Being an avid reader, my fascination for Russia began by reading the works of legendary Russian writers – Maxim Gorky, Anton Chekov, Leo Tolstoy, Alexander Pushkin, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. However, Russian literature is just one aspect of my Russian fascination.
The long list of the things I love about Russia includes the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Trans-Siberian Highway, the remote area of Kamchatka, enigmatic Soviet personalities like Rasputin, Lenin, Stalin and Putin, Russia’s Imperial Romanov dynasty, the country’s pathbreaking space programme, its sporting success, music, operas, military, communist architecture…and more.
So when I got the chance to visit Moscow for a couple of days for a client presentation and meeting, I knew exactly the places I wanted to see and explore!
I boarded an Air Astana flight to Moscow from New Delhi in September. It’s the peak autumn season in Russia, known for its soft sunlight and fall colours. My first glimpse of Moscow, from the windows of the flight, took my breath away – I was amazed how spectacular the Russian Capital looked in the scarlet glow of dawn. The beautiful Moskva River snaking down amidst a beautiful mix of green spaces, skyscrapers, and streets.
Meetings, presentations, and an official dinner took up most part of my first day, leaving me tired. As I was about to leave for my hotel, my gracious host suggested I take a tour of the Red Square, considered as the heart of Moscow and Russia!
Exploring Moscow in One Day
So the next morning, following a hearty breakfast, I booked a cab and alighted at the famous Red Square, known for its key landmarks like the Kremlin, Lenin’s Mausoleum, Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Kazan Cathedral, and the State Historical Museum.
Moscow’s Red Square is amongst the most celebrated public squares in the world. It has also been the site for the annual Victory Day parade in the country, since the days of Joseph Stalin’s presidency. The Red Square has also played host to several music concerts featuring world-famous artists like Linkin Park, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Shakira, and Paul McCartney, among others. The Red Square and the Kremlin are now part of UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Russia.
From Red Square, I decided to walk to the St. Basil’s Cathedral, one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Known for its colourful onion shaped domes, this cathedral was built on the orders of Ivan the Terrible, a famous Russian Tsar, to commemorate the capture of Kazan, a city in southwest Russia. This beautiful cathedral is an awe-inspiring architectural gem of the country, now delighting tourists in the form of a famous museum. It’s the most photographed landmark of Russia.
Also read: Top Things to Do in Moscow
Next, I decided to see the Kremlin, the official seat of the Russian government and comprises of several palaces and buildings, including the historic Kremlin Wall, Kremlin Towers, and the Grand Kremlin Palace, the former royal residence of the Russian Tsars. The name “Kremlin” means ‘fortress inside a city.’ The Kremlin is the heart and soul of Russia’s political discourse and has a rich cultural heritage, including the Cathedral Square featuring the Cathedral of the Dormition, where all the Russian Tsars were crowned.
Another notable structure in the Kremlin is the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, which was known to be the tallest structure in Moscow until the Russian Revolution. The Tsar Bell, the largest bell in the world, is also present next to the tower. The oldest structure of the Kremlin, Ivan III’s Palace of Facets, is the site of the official imperial throne of Russia. The Terem Palace and the Grand Kremlin Palace are known for their exquisite ornate architecture and interiors and now serves as the ceremonial venues for hosting official state guests and events. Exploring the Kremlin needs time. It’s a huge complex comprising of many notable and historical buildings. It took me 4 hours to learn about this huge historic complex.
Though I was totally exhausted, I still had one more place to tick off from my bucket list – the world-famous Bolshoi Theatre. The shining light of Russia’s cultural delights, this historic theatre is the world’s largest ballet company with more than 200 ballet dancers. It has its own academy – the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, a world-renowned school of ballet.
Luckily, I got tickets to Don Quixote, a 3-hour ballet show hosted in the Historic Stage. Miguel Cervantes’ Don Quixote happens to be one of my favourite literary characters. The play is divided into three acts and highlights the best part of knight errant Don Quixote’s misadventures, his squire Sancho Panza, and many key figures and events. Three amazing hours of Don Quixote transported me into a magical realm of colours and music – a fictional world where the knight errant attacked windmills, rescued a damsel in distress, reunited lost lovers, and continued to search for his imaginary lover – Dulcinea. All I can say is, there could have been no better way to end my Moscow sojourn, than witnessing the Bolshoi Theatre production of Don Quixote!