We woke up this morning excited to explore Moscow... and also to explore the breakfast buffet of our new hotel It's smaller than the one in St Petersburg so the buffet wasn't quite so extensive, but it was still pretty good. There were proper pancakes, in addition to the unusual deep-fried ones. And the coffee was very nice once someone showed me how to use the machine!
After spending some time consulting our Moscow guidebooks, we decided that we were close enough to Red Square to walk. We hadn't got very far from our hotel when we caught sight of this striking church.
It turns out this is the Conception Convent.
The doors were open so we decided to go inside.
The views were even better from inside the walls.
Tim had shorts on, so he stayed outside while the rest of us went into the church.
We had dressed ourselves to look suitably modest
The interior of the church was as beautiful as the exterior. It was decorated with all kinds of icons, although we struggled to work out who most of them were depicting.
After this unexpected diversion, we continued on our route towards the river. We emerged opposite a huge statue of Peter the Great.
From there we were able to stroll along the river for a while and, very excitingly, we got our first glimpse of the Kremlin.
Before we went there we had something else we wanted to see, though: the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.
This is the tallest Orthodox church in the world and as we got closer to it, we could indeed see that it was enormous!
If you think that the cathedral looks really new, that's because it is.
There was an older church here, built during the 19th century, but it was destroyed by Stalin in 1931. Today's church was rebuilt on the same site between 1995 and 2000.
While Tim waited outside on a shady bench, the rest of us ventured inside via this little door.
We passed through security then ended up in what seemed to be a smaller chapel. From there, we followed signs which led us up a winding staircase and into the main cathedral. The inside was absolutely stunning, with beautiful paintings and more icons, but no pictures were allowed.
Once we'd finished exploring the cathedral, we had to retrieve Tim. That took a while, as we came out of a different door from the one where we'd entered and had to figure out a way to get back down and round to where we'd started, which was complicated by the fact that there were some works going on outside the cathedral. We succeeded in the end, then made our way back across the main road.
We were getting closer to the Kremlin!
We needed to cross the main road again, but got stuck for a while because there seemed to have been an accident. The traffic police turned up to sort it out and eventually we managed to get across.
The Kremlin walls were very imposing.
We walked past a square with a huge statue. At the time we weren't sure who it was of, but it turns out to be a monument to Vladimir the Great. This is quite a new statue and was only erected in 2016.
From there we walked into the Alexander Gardens, which stretch alongside the Kremlin walls.
There were all kinds of things to see here.
We think this monument was commemorating the 1812 war. We recognised the picture of the cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan which we'd been into in St Petersburg on Sunday
As we strolled along we enjoyed wonderful views of the Kremlin towers.
We found an obelisk, celebrating 300 years of the Romanov dynasty. Poignantly, the original was erected in 1914 by which point the dynasty wasn't going to last much longer.
We liked this grotto, although we'd not sure what it was for. Helen and I climbed to the top and got some good views
There was a row of monuments commemorating towns where battles took place during the Second World War. Coincidentally, considering I've just been to both places, the blocks for Kiev and Leningrad were right next to each other.
From here we just had to pass through a security check and we were in Red Square. Most excitingly, we finally got our first glimpse of St Basil's Cathedral
Once in the square, it was hard to know where to look first.
In one direction we could see the historical museum...
...and in the other we could see the Kremlin and the cathedral.
We also got a glimpse of this smaller pink church, which is the Kazan cathedral.
One of the things we'd really wanted to do was see Lenin. We got to his mausoleum, which you can see to the right of the photo below, but couldn't see the way in. Eventually we figured out that we had to go all the way back to where we'd been at the entrance of the square and join a queue for another security check. Unfortunately, the mausoleum is only open until 1pm and at this point it was around 12.54. We got to the point where the queue started but the gates were closed and they weren't letting any more people in Never mind, maybe we can come back on Saturday!
There was lots to see in the square, but St Basil's was definitely the thing I was most excited about
It's such a beautiful building, and so unique!
We all experimented with taking selfies
We could have stood and admired the cathedral all day, but it was a very hot day and we were hungry, so we decided to go into the GUM department store.
It was a really beautiful building, although all the shops seemed very posh. We ate at a canteen called Stolovaya 57.
We had to join a long line to queue to get in, with a couple of aggressive ladies behind us who seemed intent on pushing in. Once we had trays we were able to pick from a very varied selection of food, some of which we could help ourselves to and some of which had to be served. Slightly bizarrely, the first food we came to were the deserts. I took a large slice of chocolate cake, just in case I didn't like any of the main courses But the main courses actually turned out to be really good and I ended up with one of the nicest chicken kievs I've ever eaten! There was no dill in it, which was a good start I had "macaroni" (actually penne!) with it, and a beautiful glass of cranberry juice.
Our next challenge was to find our way out of GUM, which is easier said that done. There seem to be escalators going up, but only stairs going down. It was all a bit confusing.
We found an exit in the end and emerged outside the pink cathedral.
It looked really beautiful here, but we were suddenly in a bit of a rush because we'd booked tickets for a boat tour and there was a departure we'd wanted to catch at 3pm.
We were looking for the metro station Okhotny Ryad and Helen managed to navigate us to approximately the right area, but we couldn't see the entrance to the metro anywhere. We were running around in different directions in the hope of spotting a red "M" somewhere. Mom asked a person who suggested it was to the left, so I suggested that she, Dad and Helen go on ahead to find it. Tim was out of sight at that point in time, but I was hoping that he'd return shortly and we could catch them up... He was quite a long way away though, so it took longer than I expected for us to be reunited and when he did return, it turned out that he'd also asked someone who had shown him a route through the shopping centre I was standing outside. So we decided to go that way, quickly bought tickets and got on the metro in record time, getting off a couple of stops down the line outside the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.
I phoned Helen to see where they were, hoping they might have beat us to the boat! Unfortunately, they'd been directed to a different metro station to the one we actually wanted and so were still on their way. We were going to have to give up on the 3pm boat!
The good news was that there was another boat at 4pm so we all sat and had a drink while we waited for that.
The boat felt rather old and rickety and had a very loud engine which meant that we didn't stand much chance of hearing the commentary. But we were able to buy drinks on board and sit and watch the views go by
We passed the cathedral...
...and the Kremlin.
From here we got a much better view of the churches inside the Kremlin walls
We got to see St Basil's again...
...and we saw the new Park Zaryadye.
We also saw this really unusual building, but I'm not sure what it was!
The boat took us around in a circle, returning us to where we'd got on outside the cathedral. From there, we were able to walk back along the river towards our hotel, where we could relax a bit before going out again for dinner in the evening.