Dick & Cyndy Pay Russia A Visit ______ 09.16.2015 - 09.25.2015

First, our visit to Russia was truly superb. The below pictures and descriptions of our trip are divided into 5 sections: General Introduction, Moscow, the Transition from Moscow to St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg, and finally links to a few video clips.

General Introduction:

As with every trip we've taken we found the people to be generally warm and receptive. The Russian culture seems to be a bit more reserved than say that of China. However, all those with whom we came into contact were friendly and helpful.

Before we left for the trip we, of course, checked the weather to see what might be appropriate colthing. The forecasts predicted highs in Moscow to be in the middle 60s and in St. Petersburg to be in the lower 60s. OK, a lot cooler than we're used to but not freezing by any means. So, we packed accordingly. The old adage "the best laid plans, of ..." was in play.

While we were there the highs in Moscow were in the lower 80s and in St. Petersburg were in the upper 70s. Absolutely delightful.

As both of our hotels were situated in the middle of all the scenic things to see in both Moscow and St. Petersburg, we elected to do almost all of our "touring" by foot. We spent about 6 hours each day just walking and looking. We didn't miss much, if anything, of what we came to see. We walked ALL the major areas of Moscow: Kremlin, Red Square, Kitay Gorad, Zamoskvoreche, Arbatskaya, and Tverskaya!

As we speak no Russian the language issue turned out to be minimally problematic. The Russian people seemed most willing to help with this. Almost no one in Moscow speaks any English - it was a little better in St. Petersburg, but not much. Using "hand gestures", pointing, and the help of 2 cell phone apps (Google Translate which requires an Internet connection and SpeakEasyRussian which does not) we did just fine.

The bigger language issue was with street signs, metro signs, and such. At the major travel points, airports & train stations, the signs are posted in both Russian and English. Otherwise everything is in Cyrillic - both real Cyrillic letters and "latinized" (an attempt at phonetics using English letters). Neither was very helpful to us. However, as with other languages hard for us to read or understand, we used the following "rule":

Look at the first 4 letters, sound out the letters as best we can, and look for signs that start off with the sound(s) of the first 4 letters.

Anyway, we made do.

As Russia and China both are "viewed" as having communistic, repressive governments by those in the West, we found no evidence of repression in the lifestyles of the people (either in Russia or in China). In Moscow there were street "celebrations" almost every day with music, dancing, outdoor shows, food fairs, and the like. Thoroughly enjoyable.

We saw no evidence of any political poster, banner, or message anywhere. The only police we saw were traffic police - and not too many of them. The only military personnel we saw were the occasional few out doing shopping - just as one might see here. It never felt unsafe there in any way.

The Russian people seem extremely proud of their cultural heritage and historical artifacts. They, at least in Moscow and St. Petersburg, are very religious; i.e., the Russian Orthodox Catholic Church.

In general there were two notable issues of disdain - if not outright hatred - opinioned by the Russian people for: Lenin & Stalin in Moscow - but mostly Stalin it seemed & the Nazi's in St. Petersburg. Stalin ordered all the major cathedrals destroyed and the Nazis reigned heavy destruction and theft on the palaces of the Tzars and other historical artifacts.

Throughout both cities there is and has been significant, meticulous reconstruction underway to restore the artifacts and cultural historical buildings destroyed. Russian leaders in Moscow since the end of WWII and especially Putin in St. Petersburg (his hometown) have endeavored to restore Russia to its past glory.

We did notice something a little different than one sees here. There are virtually no public trash cans / receptacles visible on the streets. More importantly, there was no evidence of litter or trash or graffiti on the streets either. Spotless these places.

While we were in Moscow people kept telling us that St. Petersburg was much more beautiful than Moscow. We found that not to be true - although both are beautiful cities.

On hotels overseas: Unless one stays at a W Hotel, a Four Seasons Hotel, Ritz Carlton, or the like, expect that a hotel rated as 5 Star will really be a 4 Star and one rated as a 4 Star to really be a 3 Star. The hotels in which we stayed held to this rule. Both hotels were very nice and the staffs were very attentive; but, they were definitely one star below what they advertised. We had no complaints with either hotel.

As a note, captions for pictures below will appear before the picture(s).


From what we learned it is very expensive to live in Moscow. Just from the autos we kept seeing I believe it. Plenty of Bentley coupes, Ferraris, Aston Martins, Mercedes AMGs, etc.

For a little more lifestyle info, any place one goes where there is a Krispy Kreme is a good place to be.

Further, back home we've all seen McDonald's offer its McCafe offerings. In Moscow McCafes are stand alone, separate places from the "regular" McDonald's. Best hamburgers ever, best coffee, best cappuccino, and pastries that would put Paris to shame.

We stayed at the Hotel National. It sits directly across the street from the Kremlin and Red Square. Very convenient to almost everythng to see in Moscow.

Scenes from our hotel:

Entrance to Red Square. The Kremlin is adjacent to the far right as you look at the picture.

Some notes on Red Square:

Red Square is a large (not as large as I had anticipated, but rather large nevertheless) cobble-stoned open area surrounded on one side by the walls of the Kremlin, St. Basil's Cathedral on another side, open cafes, Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral, and a huge shopping center on another, and by the entrance gate on the 4th side.

Walking around Red Square

The GUM Shopping Center

St. Basil's Cathedral

NOTE: The "onion dome" shaped edifaces are seen on almost every church in Russia. The shape is supposed to remind us of a flame coming from a candle. However, the shape has a practical purpose as well. With the large accumulation of snow they get it's design sheds the snow rather easily.

Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral

The center part of Red Square was being taken over by preparations for the World Cup of 2018. Here you can see the scaffolding being built.

Some scenes from our wanderings around Moscow:

We find an incredible toy store.

The toy store "mall"

This robot greeted everyone who stopped by.

We take in the Bolshoi Ballet's presentation of 'Swan Lake'.

Horses in Alexandrovsky Gardens

We took in a "tour" of the Kremlin. I say "tour" because there is no admittance to the "business end" of the Kremlin. What one sees on the tour are old churches, a very large cannon, an extremely large bell, the Armory museum, and the "Diamond Fund" which houses some of the most fabulous jewels one can find anywhere.

This first picture is of some of the contents of the Diamond Fund. Photos were strictly not allowed; so, these pics are not ones we took.

Photos from the Kremlin's Armory Museum.

Again, pics not allowed; so the below are not ones we took. This museum had a rather disappointing

collection from Faberge

- one is shown in the lower left of the below picture.

We take in one of the many street fairs.

Cyndy with one of the Clydesdale horses from the Budweiser Truck

The Bud Truck

The street artists were extremely talented

You've heard of the horse of a different color. Well, here it is.

An old guy (I know, I should talk) singing Cole Porter tunes in English. The crowd loved it. Go figure. By the way he was very, very good.

Some kids on stage dancing to some rock song with robots. The same robots from the toy store?

The Pushkin Museum - Following are pics from inside the museum:

Part of the collection of Persian and Middle East art

Cyndy had a strong desire to see an altar piece by Botticelli, "Annunciation". We searched the entire museum without being able to find it. So we asked about its location. Here's what we found: It was on loan to a museum in Berlin. Bummer for Cynnie!

Our visit to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

This is one of the many cathederals Stalin had destroyed. It has been completely rebuilt exactly as it was.

The figures along the outside are all around 12 to 16 feet high.

Take a metro (subway) trip out to the country, we did. We went 4 metro stops from Moscow center to a park frequented by Moscow citizens to relax on the weekends and holidays.

The metro stations are beautiful.

Here are some pictures from around the park.

Here are the mandatory Cyndy Pics of Coke

Obviously we couldn't leave Moscow without having some Russian vodka. The rooftop bar where we had the vodka served a brand, Beluga Vodka. I had neither had it before nor even heard of it (we don't drink much). Best tasting vodka ever!! When one is not used to drinking and suddenly has a 2 oz shot along with a mixed drink as a chaser, it can be AWESOME! - I think.


We head off to St. Petersburg. We decided to take the high speed train so we could see something of Russia outside of a major city confines. I guess high speed is relative because the train we took ran about 120 MPH; the one we took in China ran at 185 MPH.

Taking the train is a little more expensive than flying but well worth the small difference. Besides getting to see "non-city" Russia there are no hassles with security and you don't have to check your luggage.

It's a little over 400 miles separating the two cities. The difference in affluence between the big cities and the countryside was very apparent. We stopped 4 times along the way. At each of the 4 stops (about 2 minutes in duration for each stop) was at a town, smallish, that looked like a somewhat rundown industrial town one might have seen here in the northeast years ago.

Inbetween towns were many, what I would call, small hamlets. The houses we saw were not ones one would choose to live in.

Our "transition" trip offered what may be a clue as to how the Russian people actually live outside the bigger cities.

St. Petersburg:

Not as large as Moscow, obviously, and not as affluent - but, it's up there on grand hotels, great places to dine, and a wealth of beautiful churches. The best parts are the Hermitage Museum, the Peterhof palace, and Catherine's palace. The city has lots of canals with scenic views bordered by expensive apartments.

On the way from the train station to our hotel we passed by Russia's main submarine construction facility.

As the Hermitage Museum was a short walk from our hotel, we hoofed it on over there. The entrance lines were horrific. But, we stood in line anyway.

Some pictures from the Hermitage:

The below 2 pictures are of the Peacock Clock. Marvelous piece of machinery. Check the video section at the end for a video.

Next we went to see the Peterhof Palace. As both Peterhof and Catherine's Palace (our next stop) are each about an hour's drive from the center of St. Petersburg, we decided to hire a guide and driver for each. Great decision. With the guide we were able to cut through all the lines both for entrance and inside for viewing.

Scenes in and around Peterhof:

Off to Catherine's Palace.

These are actually "stoves" used for heating. They are throughout the palace.

Part of a painting for Elizabeth I of Russia. You can easily see the "script" E with the "one" (1) down the center.

"Toys" belonging to a young Alexei, son of Tzar Nicholas II.

The weapons are real.

The Amber Room in Catherine's Palace (Photos inside are strictly forbidden):

This was one of our main reasons for visiting the palace. Be sure to catch the video(s) on this room in the video section below.

Just beneath the first picture (below) are 2 photos of the only original 3 pieces from the Amber Room before it was looted and destroyed by the Nazis. The first original piece (looks like a picture frame) was found by the German government long after WWII and returned to Russia. The other 2 pieces (2 small boxes) just happened to be out of the Amber Room when the nazis came.

Back in St. Petersburg - Our visit to the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood. (Yep, I could have come up with a better name, I think.) The actual name is the Church of the Resurrection of Christ; but, it is commonly called Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood because it was built to honor Tzar Alexander II of Russia who was assassinated at the site where the church now sits.

Just Some Random Canal Pics

Of course no trip to Russia would be really complete without having some Beluga Caviar:

Video Section:

Just Some Short Videos Taken On Our Trip

The Peacock Clock

The Amber Room