Noilly Prattle: January 2018

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Europe Summer 2017: Russia 4 – party time on Tverskaya

Moscow 870
     As I mentioned in a previous post, I was dismayed by the temporary structures erected in Red Square for the Moscow 870 Festival since they spoiled the view of Red Square. But on the flip side of the coin the festival was an animated and enjoyable event—it was like a huge birthday party. The main street in Moscow, a kind of Broadway, is called Tverskaya Street. It begins at the Kremlin and shoots off to the northwest for I don't know how far.

       On returning from a visit to the Kremlin we noticed a lot of activity putting up temporary structures all along the center of Tverskaya as far as the eye could see. They were setting up the street for a two-day event as part of the Mokscow 870 Festival celebrations. Of course, we determined to go and have a look the following day.

Tverskaya Street - Moscow 870 Festival

classical music concert
       There must have been hundreds of thousands of not over a million people milling along a kilometer or more of Tverskaya with all kinds of events and displays: concerts, games, interactive art activities for young and old, side shows, food kiosks, etc. It was just a kaleidoscope of color and sounds. The festival continued into its second day with just as many crowds of hundreds of thousands of people. Great fun!

wall climbing
kids painting with an overlay
kids using sculpting tools on a horse

children's ballet class?

side show featuring clowns
to everything there is a season . . .

not quite sure what the message is here . . .

yours truly
street singer - tenor

Soviet era ballet dancer Maya Plisetskaya
Ballet: The Swan, Maya Plisetskaya

geodesic dome food kiosk

tumble-a-whirl amusement ride
space vehicles including Sputnik - silver globe on the right

for the birds
      After we left Tverskaya we got conned on Kuznetsky Most (Street). We were walking back to our hotel on Kuznetsky and walked past three people (one male, two females) sitting on a bench who had several tame birds (pigeons and an owl). Road buddy, who is very fond of birds, wanted to have a closer look, so we approached. They turned out to be con artists. The male, pounced on us using the birds to fast talk us into posing for photos with the birds on our shoulders, head and arms--no mention of a price. Then the girls jumped in overwhelming us with birds all over the damned place and snap, snap, snapping photos with my camera faster than I can snap my fingers. By then we were getting suspicious, but too late (as is usually the case with a half-way decent scam). Then came the bill. We didn't have enough cash and had to argue and I finally told the guy to take it or leave it (I restrained myself from throwing it at him) and we angrily walked off (after recovering my camera of course). It was not a particularly edifying scene, but we did end up with a lot of bird pictures. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Europe Summer 2017: Russia 3 – the Kremlin

September 10

     Although you can wander around Red Square and visit such structures as St. Basil's Cathedral and Lenin's Mausoleum free of charge, as well, of course, as the Gum Department Store, you have to buy tickets to go inside the Kremlin.

entrance gate 
Troitskaya (Trinity) Tower

       The Kremlin is the seat of Government of the Russian Federation and is a very popular tourist destination with people from all over the world. After some searching to find the ticket office and confusion about the appropriate ticket sales line to stand in we managed to buy individual tickets and made our way to the entrance gate through the Troitskaya (Trinity) Tower, the tallest of the Kremlin's many towers.


Chinese tourist group just inside the entrance gate
       Almost immediately upon entering the gate we were surrounded by a large tour group of Chinese people. From then on Chinese tour groups became particularly noticeable in popular tourist areas in both Moscow and St. Petersburg. I had long been reading of the growing bilateral political and economic ties between Russia and China and their formal associations in organizations such as BRICS and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization). Experiencing the reality of these Chinese tour groups added a new personal and direct understanding of the growing importance of these great powers' influence on global trade and international political, economic and military relations. 

Savior's Tower (left) and St. Basil's Cathedral

no-go zone and the Senate in the background

gentle crowd controller?  (no gun)
       Tourists are only permitted in a limited area inside the Kremlin. The large open area between the cathedrals and the Senate and the Arsenal is off limits and patrolled by police. If you stray off the sidewalk you are immediately admonished to stay in the designated tourist zone. The reason, of course, is that the Senate is the seat of the Russian Government where the President has his offices and must be protected.


Ivan the Great Bell Tower
Cathedral of the Annunciation
        Cathedral Square is the epicenter of the tourist zone. Most of the famous cathedrals are located around it—Ivan the Great Bell Tower, Cathedral of the Dormition, Cathedral of the Annunciation, Cathedral of the Archangel Michael, Church of the Twelve Apostles, Church of the Deposition of the Virgin's Robe, as well as such curiosities as the huge Tsar Bell and Tsar Cannon . . . and more Chinese tourists.

Cathedral of the Archangel Michael

Church of the Deposition
of the Virgin's Robe

Dormition interior

Cathedral of the Dormition
Coronation venue of all the Tsars

the Tsar Canon

the Tsar Bell

Madama Butterfly

colorful Chinese tourists


red green and yellow 

Moscow Manege
        Along the western wall of the Kremlin lies the beautifully landscaped Alexander Garden. The contrast between the red and yellow brick of the Kremlin wall and the green of the grass and the leaves of the white birch trees is particularly striking. The Moscow Manege, a former indoor riding academy and military training facility is located on the western edge of the garden with a spectacular fountain of water geysers and horse sculptures reminiscent of the history of the building. 

horse fountain

Monday, January 8, 2018

Europe Summer 2017: Russia 2 – Red Square

September 9

Red Square as it is supposed to look
    Our visit to Moscow coincided (in one of those unexpected twists of fate) with a big party. Not a political party or the communist party but a birthday party. It was a festival in honor of Moscow's 870th Anniversary. Moscow, as the name of a settlement, was first mentioned in historical records in 1147 A.D. But the festival was a double-edged sword.

Red Square as it actually looked on September 9, 2017

Senate Building
 behind Lenin's Mausoleum
behind tents
St. Basil's Cathedral
       The atmosphere outside and inside Red Square was animated and festive, but I was dismayed as soon as we entered the Square. It's iconic expanse, as often seen in old newsreels and photos of endless military parades during the Soviet era, was partially obscured by the temporary structures and paraphernalia of festivals: tents, a sports stadium, media equipment, fences, detours, no go areas, etc. The impressive vastness of the Square was effectively diminished and photo ops were severely limited. In particular St. Basil's Cathedral could not be seen whole in its majestic splendor at the southeastern end of Red Square. Only its colorful onion domes could be seen peeping from behind tents and the temporary stadium.

old couple 

Chinese tour groups were very visible . . .

. . . everywhere

The Kremlin Wall 

St. Basil's Cathedral
alley ooop!

young couple

"My protectors?"



   Nevertheless, after walking around the area for hours, observing the life around us and visiting St. Basil's, we stopped for lunch at the huge GUM [гум] department store (a mall actually) that lines the entire northeastern side of Red Square.

GUM Department Store
Универмаг гум Москвы
Entrance Fountain 
GUM [гум] Department Store


monuments of noted Soviet and Russian leaders 
Josef Stalin
       Of course no visit to Red Square would be complete without a visit to Lenin's Mausoleum. It sits on the edge of the square in the shadow of the Kremlin Wall and the Senate Building. The Russian flag was flying atop the Senate indicating that President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was in. Old Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was in, too, looking a little waxy if not as fresh as a daisy (considering he's been dead for 94 years) in his not quite chthonian resting place.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
(that Mona Lisa smile)

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (a.k.a. Lenin)

Lenin's Mausloeum



       The highlight of my day, however, as we were returning to the hotel, was stopping off at a carousel for a free horsey ride on a merry-go-round. The carousal was in place for the Moscow Festival as were all kinds of events all over town and, in the spirit of birthday parties, they were all free of charge.