Probably the most famous part of all Russia is Moscow's Red Square, adjacent to the walls of the Kremlin and host to the huge military parades held by the Soviet regime during the Cold War. From here you gain access to the Mausoleum of Lenin, and the colourful St Basil's Cathedral. We visited Red Square as part of our holiday cruise from Moscow to St Petersburg.
We had been looking forward to visiting Red Square, but our tour was behind schedule so we spent only a few minutes there. This was a disappointment.
The larger part of Red Square was fenced off, but it would have been possible to walk round the outside if we had had time.
However, even in a few minutes, we could experience the sense of the importance of a site where several Tsars, Napoleon and all of the Soviet leaders had been.
The famous Red Square. The GUM store is on the right, the Kremlin and Lenin's tomb on the left.
St Basil's (see below) is behind the camera.
This vast building runs along the eastern side of Red Square. It was once a huge store where VIPs such as party officials could buy imported and luxury goods that were unavailable (or forbidden) to the general public. It is now a symbol of the new affluence of some of capitalist Russia's population. It is a multi-layered shopping arcade full of shops and boutiques with international names. It is an irony that only the new elite can afford to shop here, and the general public (and less well-heeled tourists like ourselves) are excluded by price. The GUM (pronounced 'goom') is still worth a visit for its cathedral-like proportions and magnificent architecture.
The GUM shopping centre is huge and ornate.
It houses some of the top names in fashion.
St Basil's Cathedral
This extraordinary, iconic building was built for Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century. It is said that the Tsar had the architect blinded so that he could not build anything so beautiful for anyone else - this is probably untrue.
The domes were originally white and gold, and it was not until 1670 that the familiar multi-coloured domes were painted. You can visit St Basil's, but we didn't have the time.
The iconic St Basil's Cathedral dominates one side of Red Square. The statue in front of it commemorates two heroes, Kuzma Minin and Prince Dmitriy who drove the Poles out of the Kremlin in 1612.