Moscow is the capital of Russia and was the center of Communism from 1917 till its ultimate downfall in 1991. It is a fairly somber city, without the exuberance of many world capitals, but this is changing. A nationalistic spirit is emerging which will probably transform the city as well.
The city’s focal point is still, and will always be, Red Square. It is both red and beautiful. However, it is difficult for the tourist to forget the menacing reputation of the Kremlin, the vast, walled center of government and Lenin’s Mausoleum, which is still revered and visited. It is a grim reminder of Russia’s dark past. Within the walled Kremlin, there are numerous buildings, some of which may be visited. Highlights include the Armory Palace, now a museum, the Annunciation Cathedral, which was once the private chapel of the Royal Family, the Cathedral of the Archangel, which is the burial place for many Russian rulers from before the 1700’s, and several towers.
More fanciful and less ominous is the spectacular St Basil’s Cathedral, a fantasy of brightly colored domes. St Basil’s Cathedral, also known as the Church of the Intercession, located on Red Square, in the center of Moscow, was built in the 1500’s at the direction of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, who, as the legend goes, put out the eyes of the architect so that nothing as beautiful could ever be built again. The exterior certainly dazzles and is especially beautiful at night when soft lighting augments its beauty. The interior is disappointing, probably because of the dramatic contrast with its ethereal outside.
Another icon of Moscow is the Bolshoi Theater, which is magnificently crafted and still in use as a ballet and concert venue. Try to attend a performance while in the city.
Other worthwhile sights, on the perimeter of the city, include the Donskoy Monastery which contains Khrushchev’s grave, and the New Maiden’s Convent, with its several churches.
Probably the most worthwhile excursion from Moscow is northeast to an area known as the Golden Ring, a group of villages with considerable charm which have preserved much of their old, Russian architecture and history. The most significant of these villages are Vladimir and Suzdal. Others include Sergiyev Posad, Rostovm Yaroslavl, and Kostroma. The tourist attractions within each town tend to center around their churches and Kremlins (citadels). A popular way to sample at least some of these villages is via a Volga River cruise.
Be sure to check out Moscow’s Metro stations. Their architecture is interesting and unusual, and they display thoroughly enjoyable capsules of Russia.