Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Day 10: Alexandrov Kremlin:

Absolutely throwing it down this morning and we all got really wet just going across to the restaurant for breakfast. Everyone was ready to leave at 9.30am but the coach wouldn't start. Whist the driver was sorting out the problem everyone came back to my lodge. I put the kettle on to make some tea  but before it  had brewed the coach was sorted and we were off on our way to Moscow. I took a few photos through the windows of the coach just to show the typical wooden houses seen along the way.

We were stopping off in Alexandrovskaya to visit the Alexandrov Kremlin. One of the many things  I didn't know, but felt I should have known, was that a kremlin is a fortress not a building as I had assumed. The town was busier than I expected.

I spotted this building with an interesting weather vane.

The Alexandrov Kremlin was built 500 years ago for Vasily III, the father of Ivan the Terrible.It was second only to the Kremlin in Moscow in size and beauty. It consisted of six churches, convent,  and almshouses.

I had taken this photo inside one of the churches before I was told no photography was allowed.
 It was here that Ivan the terrible lived and married his third and fifth wives.

Ivan the terrible's bedroom which was only used on the wedding night.

These are the medieval cellars of the 16th cent

There is also a museum  there with many royal artefacts.

In another building there were rooms from the 17th and 18th centuries. The  guide orchestrated role play of how a match maker would introduce a potential suitor which caused great amusement within the group.

We finished the tour in a 19th century room and were served tea and gingerbread cake.

After lunch in a local restaurant we settled ourselves back on the coach for the two hour drive to Moscow with the weather deteriorating the closer we got..

It was late afternoon by the time we arrived in Moscow. We were staying in the Vega (Beta) hotel, one of a group of five identical hotels built for the Moscow Olympics known as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon. The Russians wanted all foreign visitors to the Games to stay in one place. According to our guide all the rooms were bugged. The hotels have all been refurbished since then most recently for last year's Football World cup. I had a large room on the 25th floor with a fridge and tea making facilities.

 As I would be staying here for four nights I was delighted with my room.  As soon as we had viewed our rooms we met up with Svetlana in the huge but very busy reception area for an orientation walk. It was pouring down and cold. I was pleased to see that the metro was very near as well as numerous cafes and shops.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Day 9: Pereslavl-Zalessky

Another grey day. According to the long term forecast it was supposed to be hot and sunny everyday but all we are seeing is a grey sky and rain.

We drove to Pereslavl which is on the Southeastern side of Lake Pleshcheyevo.  It was here that Peter the Great in 1688-93 built his 'Fancy fleet' on the lake for his own amusement. This would be the forerunner of the Russian fleet.  In the old town square there were four churches.

Our local guide, Olga, was late arriving. A small elderly lady with a smiley face. She spoke English so Svetlana, our tour guide, didn't need to translate. However, Olga was a bit of a rambler and flitted from one subject to another and I had no idea what she was talking about. Svetlana tried to hurry her along and we travelled in the bus from place to place.

A short drive away was yet another church and convent. The number of churches in this small town is astounding. Apparently that is only 30% of the original number that existed prior to the Soviet era.

To enter this church we had to cover our heads and legs.

I took one photo before being told photography inside was not allowed.

The last place which was by the lake, was the most interesting as it was a boat built by Peter the Great.

Dating rom the end of the 17th cent, this is the only surviving boat from the whole of 'Peter's Fancy Fleet'.  Made from oak and pine. It was 7.34m long and 2.38m wide.

Eventually we had lunch at 3.15! I ordered a goulash which was very good. I have been impressed with the food which has all been very tasty. Svetlana ordered us some honey mead to taste. A sweet, slightly sparkling drink. It was alright but I wouldn't order one for myself.

After lunch we were driven to our accommodation for the night. We were staying in wooden lodges. Three to a lodge. Each lodge was divided into two houses each with two bedrooms.They looked very new.  It was a pity the weather was so poor. We were not far from the lake so I decided to go for a walk and have a look, but the younger ones were hiring bikes,  so I decided to join them.

It didn't take that long to get down to the lake but it wasn't possible to cycle around the lake so we headed off in another direction. 

It  started raining again.  In the end I decided to turn back as  I didn't want to ride on main roads - also I couldn't see very well with rain on my glasses! 

It was nice cycling at my very leisurely pace.

It was then that I realised I hadn't brought the  name of where we were staying with me. I wasn't too sure of the way back and not knowing a word of Russian wasn't very helpful.

I did make a couple of wrong turns but luckily I did get back without mishap. I was annoyed with myself for ignoring such a basic rule of travelling by not having the name and address of where I was staying written in the language of the country I am visiting.

I was back in time to just quickly clean up before going for a meal. It was supposed to be a BBQ but instead we ate in a large marquee as it was still pouring down.

 For once all the food was ready at the same time and we enjoyed a fabulous group meal consisting of grilled chicken, beef, pork accompanied by grilled vegetables, salad and bread. Excellent quality.
Afterwards ten of us went for a Russian sauna which was on the same complex. The sauna was very hot indeed and I could only manage a few minutes at a time. There was also a barrel of icy cold water for you to plunge into( which I didn't)  as well as showers and a jacuzzi. . Branches of birch were available in the sauna for  gently beating the skin. Felt very relaxed by the end of the session and enjoyed a good night's sleep.

Friday, 26 July 2019

Day 8: Sergiev Posad

It was 9am when the  train pulled into Moscow rail station. Waiting outside was a coach which would be our transport for the next few days.

We drove through Moscow and on to Sergiev Posad about 70 miles North East of Moscow. We are here to visit to visit  Trinity Lavra one of.the most important religious centres in the country. This Lavra  (senior monastery)  was founded in 1340 by St Sergius and went on to become the spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox church.

The Lavra monastery
The entrance into the complex is through this arch which is decorated with friezes

At the heart of the monastery is the gold domed Trinity Cathedral. Built in 1423 it is the oldest 
surviving building. Within the southeastern corner of the church a memorial service for St Sergius goes on all day every day. The inside is festooned with icons.

The Cathedral of  the Assumption was finished in 1585 with money left by Ivan the Terrible in a fit of remorse for killing his son.

Nearby is the Chapel-at-the-well built over a spring that is said to have appeared during the Polish seige of 1608-10

The five tier baroque bell tower is the highest in Russia at 88m. It once had 42 bells, the largest of which weighed 65 tonnes.

A number of options for lunch but I went with D and P to the Pilgrims' restaurant where I had soup, bread and salad for 140R (£2). It was made by the monks and tasted delicious.

In the afternoon we went to an art and crafts studio for a Matryoshka painting session.

Thankfully they were pre drawn so we just had to paint them.

We thoroughly enjoyed the session.

My finished matrostoshka
We were all pleased with the results. We all came away proudly holding our dolls.

In the evening we all went to a Georgian restaurant. Delicious red wine and food. But once again I made a mistake with my drink order.. I thought I had asked for a large glass of wine but this horn of wine arrived! What you can't see from this photo is that the glass has a serrated edge so as I drank from it some of the wine didn't make it to the mouth and just dribbled down my chin!