Welcome to Moscow! After we landed at the airport last night, we were able to check in to the Arbat House Hotel and enjoy a quick midnight snack at “Coffee Company,” where we ate tiramisu, paninis, pastries, and drank delicious coffee drinks.
We went to sleep shortly after and woke up to a fantastic breakfast in the hotel’s cafe. We were pleasantly surprised by the meal, devouring pancakes, eggs, bacon, and more to fill us up for the upcoming travels.
To kick off our activities for the day, we met two locals from Moscow who took us on a walking tour around the famous areas while also pointing out specific points of interest for the locals that larger tour companies would skip. As students that just graduated from university, we were able to relate to them because of their school experience and youth, which really helped some of us to connect and learn more about actual Russian culture and life.
The tour began with a stroll through Old Arbat, one of the main shopping and historical districts within Moscow. We learned about the history of the district, including its rise as a popular suburban area and later its ascension to one Moscow’s most prominent streets. The street showcases the growth of capitalism and renewal after the removal of the Iron Curtain, as businesses, both global and local, seemed to be thriving in the crisp morning air.
After we left Old Arbat, we sauntered through beautiful gardens as we approached the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, a church that had been torn down by Stalin but was rebuilt by the Russian Federation. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get inside because it was closed; however, the golden domes and magnificent sculpture more than made up for it.
Continuing our tour, we passed through the gardens of the Kremlin, examining both the intricate landscaping and the ornate red walls. The guides pointed out different parliamentary buildings, memorials, and art galleries to us as we passed by them, while also explaining the current political state of Russia. Near the end of the gardens, there was a majestic WWII memorial, and we were able to see the changing of the guard there.
We proceeded to the Resurrection Gate, the path that the leaders of Russia would take to get to the Kremlin. The gate features gorgeous iconography and a small chapel in between the two openings, providing an entrance to the massive Red Square.
We went through the gate into the square; although it was being used for an upcoming concert of sorts, it still was a fantastic sight. Since we didn’t see much use in standing around a barricaded square, we decided to go to GUM, “The People’s Market.” Inside, the 3 halls, each of which were 3 stories tall, amazed and impressed everyone in our group. We then took a break to eat, at which point our tour guides split away from us. The food from this cafeteria-like restaurant was quite good, and surprisingly affordable. After eating, we had 15 minutes to look around the mall. The shops were stunning, and a wide range of goods were available for purchase.
We finished up our activities for the day by walking through St. Basil’s Cathedral, one of the most awe-inspiring buildings in the country. Consisting of 7 churches and a basement, the cathedral contains a massive amount of iconography and detailed design work, really setting the mood for prayer. After carefully examining every corner of it, we came back to the hotel. For some of us, that is a story in a of itself, but some stories are better saved for vocal transmission.
We hope you enjoyed this blog, and happy Memorial Day!
-Dean Papastrat and the Student Crew