NO PLACE LIKE HOME

After 2 nights’ rest in Singapore, we are heading home to Adelaide.

During previous travels, I have diligently kept a hand-written diary for my own personal day-by-day record.
Over the 13 weeks we have been away it has been my pleasure to each day maintain and share “The Grand Tour”.
I am thankful to travel writers, producers of travel brochures and pre-trip information stored on my E-Reader, for all that I have read and reproduced here to share with interested family and friends.
Thank you for your thoughts and prayerful support.
Thanks to my grand-daughter who provided the iphone and taught me a few skills prior to departure.
Special thanks to MM for her love and patience and careful attention to many planning details as we have journeyed together. Our total care and provision has been from God, our Father, our guide for life itself, and I am thankful.

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Making new friends and renewing of friendships has greatly enhanced the amazing things we have seen and done.

BIRDS FLY SOUTH

Today we started heading South after this amazing three months of travel. We read of the birds heading South for Winter- these birds are heading South to Adelaide, with a predicted forecast of 46 degrees tomorrow, from minus 14 today in Moscow, but we do stopover in Singapore.

The young man whose apartment we rented in Moscow ordered a taxi to take us to the Airport (Domodedevo), one of Moscow’s three.
The trip took one hour and he had negotiated a price of 1,300 RUR ($43.86AUD). We were very thankful for his assistance. This meant that we could pack our boots and wear our shoes and lighter clothing with our overcoats on top for warmth.
It is interesting being in a country where one can’t guess at the meaning of signs. In Italy or Germany we found that we could work out something from the signage, but not in Russia, and as for ordering a taxi by telephone, this was out of the question.

My case checked in at 18 kgs. which is about the same as at departure, the difference is that some things were left behind and other items were added.
It was great that before leaving St. Petersburg, Kelvin had read that NO liquids or gels of any size could be taken in “carry on” luggage, so when that was explained to us at the check-in desk, we were well prepared. This ruling has been introduced this week in preparation for the upcoming Winter Olympics.
Full body scanners are in use.

Singapore Airlines Flight left on time at 15:20 but take off was slowed a little by the necessary deicing procedure which was interesting to watch. The Boeing 777-300ER was then led along the runway by a small orange vehicle with FOLLOW ME in lights on top.
The timing of this Flight was not conducive to sleeping so, although the cabin lights were off, there were people talking and wandering around.
We arrived in Singapore at 05:12 after a very smooth flight and an early breakfast – 9 hrs. 50 mins.

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MUST SEE MOSCOW

Today, with temperature minus 11, MM and I travelled the Metro back to Red Square and then went our separate ways.

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LENIN MAUSOLEUM
This is where the waxy, bald and embalmed body of the founder of the Communist Party is to be visited.
It is certainly a no-nonsense event with guards posted at each corner to prod you forward should you halt at any stage during the viewing. I had read of this prior to my visit today, but was amazed when the young couple in front of me paused and were very quickly made to move on and we were the only ones in there (it is Winter so no queues today).
There is no fee to visit but a charge to leave my bag in a storage locker so that meant no camera, no phone, no credit cards, no PASSPORT (all very scary). I was just left with my wallet so that I could pay for the Locker. After walking through metal detectors and along the long path, the Guard at entry said “pockets” so I showed him my wallet and in I went for my 30 seconds viewing.
He may be dead, but you can’t mess with him.

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THE KREMLIN
The first challenge was to find the Ticket office. This meant a long walk through Alexandrovsky Gardens. There are few signs and, of course, no crowds to follow, but eventually I spotted a glass building where I saw the word “kacca” and considered I was on the right track. I then asked where I should enter and was told upstairs. Next search was for the stairs and back out in the gardens I saw some in the distance, so headed there and up the stairs to find the guard and scanning equipment to check me through.
It was snowing and freezing cold – the coldest I have felt.

The Main Gate (but not for Public use)

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The Entry

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Along the wall and now inside

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The Kremlin is the fortified hill which formed the heart of the ancient city and which today houses the Political Headquarters of the planet’s largest nation. Within the world famous red walls nestles a collection of buildings of various architectural styles. Much is out-of-bounds to tourists, being part of the Government and Presidential estate.
If visitors happened to move in a wrong direction, a guard would blow a whistle and they would be sent back to the main path. This was quite disconcerting because there were no directional markings or signs. It was a bit of an eerie place to be today as there were few people around and there was a total sense of being watched continually.
I am pleased to have spent some time there as who could visit Moscow and not visit The Kremlin.
THE IVAN THE GREAT BELL TOWER
This impressive 60 metre high tower was built between 1505 and 1508. The adjoining belfry was built 15 years later and contains some 20 bells. The biggest bell (the world’s largest no less) however was too big to remain in its place and sits to the rear of the tower with a huge break.

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THE TSAR CANNON
Cast 1586 – length 5.34 m, weight 40 ton

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THE CHURCH OF LAYING OUR LADY’S HOLY ROBE
A more modest cathedral nestled in a corner. Built 1484-1485. The home church of Russian metropolitans and later, Patriarchs.

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THE PATRIARCH’S PALACE AND THE TWELVE APOSTLE ‘S CHURCH
Once the home of the Moscow Patriarch.
It was built 1653-1655 for Patriarch Nikon.

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THE ANNUNCIATION CATHEDRAL
This imposing cathedral where Russian Tsars were christened and married was built in 1482.

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THE ASSUMPTION CATHEDRAL
This was the major church of the state in which all Russian Tsars were crowned – built 1475-1479.

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Back to Red Square and the Gum Store where I met MM, had lunch and thawed out before returning to the apartment.

MOSCOW SNOW

Moscow is enormous and a little daunting. The city is organised in concentric circles. The outer ring road marks the city limits while most of the important sights are contained within the inner Garden Ring or the innermost Boulevard Ring. At the Bull’s-eye are the Kremlin and Red Square. The Moscow River cuts an arc through the centre of the city, with its peak touching the Kremlin.
ST. BASIL’S CATHEDRAL – Red Square. Standing magnificent at the head of Red Square is St. Basil’s Cathedral, one of Russia’s most recognisable buildings. It was built in 1561 to mark the 1552 capture of Kazan from Mongol forces. In 1860, during rebuilding, the Cathedral was painted with a more complex and integrated design, and has remained unchanged since. During restoration work in the seventies a wooden spiral staircase was discovered within one of the walls and visitors can now take this route into the central church as we did today. This cathedral is a stone warren of small, intimate chapels decorated with countless icons soaring upwards to the height of the onion domes above.

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LOOKING UP RED SQUARE FROM INSIDE ST. BASIL’S CATHEDRAL

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THE TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER AND ETERNAL FLAME
The red-granite monument within Alexander Garden contains the body of an unidentified Soviet soldier, one of those who in 1941, stopped the German attack at a village just out of Moscow.

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STATE HISTORY MUSEUM – Red Square

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BOLSHOI THEATRE

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GUM -Department Store on Red Square
State Department Store for top end traders – current building completed 1893. A magnificent building, giving a
feeling of absolute luxury. The roof contains in excess of 20,000 panes of glass. The store is open from 10:00 – 22:00 every day. We enjoyed coffee on the upper floor seated under a beach umbrella and later purchased an ice cream to enjoy as we were walking in the snow!

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MOVE TO MOSCOW

Our hotel in St. Petersburg was on Vasilyevsky Island which is directly over the Palace Bridge from The Hermitage. There are 19 Drawbridges in St.Petersburg, the Palace Bridge being one of them. Vasilyevsky Island is one of the largest St. Petersburg Islands (more than 1,000 hectares in area). The sharp eastern promontory, called “the Spit” divides the Neva into 2 branches. Places of note on the Island are the Zoo, the Stock Exchange and the Rostral Columns which are Light Houses 32m high, decorated with cast iron Rostra – I saw them shooting flames into the air (this only happens on special occasions).

Photos were taken looking towards Palace Bridge when leaving The Hermitage in pouring rain on Friday –

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This morning (Sunday) Kelvin very kindly came by bus to our hotel at 10:30 and escorted us, he pulling my suitcase, to the city by trolley bus. We attended the 11:30 Service at Hope Church with all of the Nicolles. The fellowship rents a large room in a huge building so has the set-up responsibilities we have previously known. It was great to share with the family at communion. Matthew has "sound" duties with 2 others.
We joined a number of Church people at Stockmans (huge Department Store) for a cafeteria style lunch. This meant a short walk across the road in a light snowfall.

The Square at one end of Nevsky Prospekt Is surrounded by huge buildings, one of them being the Moscow Railway Station(1844-51) the line being from St. Petersburg to Moscow and we left from there at 15:00. We were in our seats 3 minutes before departure and just as the Russian National Anthem was being played. It was sad to leave our friends – their kindness will not be forgotten.

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The Hope Church meets on the second floor of the beautiful gray building which is actually the Conference Room of a large Hotel.

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We had reserved tickets on a fast train so arrived in Moscow just before 19:00.
The countryside was blanketed with snow for most of the distance.

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We arrived to a wet night, found our apartment and are ready for a sound sleep before we explore Red Square tomorrow.

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JOYS AND FRUSTRATIONS FOR A TRAVELLER IN ST. PETERSBURG

There are many modes of public transport – trams, buses, trolley buses and K(followed by a No. to designate the route)small buses. The first three stop at every marked Stop but the K ( privately owned) have to be hailed and to alight, one must stand and convey that to the driver (not so easy when one only speaks English). The bus stop is marked with an “A”: the Tram has a sign on overhead wires, AND, of course, one must know the direction of destination in order to board from the correct side of the road.
If wanting to watch for a recognisable landmark on a day of pouring rain, the windows are wet outside and totally fogged on the inside.
The Travel Card is one of the “joys” as it just has to be scanned on entry to any form of transport.
AND THEN THERE IS THE METRO, but more about that later.

Today we were on the nearest Metro Station to our Hotel at 11:30 (having caught a tram 2 stops) in order to meet Kelvin and Roslyn who live one station further on the Green Line.

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Some of the trams are very old. I didn’t realise that I also had a police car in the photo – not really part of my transport story.

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A bus, a trolley bus and a K30 ( on which I ventured alone on our first night)

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Our Metro Station

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The four of us went to visit The State Memorial Museum of Defense and Siege of Leningrad, not previously visited by the Nicolles. It was a very sobering experience. I was thankful for the small cards with English.

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Lunch was at a little French Restaurant nearby.

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The latter part of the afternoon was a Tour of Metro Stations with Kelvin as Guide. The stations are amazingly clean considering the numbers who travel every day and we were there to look at decoration and artwork. Trains come on each line at 4 minute intervals and stop for 20 seconds, with the intervals going to 2 minutes at peak times. An extremely efficient service and much quicker when traffic is heavy.

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Glass covered pillars

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PUSHKIN

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CERAMIC TILES

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AND AN EMPTY STATION!!!!

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Back to the Nicolle Home for a lovely meal and shared family time, in all a most enjoyable day.

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ST. PETERSBURG CENTRAL AREA

The central part of St. Petersburg includes buildings from the early 18th century when Peter the Great founded on the left bank of the Neva the Admiralty with the then wooden St. Isaac’s Church adjoining it. The Palace Embankments – the official facade of St. Petersburg is a majestic ensemble running for 2.5 Kms along the Neva.

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PALACE SQUARE AND ALEXANDER COLUMN
One of the most perfect ensembles in world architecture. The square is about 5 hectares in area. The Winter Palace (constructed 1754-62), a part of the complex of the State Hermitage, and the General Staff Building with its magnificent Triumphal Arch with the Chariot of Glory, skirt the square. The Arch is a memorial to the victory in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Alexander Column was erected in 1829-34 as a monument to Alexander I. The structure is 47.5 m high. Its base is a round granite monolith 25.6 m high (the largest in the world), crowned with a 6 m. bronze figure of an angel of peace. The monolith was erected by 2,000 veterans of war. The column is positioned so as to align perfectly with the entrance to the Winter Palace and Triumphal Arch that serves as the entry to the General Staff building opposite.

I arrived before light in pouring rain (approx 10:30) and left in pouring rain (approx 15:00).

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My visit today to the State Hermitage Museum was a wonderful experience as I chose to go on an English Tour and was the only one to be accompanied by a lovely quietly spoken lady who had great knowledge of the buildings, the history and the art. Two and a half hours just flew by and in the short time available to me, gave me a great overview of this incredible place.
The Hermitage is one of the world’s largest art museums. The Halls and rooms of the Hermitage are truly grand with a luxurious Baroque staircase to the first floor of the Winter Palace.

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The Museum is especially strong in Italian Renaissance and French Impressionist paintings, as well as possessing outstanding collections of works by Rembrandt, Picasso and Matisse. The origins of The Hermitage can be traced back to the private art collection of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great expanded the collection considerably.

TRIVIA TIME
The large cloak room copes with 3,700
and the smaller one 1,400 visitors.

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