From Moscow to Saint Petersburg, Stalin´s bunker, and the train ride

Saint Petersburg Travel Blog

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Fishing at the Moscow River across from the Kremlin

Our last day in Moscow. I took a little walk along the Moscow River across from the Kremlin, took some photos (to be uploaded...). There were a couple of guys fishing from the river bank! The river looked clean, and I even saw something, presumably a fish, jump out of the water. So I guess they could catch their dinner there.

After breakfast, we had a bus tour of several sights in Moscow.

The Christ the Savior Cathedral, which is not that far from the Kremlin, with its impressive golden domes. It was originally built in the 19th century, but Stalin had it destroyed in the 1930´s so he can build the biggest, tallest skyscrapper there. Story had it that they poured the foundation, and it cracked, they did it again, and it cracked again.

Ducks from Barbara Bush to the Russians, the convent and river is to the left. The composer Tchaikovsky used to stroll along the shore of the river here.
So it was like God´s will against them! Then the war started and the building was halted. Eventually the Soviets built a public swimming pool there. Then in 1994, the pool was taken out, and a new cathedral was built there according to the plans and information existed for the original cathedral. It took 6 years this time (vs the 50 or so for the original) to build, and it looked quite magnificant. I was pleasantly surprised that present day people can still build something as grand as they used to, somehow I had the idea that "they don´t make them like they used to", but it is not true in Russia, we will see more examples in Saint Petersburg later.

We then visited Sparrow Hill, the lookout spot which is the highest point in Moscow, in front of the Moscow University building which had a star weighing 12 tons (as opposed to the ones on top of the Kremlin towers, weighing only 1 ton).

The Novodevichiy Convent across from the Moscow River. Its cementary was the burial place fo such famous people as writer Gogol, composers Prokofiev and Sostakovich and former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev who did not want to be buried in the Kremlin.
There were the usual souvenir vendors there. A panoramic view of Moscow, right next to this ski jump which they built for the 1980 Olymlics. It is still in use to train athletes.

We did not go inside the Novodevichy Convent & Cemetery, but it looked interesting. It has fortresslike walls, so almost like a tiny city with a moat around it (a pond remains today). This convent was where the tzars and nobles sent their wives, daughters, mistresses who they no longer like (no divorce then, I suppose it´s better than Siberia or death). We only stopped at the outside pond and green area, which was the site where Barbara Bush´s gift to Russia - mother duck and several ducklings were installed. They were stolen not long afterwards, and somehow they got another set from the Bushes and now they posted a guard there just to keep an eye on the ducks! The cemetery (which I would have liked to visit) is the most prestigious for Moscow, Dimitri Shostokovich, Nikolai Gogol were buried there.

Christ the savior church, reconstructed in 8 years in 1994
As well as Gorbachev´s wife Raisa. And the only Soviet leader not buried in the Kremlin - Nikita Khrushchev. It´s interesting that one tourbook I read said that´s because he died in disgrace instead of in office, but our local guide told us it´s because he was the one who revealed the magnitude of Stalin´s purge (27 million  people killed in the Soviet Union) to the Soviet people and he did not want to be buried in the Kremlin with all the predecessors who knowingly participated in such horror. That´s a better story so I like to think it´s the real reason.

Now this is silly but we then made a rest stop at a souvenir store, thinking it was nothing of interest, I did not go in at first, but then my mom came and told me this was a HUGE store with lots of stuff, so I went in.

The impressive door of Christ the Savior church
And indeed it was the largest we have seen and well stocked with all kinds of goodies. I am now sorry that I did not get the nesting doll there that I liked because I did not find any of equal quality later in Saint Petersburg! I am going to get the address of this stop so maybe someone else can check out this store. It was only a block or two from the convent.

Lunch was in a restored bunker which was built for Stalin! It was started in 1937, pretending to be a stadium construction project, sort of in the outskirts of Moscow. There is some kind of a stadium there today, and near some hotel and a complex which can best be described as a version of Disneyland in the Russian style. We went through some markets and down through a gate into this bunker now labelled as a "reserve command post" museum (will get the full name later from my photo.

Statue atop the door of the Christ the Savior church
.. as I am writing this in the coin operated (20 minutes per euro)internet cafe in the Hamburg airport during my transfer home!). It was 8 meters underground, enough for WWI but not enough to protect anyone from a nuclear bomb after WWII, so it had been abandoned for nearly 50 years. The bunker was extensive and connected using subway all the way into the Kremlin. The metro/subway doubled as bomb shelters in Moscow. There was an incident where tanks showed up overnight at Red Square, and people did not know where they came from! They had come from one of these bunkers! Anyway, the bunker was visited twice by Stalin, but was kept and staffed during WWII, in his office, a wall map showing the progress of the war can still be seen. We had lunch in the Georgian themed restaurant in the bunker, better than our dinner last night, it turned out.
Entrance to Stalin's bunker
Our guide said people can make reservation to visit the bunker from some internet site, so google for Stalin´s bunker and see what you get.

After lunch it´s time to head to the train station for our 5 hour train ride to Saint Petersburg. The Aurora was an express train, not an overnight one. Even though it was a "business class" car with reasonably comfortable seats and service for some not very good dinner, the toilets (which I did not visit) were probably not, because toward the end of the train ride, unpleasant odor began to drive some people in one end of the car to where I was sitting. I had thought it came from the toilet closer to me, but No, it was from the far end! Very lucky that we did not sit near that end. Our tour director kept us filled up with Vodka, Russian wines and candies throughout the journey, which went pretty quick for me.

Across from the entrance to Stalin's bunker

We arrived in Saint Petersburg and the hotel around 10:30pm, the hotel had a nice snack for us in the rooms and we were happy to have arrived and were eager for our exploration in the next few days. (Internet access was 4 euro for 15 minutes at its business center)

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Fishing at the Moscow River across…
Fishing at the Moscow River acros…
Ducks from Barbara Bush to the Rus…
Ducks from Barbara Bush to the Ru…
The Novodevichiy Convent across fr…
The Novodevichiy Convent across f…
Christ the savior church, reconstr…
Christ the savior church, reconst…
The impressive door of Christ the …
The impressive door of Christ the…
Statue atop the door of the Christ…
Statue atop the door of the Chris…
Entrance to Stalins bunker
Entrance to Stalin's bunker
Across from the entrance to Stalin…
Across from the entrance to Stali…
Stalins bunker is now the Memori…
Stalin's bunker is now the "Memor…
Stalins office has this fancy Chi…
Stalin's office has this fancy Ch…
Stalins desk with  special phones…
Stalin's desk with special phone…
Map on the wall showing progress o…
Map on the wall showing progress …
Inside Stalins bunker, this round…
Inside Stalin's bunker, this roun…
A dining room now takes guests in …
A dining room now takes guests in…
A display of Stalins bust in the …
A display of Stalin's bust in the…
A uniform on display
A uniform on display
Order of Victory medal from Stalin…
Order of Victory medal from Stali…
Design on the door leading to the …
Design on the door leading to the…
The soaring rocket sculpture on to…
The soaring rocket sculpture on t…
The bottom of the sculpture is a m…
The bottom of the sculpture is a …
Another view of the sculpture, sho…
Another view of the sculpture, sh…
The train station where we took th…
The train station where we took t…
The huge display board at the stat…
The huge display board at the sta…
A very unique clock at the station…
A very unique clock at the statio…
Pretty girl waiting at the train s…
Pretty girl waiting at the train …
The platform of the train station
The platform of the train station
Extensive railroad map at St Peter…
Extensive railroad map at St Pete…
Yep, we were in the right city
Yep, we were in the right city
The schedule board in St Petersbur…
The schedule board in St Petersbu…
Exterior of the train station in S…
Exterior of the train station in …
They have some traffic too
They have some traffic too
Statue of Tsar Nicholas I in front…
Statue of Tsar Nicholas I in fron…
At around 10:30pm, the sky is dark…
At around 10:30pm, the sky is dar…