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From Russia with love! PART 1

Moscow, Suzdal and Novgorod


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As some of you may know, getting to Russia was a close call before leaving Australia!!!!
Part of the visa process entails giving your life story and then sending it off along with your actual passport to the embassy in Canberra so they can put a visa page inside your passport. My passport only arrived back on the Friday before I flew out the following Tuesday, a very close call indeed!!! Not to mention the unease of not having my passport in my possession. Worked out in the end, just!

It was definitely a long 24 hours leaving JFK at 4pm for an 8 hour flight to Frankfurt, then a layover and another 3 hours to Moscow. It was about 5am NY time when I arrived in Moscow, I was knackered and hungover! This was the second of four business legs so I also had full advantage of the lounges prior and layover.... it was champagne on tap! My transfer picked me up and and took me to the hotel, it was about 1.30pm Moscow time.
After a little kip, our tour group met at the hotel at 6pm and there was 10 of in total. 6 Australians, 3 Brits and one American. A good mix of ages and backgrounds too. We headed off for a local dinner, where on recommendation from our Intrepid guide Ksenia, I had the stroganoff and it was the best I've ever had! The restaurant was very traditional and the wait staff danced for us!

The next morning we headed off to Suzdal, about a 4 hour drive from Moscow. Suzdal is part of the golden ring and was originally the capital city prior to Moscow. The Golden Ring consists of eight principal cities: Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Ivanovo, Suzdal, Vladimir, Sergiev Posad, Pereslavl-Zalessky and Rostov Veliky. On a map they are a ring around today's capital, Moscow.

Suzdal is a very old city with lots of churches. We are staying in a guest house all together which reminds me of Hansel & Gretel (not in a creepy way). It's beautiful decorated with many hand crafted quilts, something I absolutely adore and appreciate the work that goes into making them. We walked into town and had free time to explore the little market stalls selling Russian stoles (which I brought because it was bloody freezing) and handmade/painted items. I also brought some beautifully painted Christmas decorations, it's a bit of a thing that I've got into buying a Christmas decoration from places I've visited. We regrouped for a mead tasting, I'd never tried it and didn't think I was going to like it but it was delicious! We had 10 to taste from plain to infused with mint, and the extreme was with horseradish!
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One of the things I love about these trips is the homestay meals, tonight was no different. We walked to a local home belonging to a lady called Elena who cooked a lovely 4 course dinner for us! We started with a beetroot salad, vegetable soup and then chicken with mash for main. We got to make dessert which was scrolls. Elena has been doing these dinners for a few years with Intrepid and loves having people in her home.
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The next morning was a walking tour of Suzdal including some cathedrals, inside the Kremlin, old town and down by the lake. It is a town rich in history from the 11th and 12th centuries and traditions. Inside the cathedral painted are the stories from the bible and they really are magnificent, even after all this time.
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In the afternoon we caught the fast train back to Moscow, and I mean fast! 155kms/hr and just under 2 hours to return! Very modern and comfortable too. Many of us got tickets to the ballet this evening so we walked from the train station to the concert hall. On our way we passed through the famous Red Square. Much of it was being set up or closed off for the Victory day set up on May 9th, more on that in my next blog instalment.
The Red Square consists of St Basils Cathedral, the Kremlin, Lenin's mausoleum and GUM department store. It is one of the most magnificent places I've ever been when you're standing in it! And Moscow, not just the Red Square is even more amazing at night, stopping in again on the way back from the ballet.
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One of the musts on my list for Russia was to see the ballet and it didn't disappoint! It was called The Seasons by Vivaldi Ballet Company at Zaryadye Concert Hall. A modern building only 2 or 3 years old. It was a love story moving through the seasons and was so beautiful! The piece was originally performed in 1900 and has modernised through the years. The music was also lovely. After the ballet we went out for a mediterranean feast and wine! A brilliant night out in Moscow, even though it rained!

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Today we headed back to the red square, more which was shut off for Victory day preparations, I'm so glad we got a few pics earlier before the closures! We took a tour through the Kremlin and the museum. I always assumed the term Kremlin was the Russian word or meaning for government but its not, it translates to fortress. I guess it's like referring to the "White House" in the US when talking about their political issues.
There are many Kremlin's within Russia, this one we are visiting today is the residence of the Russian federation and was once home to the Tsar's of Russia.
Once inside we had timed it perfectly and got a preview of the Victory Day fly over! There is a large military presence around the grounds, even the walkways are monitored. If you step off the zebra crossing walk the guards are quick to direct you back into line.
We walk around the complex before heading into the museum.
2 big attractions are the Tsar Canon and Tsar Bell. The canon was built in1586 but never actually used in war times, the bell was cracked in a large fire and has never been used as a functioning bell prior to the fire.
There's also a military parade going on, its magnificent in its formation. One of the guards had an eagle with a cover over it's eyes so it didn't fly away.

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Afterwards we went and had lunch at the GUM department store which is also part of the red square, It's a long building with lots of shops and has a clear curved roof, very fancy along with the caviar bar! Back to the hotel for a rest, big night ahead on the train to Novgorod! How exciting a night on the train!
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The train left about 10pm and we arrived in at about 6.20am, it was different, can't say I slept much though! A few stops, noise of the train and small benches to sleep on made it difficult but hey its a train not a hotel and it got us to a new city in time for breakfast! We went straight out on a city tour, again rich in history and churches.
Velikiy Novgorod is one of the oldest towns in eastern Europe dating back to 859. (yes 859 not 1859)!
It has a lovely river and pretty riverside walk with tall ships and bronze statues along it. It was a warmer sunny day which made for a lovely afternoon to explore town.
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One of the stories I liked was about a bell shaped structure called the Millennium of Russia. In 1859 a competition to design a monument to celebrate the millennium of Rurick's arrival to Novgorod. The bell was to be encircled with several tiers of sculptures representing Russian monarchs, clerics, generals, and artists active during various periods of Russian history. There is 129 statues in total.
During WWII the Nazi's started to dismantle the bell to transport it back to Germany, but it waste reclaimed, re assembled and restored post war.
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We went out for yet another lovely dinner and I was overjoyed that bomb alaska was on the dessert menu!
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Just a tad excited!

Off to St Petersburg tomorrow, finishing the tour but I'm staying an extra few days to see the Victory Day parade!
Much love,
L xx

Posted by mslaurajade 09:55 Archived in Russia Tagged trains travel friends ballet tour adventures russia drinks mead blog suzdal novgorod

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FANTASTIC-RUSSIA IS FASCINATING XX

by KAREN

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