Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Kremlin, round 2

Wednesday, January 15

Today we returned to the Kremlin to explore the many shiny wonders of the Armory. Never before have I seen so much gold in one place. It really drove in how mighty and rich the Russian tsars were as well as the sheer age of the country; some of the oldest pieces were from the 12th century, almost a millennium ago. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures inside.

The first thing we saw when we entered the main foyer was a giant portrait. I was very excited to correctly identify him as Peter the Great (Peter I). He himself stands large in Russian history, both literally (he was 6' 8'') and figuratively as the man who singlehandedly made Russia a European country as well as a great power.

On the upper floor we saw silverware actually made of silver, icons and their solid-gold covers dripping with jewels, armor, enamel, and more. Highlights included the French dessert Olympic service, a set of dishes gifted to Alexander I by Napoleon which Napoleon then tried but failed to take back during his occupation of Moscow since the two rulers were obviously no longer friends. However the French only got their hands on two plates, severely disappointing Napoleon's wife, and the rest of the collection is proudly displayed in the armory with not a little amount of pride over defeating Napoleon in this arena as well. Another highlight was the display of famous Faberge eggs; several were bigger than my head and included moving parts. 

On the ground floor were clothes, thrones, and carriages. We saw a caftan taller than me, made for a teenaged Peter the Great; Catherine the Great (Catherine II)'s coronation gown; and several robes made of cloth-of-gold and embroidered with Russian river pearls made for various Patriarchs. The carriage room held the oldest carriage in Europe, which belonged to Boris Godunov, as well as several of Empress Elizabeth's elaborately painted carriages. Also on display were the throne of the first Romanov tsar, Mikhail Fyodorovich, as well as the double-throne of Peter I and his mentally-challenged brother Ivan V.

I was thoroughly bedazzled by all the jewels and gold, and it was perhaps a bit of overload of shiny things. But despite my renewed sense of being a mere peasant next to such riches, the tour was really amazing. The exhibits were gorgeous, and our tour guide Alex provided interesting tidbits (served with a healthy dose of sarcasm) that kept us all entertained. Afterwards some of the group headed towards Red Square to see it at night, but I was tired and set off back towards the dorm.

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