Russia Day 15 – Novodevichy Convent

Once again the Metropol hotel was able to amaze me. At breakfast we were greeted by a waitress who after seeing we were British even switched to using perfect English and even a fairly British sounding accent, and led us to a table. I quickly noticed that the breakfast hall was incredibly well decorated with a very high glass roof which helped to amplify the sound of the lady playing the harp on the stage. Live harp music is not something you see at every breakfast! The food and drink at breakfast was also an incredibly good selection.

The original plan was that we’d be picked up at 10:00 to be taken to the Novodevichy Convent, though we asked the guide if we could first visit Lenin’s Mausoleum. Fortunately he agreed to this and by 10:00 we were queueing to get through the security into Red Square. To enter the mausoleum there was then a second security check and once you’ve entered the building you’re not allowed to talk – not that it stopped a bunch of Chinese tourists from doing so. It’s weird seeing the body of Lenin – it’s preserved so incredibly well as a result of the embalming process that with the texture of the skin he looked like a wax model.

We were then driven to the Novodevichy Convent, another UNESCO World Heritage site, where we spent the next hour walking around the grounds and going inside the two churches there. To take photographs here we each had to pay 100 roubles – which wasn’t bad really.

Apparently one of the towers there which is under restoration has been so for some time due to a fire that broke out during the previous restoration work. Most of the buildings there were ordered by Sofia Alexeyevna, but begun construction under the reign of Prince Vasili III, the Grand Prince of Moscow. The buildings are in the Muscovite Baroque style which is common to many buildings in the area.

Adjacent to the convent is the Necropolis of the Novodevichy Convent, which is also known as the “heroes cemetery”. Despite the entrance only being around the corner, at best 200-300 metres, the guide insisted we drive there. We spent about 40 minutes in this cemetery being shown some of it’s more famous residents such as Boris Yeltsin, and Anton Chekov.

It was wandering around these tombs where I got the impression that our guide, Vlad, was a strong supporter of Communism. The reason for this is when we encountered the grave of Mikhail Gorbachev’s wife he commented that Gorbachev should not be buried in Russia as “he is a traitor”.

For those that don’t know, the reasoning behind this is that it was Gorbachev was the last leader of the Soviet Union and was responsible for making the government more open and restructuring it (referred to as perestroika) which eventually led to it’s dissolution in 1991.

All morning the weather had been toasty warm, but just as we were leaving the cemetery there were a few spots of rain, hinting at the weather which was to come. Back at the hotel, having made a few phone calls during the course of the morning, our guide estimated that we’d be picked up at around 02:30 though wasn’t totally sure as he’d been given the incorrect flight information by Audley Travel to start with (allegedly).

We then set back out, during a thunderstorm to get lunch. I decided to have a club sandwich, which would then turn out to be my last proper meal in Russia. By the time we left the rain had more or less stopped and it was only a short walk to the metro station.

For the afternoon we’d decided to visit the Tsaritsyno museum and park which was located quite a way out of town. It took over 30 minutes by metro to get there, but was very easy to find the entrance to.

These grounds were originally owned by Tsaritsa Irina, sister of Tsar Boris Godunov, but later was taken over by Catherine the Great. If the weather had been better I think we could have spent quite a bit of time there due to it’s great scenery and the number of different buildings that were there. We were however on a schedule and the weather wasn’t great either.

We did however do a reasonable amount of walking, despite my swollen ankle, and managed to see most of the buildings there – though buildings such as the great palace were only from the outside.

Finding our way to the metro station at the opposite end of the park wasn’t too difficult and we were back at the hotel before 18:00. To finish the trip we went back over to Burgermeister where we’d had lunch and had a dessert – I went for their strawberry cheesecake which was amongst the best I’d had on this trip.

Our time in Russia had now come to an end and in a matter of hours we’d be heading to the airport to begin our journeys home.

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