Up at 5:30am and in the theater at 6:45am for our bus assignment.
We were tour group #28, went through customs got a visa, had our passport stamped and Got On the Bus. When we arrived at the train station we were told our seat assignment & were joined by those on bus #29. The train was very modern, clean, plenty of leg room and it had Stewart’s and Stewardress’s just like an airplane. After the train left the station we were served breakfast. Rolled pancakes with strawberry jam to put on them. Two hot muffins that were buttermilk sour,thick and had floaters we could not identify. A bun with butter. Two waffle 3” squares filled with a jam substance that my husband thought were a hard version of a fig Newton. With your choice of coffee,tea, or a liter of water. A movie was showing on a small TV in the front of the car. It appeared to be a Russian Fairy Tale.
The train took 4 hours to get to Moscow.
Upon arriving we were greeted by another guide, who attemptedt to keep us in a tight group on our way to the bus. The amount of people coming, leaving, in clumps of tourists, people pulling luggage, going to work, was bees in a hive. I personally love that feeling of activity. We arrived at the bus and were given our headset & that hung around our neck so we could hear the guide. Each of us was given an emergency card with the instructions that if we were separated from our group to find a tourist help guide. That they would be wearing bright yellow vests. Have them call the number on the card and one of them would come and get us. This was nessessary because it turned out that today was the opening ceremony for the World Cup that afternoon. Uh-Huh! It was a surprise!
First stop, the Christ our Savior Cathedral. This church was blown up by Stalin. Knowing that people who have faith are not as easily manipulated. Our guide remembers it being a swimming pool as a young girl & it was filled warm water. Decades later they rebuild it. The inside is so ornate it’s hard to know where to look. Murals on the walls & ceiling domes with inlaid tiles, patterned marble floors, gold, and statues, every square in is decorated. Beautiful but not my style. The guide used the word “important” a lot. Sometimes to let us know we were seeing the best of Moscow, the history, some I believe was the importance to the Russians to get back & restore things taken from them. We went to the top where there is a walkway all around the iconic dome. It was a panaramic view of Moscow. The river, Kremlin, Red square, university, each side was special. Each of the four sides also had steps first down then up. There were just two elevators one held 4, one held 6, with 94 people in our group I went with the people who took the stairs. 12 flights with 20 stairs each like coming down a lighthouse round & round. Some took to the floor every few flights because it made them dizzy.
On to the metro station. It was filled with Russians going to and from work, tourists and soccer fans. Always with people pulling large amounts of luggage. Always the medal detectors. I counted four to get to the platform. At least two were not even plugged in. We then took the tallest, longest steepest escalator I have ever been on, stand to the right so a multitude of people could pass us. The underground Metro is an Vetrans museum. Beautiful marble and brass. After arriving we were told spread out, to get on the same 2 cars through four doors. Ride & get out at the second stop. Be hasty in the departure. It was packed, hardly standing room but some young Russia men gave up seats for us older women. The smell of packed people was strong but not a stench. Amazingly we all jumped off the metro and forllowed the signs for 28- 29. Those guides are brave to take so many senior tourists on the Metro speaking several languages, and then manage to get us all on the sidewalk among the rabid soccer fans to Red Square. The Square was blocked off but we could see the set up for the opening ceremony of the World Cup. Players from each country were in the mall street selling their country flags, singing national songs. It was something none of us will ever get to experience again. There was such joy everywhere.
The guide was quite vocal about her feelings for Putin. He was KGB and not be trusted. Siberia is always a threat. The death rate in Russia has been higher than the birth rate for over a decade. People were afraid to have children and not be able to feed them. It was mentioned that handi cap children often die at birth. Only 110 people control 35% of the money in Russia. She gave quite an eloquent speech about always to treasure our freedom of religion, and free speech because it can be taken away in an instant.
The souvenir shops always had coffee mugs with Putin on one side Trump on the other. I wondered who their target market was for them.
We were told the ruble gets devaluated so often that on pay day people stand in line at the banks to change them into US dollars or Euros to keep the value of their pay.
Then the walk to see the Basil Chapel from afar which is the colorful onion top building you see in pictures that represents Russia. We took turns taking our picture in front of it. Then 1 hour of free time and back on the train.
First the water closet, 50 rubles each, a Russian cafeteria where we went through a line choosing something to eat. No one cloose borscht. Our few items drinks, chicken kleve, mashed potatoes for Mary, Dick, and I was 920 rubles. It was a full day filled new information. Moscow is quite modern, clean, fulll of well kept parks. Buildings that have interesting, aritectural features, colors, windows, arches. It was not like an old black and white movie with Boris Carloft, but you were always aware that what the tourists saw was like the sets on a stage. All a fasode and if you allowed behind the well kept, much photo graphed buildings, find and feel the real Russia.
Back on the train the country side we passed was filled with small towns and villiages, abandoned factory’s. Lots of people living in small barn shaped sheds. You could see tiny additions, porches, and other add ones but they were very small.
It was worth all 17 hours on the train, bus,metro, & security checks. I feel blessed to have been allowed such an adventure. The World Cup was a bonus but so was our arrival at 12:45pm back at the ship. It was a white night. It never really gets dark just dusk. The Northern lights this time of year are rare but showed off just for us.