This morning we explored Moscow by open top bus and were able to identify features that one misses the very first time such a journey is taken. We boarded this outside our hotel.
It was interesting that the ice rink sponsored by the GUM Department Store was still in Red Square supported by something like a European Christmas market. When we reached the canalised section of the Moscow River this year it was frozen with evidence of strong winds making waves freeze on the stone canal sides. There had been light snow overnight and the clear up teams were hard at work removing the last remnants of the overnight clearance.
By lunchtime our tour ended next to a cupola, above the underground station, which illustrates the northern hemisphere.
This location near Red Square enabled us to witness an amazing festival that dates back to ancient times.
The Maslenitsa Festival is also known as Pancake Week and is celebrated between February 17th-26th. The actual week is the last week before Lent and celebrates the end of Winter, symbolised by the burning of effigies. The celebration has become more popular in recent times and lasts longer than one week. As an example of this, the Moscow Times has compiled a list of the most interesting events in the city. As we read the newspaper there are 8 special parts of the festival. The one we witnessed is described as ‘Pancake heaven for everyone in the capital’, where more than 30 pancake stalls appear in Novy Arbat which is the area near the Kremlin and the GUM Department store. The Festival has ancient pagan roots and is the time when people would celebrate the end of Winter and the arrival of Spring, regardless of the fact that it is probably still snowing! Today we witnessed people from the Centre for Russian Culture participating in folk dancing and child-friendly adaptations of operas such as ‘The Snow Maiden’. There was an amazing ice sculpture which was internally illuminated and public participation on an amazing scale.
At sunset we returned to the open top bus and saw the spectacular lights of Moscow where ancient buildings ply for your attention with modern illuminations. Spectacular!