stalin in 1931.
I am standing on something in front of the Resurrection Gate that other people were standing on taking pictures. The Google translate app cannot translate the picture because it is round. For all I know it is a sewer.
The Kazan church (on the right) was destroyed by Stalin in 1936, and was also rebuilt in the 90s as an exact replica.
I walked through Alexander Gardens to the caca for tickets to the Kremlin.
The gardens were designed in 1821, named after Alexander I, the tsar who restored the city after the Napoleonic Wars.
I entered the State Armoury after going through security to get into the Kremlin (which is mostly closed to the public because it is the White House of Russia). The armoury is a collection of the wealth accumulated by Russian princes and tsars over hundreds of years, along with weaponry and armor from as early as the 13th century.
The armoury is the yellow building where I just was, inside the Kremlin walls, but you need a separate ticket to actually walk around the Kremlin and see the churches. I told the lady selling me my ticket that I wanted to get into the Kremlin and she said I couldn't buy both but I realized she probably just didn't understand me so I had to walk back to the ticket booth in Alexander Gardens to buy another ticket, and then go through security again.
Which is all part of the fun of traveling and not speaking the language, I suppose.
It was in this line that I witnessed something that I like to call Russian cuts. I feel comfortable with this term because I was subjected to it almost daily, in different forms. In this case I was in line, I hesitated for maybe enough time for an airbag to be triggered after a car accident, and the lady behind me was in front of me, asking questions and then buying her tickets.
One of the many restricted areas...
This is the Cathedral of the Annunciation (on the left), next to the Cathedral of the Archangel.
Unlike all of the other churches within the Kremlin that were designed by Italian architects, the Cathedral of the Annunciation was created by Russians. Both of these churches were built in the late 1400s and early 1500s.
The Tsar Bell is the largest bell in the world, weighing 200 tons. A piece of it fell off when, after a fire, cold water was poured over the hot bell. This was 35 years after it fell from the bell tower in 1701 and shattered, having to have to be recast. It is almost as if bells were not meant to be this big.
It is seriously hard to believe that a cannon could have enough force to propel a cannon ball of this size. Maybe the cannon ball shown was left where it landed after being fired.
The Cathedral of the Assumption was designed in the 14th century and is full of beautiful pillars, chandeliers, thrones, and frescoes (none of which are to be photographed).
The church of the Deposition of the Robe.
It is hard to believe how many churches are packed into such a small area. All of these churches are within what is called Cathedral Square.
The Kremlin closed an hour early since it was New Years Eve.
I grabbed a bottle of champagne at the store, carefully observing other customers to see what they bought.
Maybe I chose poorly since people who drink this type of champagne litter.
After taking a nap, very close to midnight, I walked out into the streets and joined the crowds in order to celebrate New Years Eve. I wanted to go to Red Square but that area was closed off by the time I was ready to go out. It was all very organized; the streets were closed, and there was a lot of police and military presence.
I went through my fourth metal detector of the day. I think that is a record for me.
I didn't realize until days later that I walked right by the Bolshoi theater.
Happy New Year!
Even though I wasn't in Red Square I was right next to it, and got to view the fireworks.
Soon after midnight people got really pushy and I started to get really nervous about the crowds so I decided to head back.
Along the way I saw this group of rich people smoking at the entrance of the restaurant, probably not too happy about the recent ban on smoking indoors which started in summer of 2014.
In my opinion, the fact that smoking was so recently banned is an indicator of how behind the times Russia is in comparison to other countries.
Happy new year, and happy traveling.