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Russia - Page Text Content

S: Russia

BC: Wish you were here!

FC: USSIA | June 12 - 21, 2008

1: SFO Paris Moscow | Our flight leaving SFO was delayed because of a power outage on the luggage loading belt. We missed our connecting flight to Moscow so we had extra time at CDG. We found a great little spa in the airport to get massages before catching another flight to Moscow. Once in Moscow, we had a crazy ride to the Marriott and straight to bed. | Thursday, June 12 - Friday, June 13, 2008

2: Our first day began meeting Chip Cook in the lobby. (Chip had been traveling with his cadets for the previous three weeks in another city.) We walked down Tverskaya, the main street our hotel sat on that ended at Red Square. The view approaching Red Square and the Kremlin was just as we'd imagined. | Tverskaya | Pushkin Monument | Saturday, June 14 | Moscow

3: A few days before we arrived, Russia celebrated their Independence Day with tanks and nuclear bombs being paraded through Red Square. There was scaffolding still being removed when we got there. | Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Dedicated to Soviets killed in WWII

4: Kilometre Zero A brass plaque sits in the ground that marks the point from which all distances from Moscow are measured. People scatter coins on it for good luck. | St. Basil's Cathedral Commissioned by Ivan the Terrible in 1555 at the geometric center of the city to celebrate capturing the Tartar stronghold. Eight of nine domes celebrate each successful assault. Red Square has been at the heart of Moscow for 500 years.

5: 7 Months Pregnant!

7: We were lucky to be there at the same time the male choir sang Orthodox chants in the main tower with its amazing acoustics. | Inside St. Basils...

8: We experienced multiple wedding parties taking part in a tradition. The whole wedding party goes around town in decorated limos to take pictures at historical sites while consuming a lot of alcohol. | Kremlin bordering Moskva River

9: After playing a couple rounds of Frogger to get across some busy roads, we walked along the Moscow River to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. This cathedral is the tallest Orthodox Church in the World. It was built after Napoleon retreated from Russia as thanks to Christ for saving Russia and a memorial to the sacrifices of the Russian people. Alexander II (the Liberator Tsar): His rule marked the emancipation of the serfs. | Cathedral of Christ the Savior | Alexander II Statue

10: GUM The GUM borders the Eastern side of Red Square. When it was built, it was the largest indoor shopping mall in Europe. It's three stories high and connected by elegant walkways. We lunched at a small cafe here our first day.

11: From 1923 - 1961, these Stalin forced labor camps served as a major instrument of political repression in the Soviet Union. | The Gulag Museum | Soviet forced labor camp system | After lunch we met up with Chip's cadets and walked to the Gulag museum. The museum is devoted to the history of these camps and those who died untimely deaths because of them. Millions of Russians passed through these camps and over a million people died from the harsh conditions. | After the museum, naps! Then a traditional sausage dinner & we watched Russia beat Sweden 1-0 in the Euro Cup with Russian fans.

12: We began the day at the Battle of Borodino Museum that houses a 360 degree panorama depicting the battle as told in Tolstoy's War & Peace. (The bloodiest day of battle against Napoleon's French troops.) | Triumphal Arch | Battle of Borodino Museum | (Svengy, our trustee guide) | Sunday, June 15 | The Triumphal Arch on Victory Square is the main monument to | the War of 1812.

13: Opened in 1935 as part of the gov't plan to make Moscow the world's capital of communism, the metro was built as a showcase of Soviet success. Today it is a museum of Communist design. The passages connecting trains are a network of every kind of store. | Moscow Metro Tour | Ploshchad Revolyutsii 80 bronze sculptures of everyday citizens.

14: We could have spent a whole day at the flea market looking at souvenirs, handicrafts, used books, and Soviet memorabilia...but we ran out of money. We discovered BYU football & Duke basketball matryoshkas for the boys. Kati got a traditional one for her mom and herself. | Flea Market

15: Russia's population is shrinking as younger people are not having children. In fact, abortion is a huge problem as people use it as a means of birth control. These signs are posted about the city to encourage people to have children. | No trip to a far off land is complete without a trip to the Hard Rock Cafe for refillable drinks & burgers! We also enjoyed street performers out front. | Father's Day!

16: Kazan Cathedral | Our day began back at Red Square where we passed through Resurrection Gate on our way to the State Historical Museum. The Kazan Cathedral on Red Square is a reconstruction after the original was demolished in 1936 by Stalin for military parade purposes. | Monday, June 16

17: Resurrection Gate | Resurrection Gate was built in 1995 to copy the original 17th century gate that Stalin demolished to allow easier access for his troops to parade through Red Square.

18: This museum houses a collection of artifacts ranging from pre-historic tribe relics to priceless art from the Romanov Dynasty. We spent so much time on the ancient items we didn't get to spend as much time as needed for the seemingly more interesting tsar history. | State Historical Museum

19: Liz finally arrived only to discover the airline lost her bag. Little did we know she'd get it back on the last day of the trip! One of the highlights of the entire trip was our boat tour down the Moscow River. We saw more sites from the boat than we'd seen the entire trip thus far! | Peter the Great Monument | Moscow State University | The Kremlin

20: In celebration of Chip's birthday, we dined on the patio of a Chinese food restaurant a couple blocks from Red Square. Then we had dessert on top of the HIlton with gorgeous views of the city all lit up. After thoroughly stuffing ourselves, we enjoyed the warm night and lights of downtown Moscow.

22: Our first stop was Lenin's Mausoleum to see his preserved body on display. Lex left early to get a spot in the front of the line so when it opened we were the first people in. His body is preserved in a glass case. Lex got snapped at by a guard for having his hands in his pockets as he was walking by. Stalin's embalmed body once shared a spot next to Lenin, but was removed as part of de-Stalinization and buried in the Kremlin wall necropolis. | The State Armoury Located inside the gates of the Kremlin, this museum was commissioned by Tsar Nicholas I. Inside are ceremonial carriages, priceless churchware, thrones and some of the world's largest jewels (inc the Orlov diamond). We also enjoyed seeing Catherine the Great's dresses, including her wedding dress, and a vast collection of faberge eggs. | The Assumption Cathedral Coronation site of the tsars | Tuesday, June 17

23: Inside the Kremlin | A symbol of Russia's religious heritage and the seat of the country's political power, the Kremlin is Moscow in a nutshell. The Kremlin serves as home to the President of the Russian Federation.

24: Ivan the Great Bell Tower | Cathedral Square

25: The Tsar Cannon is the largest canon in the world and has only been used once. | The bronze Tsar Bell was broken during casting and never used. It is currently the largest bell in the world.

26: Tretyakov Art Gallery | Love locks are padlocks affixed to a public fixture by lovers | To get to St. Petersburg we took an overnight sleeping train. After a rather sleepless night on the train, we got in around 5:30am. We went to our hotel to nap, shower, and eat.

27: St. Petersburg | Wednesday June 18 | St. Petersburg was founded by Tsar Peter the Great. He loved water and European architecture. Over time the name changed to Petrograd & Leningrad, but came back to its original name. | The Kazan Cathedral

28: The Hermitage is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world. It was founded by Catherine the Great in the 1700's. A main section of the museum is housed in Peter I's Winter Palace. It has over 3 million works of art, but only a small part is on display. Included in these works of art are 2 out of the 10 DaVinci's in the world, Picasso, Monet, Renoir, Rembrant, etc. | The Hermitage

30: One painting by Rembrant was attacked by an extremist who threw acid on the painting and cut it. It has since been carefully restored with hardly any traces of the attack.

31: Saint Isaac's Cathedral | Walking Tour of St. Petersburg | Nicholas I Monument

32: Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood | This church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated. The embankment was extended into the canal to allow the shrine to be enclosed within the church walls.

33: Peterhof Palace | The "Russia Versailles" is a series of palaces and gardens built by Peter the Great. We took a high-speed hydrofoil boat through the Gulf of Finland to Peterhof. Peter the Great never lived in the palace, but in a small house by the water so he could watch his fort being built. | Long paths, statues, and multiple fountains, including trick fountains, cover the grounds and look out to the sea. | View of Hermitage from boat | Thursday, June 19

34: All of the fountains on the property run by gravity, not pumps. This main fountain is made of gold statues cascading from the Grand Palace to a canal leading to the sea.

35: Catherine's Palace

36: Lake House | Our guide was a sweet young Russian college student. She had amazing stories of her grandmother who lived in St. Petersburg during the 900-day siege. Her grandmother tried to escape on a train at night and during the ride the back half of the train was bombed and she had to run back to the city.

37: Built in 1717 by Catherine I as her summer palace. Her daughter Elizabeth spiced it up giving it the current gaudy Rococo style and use of gold on the facade. The grounds are gorgeous and include a large lake. During WWII the Nazi's bombed and raided it till it was almost unrecognizable. Since then, the facade and 12 rooms have been restored including the famed Amber Room (the walls are covered almost entirely in amber).

38: Marinsky Theater | We got to experience the Russian Ballet at the beautiful Marinsky Theater. We had fun seats in a balcony box. The performance consisted of three "jewel" performances by the company.

39: 11:25pm | 11:55 pm | After the ballet we went out to a late dinner and then walked around the city. It was the longest day of the year and the sun never completely went down. There was a big celebration down by the Hermitage that evening, but we skipped the party to go pack for the flight we would miss the next morning! | White Nights

40: Friday, June 20 | Built on Victory Square, this monument commemorates the heroic efforts of residents and soldiers of Leningrad to repel the Nazis for 900 days during WWII. | 900-Day Siege Monument | The only upside to missing our flight was getting to see a few more sites we didn't have time to see like the Peter & Paul Fortress, the original citadel in 1706. One of the greatest sites inside is the cathedral, the burial place of all Russia tsars from Peter I to Alexander III. | Peter & Paul Fortress

41: After walking from the Peter & Paul Fortress, across the bridge, and to the Church of Spilled Blood, we boarded a boat and took a tour of St. Petersburg through the canals.

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