Part 1. I had the best experience on a Russian river cruise. Not only did we see amazing places, such as Red Square, The Hermitage Museum, Catherine’s Palace, the Moscow Metro and the Armory, but we were entrenched in Russian culture. We were treated to very knowledgeable guides, amazing lectures, Russian lessons and, lest we forget, vodka tasting. River cruises are a delightful way to experience Russia. A few of the best river cruise lines, like Uniworld and Ama Waterways, have introduced several new river cruise ships in Russia within the last year.
Our first day of our river cruise, we were divided into 4 manageable groups of about 28 people. We drove into Moscow where we toured the city, including the underground metro (a work of art in itself). Each metro station is decorated differently and all are fabulous! Any one could be a museum on its own. They are all huge, elegant stations with a variety of art & sculpture. Moscow's system transports 9,000,000 people per day! It's the most beautiful metro I have had the pleasure to explore.
We visited the Arbat district, where famed Russian poet Alexander Pushkin onced lived time. The Arbat is a great artsy area on a pedestrian street, filled with artists and musicians, and very lively. Also located here is the Hard Rock café Moscow (where a dear friend of mine, Hal Blaine, has his drums on display). So we had to go and see them.
From the Arbat district we continued to Red Square. I could not believe I was standing where I was! I kept saying: OMG look where we are! If you were standing in the middle of the square, you would look to one end to see the most amazing church, St Basil's, with its unbelievable onion domes and colorful painting. You just can’t take your eyes off of it. The story of St Basil's is that once the architect completed it, Ivan the Terrible had him blinded so he could never make a more beautiful building than this (they didn’t call him the Terrible without reason). To one side is Lenin’s tomb, and just behind that are the Kremlin walls. Across the street is GUM department store and the KGB headquarters. It was so beautiful.
We returned to the ship for an early dinner and went back out for an evening concert at the Tretyakov Gallery. We saw a very talented group of musicians perform traditional Russian folk music. They played the traditional instruments such as the balalaikas, domras and bayans. We enjoyed it thoroughly, the conductor invited some of our shipmates to join in and perform with the band, and we all just loved the performance. We returned to the ship tired and fully satisfied with our amazing day.
The next day we went to the Pushkin Museum, where you could view Impressionistic art. Afterwards, we walked back to the Arbat district, where we met a friend who lives here and had lunch and cocktails before we went out to explore the metro on our own. We traveled about 2 hours out of the city and visited a Czarina's Palace that was gorgeous!
Our last day in Moscow featured The Kremlin tour! The Kremlin was actually a walled city built as a fortification and surrounded by 18th century towers, cathedrals, palaces, museums, not to mention the government. We visited one of the cathedrals where we were serenaded by a choir while we viewed the most impressive artwork and icons in the cathedral. We also went into the famous Armory museum. The Armory was my favorite museum (yes, even more so than the Hermitage in St Petersburg). Here you would view Russian and foreign arms, armor, battle-axes, helmets, muskets and sabers. Also the vestments of the Czars, priceless silks, velvets, and brocades encrusted with jewels and pearls. We saw the coronation dresses for both Czarina Elizabeth and Catherine the Great, and the latter's wedding dress. (She was only 16 when she married and was a tiny little thing). You would never believe the thrones and crowns. There are only about 20 Faberge eggs in existence, and 9 of them are in the Armory. My favorite sight in the Armory was the carriages of the Czars and the Czarina’s, there was an entire room of them, all different, all fabulous, some with jeweled interiors some with diamond encrusted wheels! So detailed you just stand there in amazement. They were absolutely incredible!!!