What is a visit to Russia without a trip to the Kremlin in Moscow? This imposing site has stood witness to many tumultuous and victorious moments in Russian History. It is in itself an awe-inspiring sight. The Kremlin (or literally, 'fortified town') is the seat of power in Russia. It is from this fortress city that the czars issued their commands and ruled all of Russia. The high walls that completely enclose the Kremlin are also dotted with 17 towers, and all are placed strategically. The Kremlin is a veritable smorgasbord of architectural treasures. Not only that, they hold great historical significance as well. Here lie many of Russia's cultural jewels. There is the Red Square, the imposing domes of St. Basil's Cathedral, Lenin's Mausoleum and so many others. Let us take a look at them one by one:
Majestically lording it over the Kremlin and overlooking the Moscow River stands the Grand Kremlin Palace. Czar Nicholas I had it made in the mid-1800s as his new imperial residence for the jaw-dropping amount of 11 million rubles. Visit the palace and be awe-struck with the sheer immensity and grandiosity of the reception halls, the ceremonial staircase and the royal apartments. The palace covers some 500,000 square feet. The Grand Kremlin Palace links two other palaces – the Palace of Facets and the Terem Palace.
Its eleven gilded domes characterize the Terem Palace. This five-story palace housed the tsars until the early 1700s when Peter the Great transferred the capital to Saint Petersburg. The Terem Palace is actually made up of two medieval churches, two levels for the servants' quarters and the Imperial suite. The Imperial Suite is elaborately adorned with painted vaults and gilt. The Palace also has an Anteroom (where the Russian nobles waited to meet with the Tsar) and the Throne Room. The throne room is the grandest of the rooms and is decorated in red and gold. Sadly, much of this palace is off-limits to visitors, as this is the Russian President's official residence. Still, you can enjoy the view of the golden domes from the outside.
This palace earned its name because of the prismatic cuts to be found in its limestone exterior. The Palace of Facets is small when compared to the other palaces in the Kremlin. It also is the oldest secular building in Moscow. It houses the main reception hall of the tsars. The Throne Room was where the tsar wielded his power and ruled over the entire country. The room has a magnificent ceiling painted with Biblical scenes and four bronze chandeliers. It is also decorated with gilded carvings. The tsar's advisers would huddle in a corner or at the sides, waiting for the tsar to call them. No woman, except for the Tsar's wife, was allowed into the Throne Room.
Thusly, the area is named because of the three cathedrals that form part of its six buildings, namely, the Cathedral of the Archangel, the Cathedral of the Assumption, and the Cathedral of the Annunciation. These structures were built mostly by Italian architects. The structures are characterized by numerous figures of saints with scenes taken from the Bible. The Archangel Cathedral is also fascinating as it houses the remains or coffins of more than 50 Russian royalty members, including Czar Ian the Terrible and the first two of the Romanov Dynasty Czars.
Standing at the Northwestern side of the Kremlin, this was once a factory for armor and weapons. It is now a museum containing items from the life of the Romanovs, including elaborate carriages, jewelry, imperial headpieces, and portraits, plus an Armory exhibit and a collection of priceless Faberge eggs.
It is said that the Bell Tower stands right at the very heart of Moscow. It is made up of the Patriarch Philaret's tower and the Bono Tower. It had 21 bells that were rung whenever there was danger. The belfry now stands at 263 feet and offers panoramic views of the city up to as far as 20 miles.
The Cannon has the distinction of being the world's oldest and largest cannon. And it is indeed that. It stuns and amazes with its sheer weight (85,000 pounds) and size (16 feet long). Andrei Chokov, a popular craftsman, made the cannon. Czar Fyodor I, who was Ivan the Terrible's son, had it made to protect the Kremlin. Meanwhile, the Czar Bell was once seen as the world's biggest bell (200 hundred tons of bronze). It was also the clearest sound in the world. However, the bell fell and broke during a fire in the mid-1700s.Other Major Attractions Near the Moscow Kremlin:
The famous Red Square stands along the Eastern wall of the Kremlin. It really is named Krasnaya Ploschad. The word 'Krasnaya' meant 'beautiful' but grew to take the meaning of 'red', hence the English name, Red Square. This is a popular tourist spot because of its historical significance.
This brilliant work of architecture was commissioned by Ivan the Terrible (Czar Ivan IV). It was created to stand as a symbol of the victory of Russia against the Tartars. The cathedral is actually made up of eight churches. Each church was built with a dome circling a central belfry that unites all eight to form one great structure.
West of the Kremlin and within the Red Square, you can find the mausoleum of the Soviet Union's founder and leader – Vladimir Lenin. It is notable for its black labradorite and granite exterior and the changing of the guards. Be sure to catch this ceremony, as there is one every hour.
Near the Kitai-Gorod, with an area forming an arch over the Red Square and Kitai-Gorod are some interesting attractions, such as the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, the Bol'shoi Theatre, and the Church of Christ the Saviour, among others.
Final NotesThe Kremlin is the natural first stop when visiting Russia. With so many historical and architectural gems situated at the Kremlin, it has become one of the world's biggest museums – with a mixture of cathedrals, palaces, and monuments. Try standing in the midst of the Red Square. Then, gaze at all the ornate towers, palaces and buildings before you. You cannot help but be swept away to a world of majesty, intrigue and history. It is simply breathtaking… and unforgettable.