Religion has, and still does, play a large part in Russian life, and the city is dotted with beautiful golden onion domes which photograph beautifully when the sun glints off them. The little Cathedral of the Annunciation with its multiple gold domes is particularly gorgeous. Stepping inside these churches you see dazzling multi-storied religious altar frescoes and icons. We became fascinated by these and with our Innovative driver and guide we were able to add on a visit to the Icons museum. This gave us a fascinating insight into the development of this religious art. Dining in Moscow was surprisingly sophisticated and the city is lively at night. Innovative’s team in Russia were able to secure bookings at both the Pushkin (a restored nobleman’s house, we ate upstairs in the library) and the Turandot (very opulent theatrical surroundings) restaurants which offer fine dining to the highest standard.
The central city is very clean and felt extremely safe as we walked off our dinner wandering back to the hotel in the late evening. Walking around Moscow’s centre is very rewarding, but for efficient use of valuable time a driver is essential. The other essential in transport is the Metro. With our guide, over a couple of hours, we were able to see the best examples of Soviet era mosaics, bronze sculptured, marble, Art Deco and enormously-chandeliered platforms. A truly remarkable experience and something wonderful to gaze at should you miss your next train.
The Soviet era is proudly on display and you can shop for knick-knacks and memorabilia of this. Cold War era tanks and aeroplanes in the Victory park, long since decommissioned, bearing the red star can be cautiously approached and patted by enthusiasts.
We left Moscow by the fabulous Sapsan fast train bound for St Petersburg. The train was very comfortable and we had a surprisingly very good meal. We also got a brief look at rural life out our window. In less than four hours we had arrived, ready for the next leg of our Russian adventure. Checking into our Hotel (Belmond Grand) we found we had a spectacular view of the “Church of the Spilled Blood” and it’s colourful domes. The next day we would visit its beautiful interior. St Petersburg, whilst a city and once the capital, felt a lot more like a town in its intimacy. There are a lot of university students here and as such the city is very vibrant. After a few days, with unique landmarks, a river, and several canals we felt as though we knew our way around well enough to walk parts of it. Churches, forts, palaces and museums were all on the itinerary. Of note for me was the small Stieglitz museum of Applied Art: a combination of university and museum and possessing an eclectic collection of domestic artifacts and sensational interiors such as the golden Terem room. I loved the unique collection of dolls in clothing representing all the various regions and cultures of Russia. After the tour you are able to visit a shop of sorts where you may purchase artworks and sculptures made by the fine arts students.