Travel Adventures – Part 4: Moscow (continued)

The Sergiev Posad Monastery was about an hour outside of Moscow, but with the traffic it became a two hour trip. But we got to see fields and businesses and homes and apartment buildings as we drove, so the time passed quickly. When we finally got to the Monastery we saw elegant buildings and church towers rising above the top of the Monastery’s wall. Inside, the crowds were substantial and it seemed that this Monastery was a field trip destination for a number of school children. This was not expected and it was delightful to see so many young people having a tremendous interest in their Church and their beliefs.

The architecture within the Monastery was stunning and within each of the churches, the beautiful icons took your breath away. My friend, Stan Westfall, is an architect, so I learned a great deal about some of the special construction that was used here. The Monastery is truly a national treasure.

Copyright © Noella Ballenger

The Sergiev Posad Monastery is a UNESCO protected historical site. The complex contains numerous churches that are really beautiful.

Copyright © Noella Ballenger

Near the grounds of the Sergeiv Posad Monastery we saw this woman spinning yarn to eventually make into her beautiful scarves. 

Copyright © Noella Ballenger

There were many places that you could sit in the Sergeiv Posad Monastery stary. Just watching the people … from young children to elders … created wonderful memories for me.

In the meantime, Anne and Sunny were having an adventure of their own. They visited the Pushkin Museum and decided to stay in town and shop rather than returning to the ship for lunch. They wanted to see and do even more. They would catch up with the afternoon tour in a couple of hours. On the advice of our tour guide, they visited the fabulous Cathedral of Christ the Savior and later, map in hand, walked along the streets for another brief visit to Red Square. On the way to the Tretyakov Gallery, and looking a bit confused, they stopped a lady to ask directions. It turned out that she was a teacher and wanted to practice her English, so she walked along with them. This is certainly a more common occurrence in foreign countries than it is at home.

The afternoon’s visit to the Tretyakov Gallery featured an interesting lecture on the development of Russian painting. By the time we gathered again for evening cocktails and dinner, we had much to share.

There were just too many wonderful photos to share with you, but here are some of our favorites……

Copyright © Sunny Asch

The escalator was very steep, very fast and very deep. It was really able to move people along to the deep station below.

Copyright © Stan Westfall

We went by subway to another part of Moscow. This station was beautiful with a stunning mural at one end. The station, the subway cars and all parts of the system that we saw were immaculate and inviting.

Copyright © Anne & Stan Westfall

This was a part of a lovely trail of fountains depicting story book characters and fables. It was located near the Kremlin and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (WWII).

Copyright © Noella Ballenger

Inside of the Kremlin walls are something like seven churches. They were built at a various times and under a variety of circumstances during Russian history. Each of these churches played a vital role in the history of the Orthodox Church and of the Russian state itself.

Copyright © Noella Ballenger

 The Tsar’s bell, cast in 1735, is the world’s largest bell. It weighs almost 202 tons. Before it could be rung, during a fire where there was uneven heating and cooling, the large bell cracked and this major chunk fell out. The bell is decorated with the rich relief work on the bell’s exterior, depicting Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, Russian rulers and their patron saints.

Copyright © Noella Ballenger

The Tsar Cannon is the largest howitzer ever made. It was commissioned in 1536 and weighs nearly 38 metric tons. It’s barrel is 17.5 feet long. The two-ton cannonballs displayed are larger than the diameter of the barrel and were intended to be a humorous addition to the huge cannon.

Copyright © Stan Westfall

Inside of the Kremlin walls are the many office and state buildings as well as the Armory that houses the historic jewels and treasures of Russia and the churches. 

Copyright © Anne & Stan Westfall

Seeing signs such as McDonalds and Starbucks brought a touch of home-away-from-home to us. McDonalds was packed and impossible to get into. We were more fortunate in Starbucks. I ordered my favorite latte and was astounded to find that what I pay around $4.00 here in the United States, cost almost $10.00 US in Moscow.

The next day was departure day and it was really difficult to leave some of the good friends we had made among the tour guides and other guests on the ship. But while it had been a long tour and an exciting time for all of us, I think we were ready to go home.

As a professional photographer, the big question is would I do another highly structured tour again and the answer is absolutely yes. If I were going to an area where I neither spoke, neither understood nor read the language, I think an organized tour is a terrific way to be introduced to the country. I think an organized tour made it possible to see more, with greater ease than being on my own. I didn’t have to worry about where to eat or what to do and could enjoy and appreciate the many sights, all while learning about the people, the customs, the culture and the countryside.

Was I frustrated beyond words by not being able to get out and explore on my own? Sometimes, to be sure, but there are tradeoffs and you just had to make a decision one way or another.

When I return to Russia, would I do a tour again … probably not. But it was heaven to just sit back and let someone else do all of the work of reservations and decision making. Will I return to Russia … absolutely! There was so much to see and do and I know that there will be much more to enjoy the next time.

Thanks for coming along and sharing our adventures. Maybe next time I will meet you there.

by Noella Ballenger

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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