Kremlin, Red Square lie at heart of Russia
In Russia's most important city, the Kremlin remains the most important place. When you go beyond the walls, you begin to feel the spirit of the Olympic host country.
"For me, it's (the Kremlin) almost like the motherland," said our tour guide. "History of this country is very connected with this place."
We were given extraordinary access inside the Kremlin to see the building where President Vladimir Putin works.
"We see President in the Kremlin sometimes. And, it still remains official address of President," said our tour guide.
We got a close look at the magnificent grand palace where Joseph Stalin's government once lived. We saw the Cathedral of the Golden Domes, the Ivan the Great Bell-Tower Complex three main cathedrals inside the Kremlin.
"All of them (cathedrals inside the Kremlin) are important. The biggest of them is the Assumption of Virgin Mary. Then, one with golden dome and four silver domes Archangel Michael Cathedral - burial place of first Russian kings and princesses. Then, you see the smallest with 9 golden domes and golden roof is the Annunciation Cathedral. It happened to be a baptism place and a wedding place for Russian kings. All of the three are connected with the life of Russian kings," said our tour guide.
"We say that Kremlin was Moscow itself, first of all. In old times, all Moscow was enclosed into the defensive wars of the Kremlin. Nowadays, most of the Kremlin is open and famous, like a museum. But it is still the political center of Moscow, the political center of the country, of course. Always remember that Kremlin is old royal residence, so Kremlin is very unique," said our tour guide who said visitors were allowed inside the Kremlin in the mid 1950s.
"We saw the churches in there. We were fascinated by all the icons and the religious objects - just spectacular," said tourist Mike Hilder.
"We've just come from the armory which had a lot of the jewelry, had the armor, had the empress' dresses, carriages, Faberge' eggs, overwhelming!"
Tourists flock to Red Square.
"We say sometimes, that Red Square is the place where all events begin and in our country and finish. Imagine all the history of the country somehow connected with Red Square," said our tour guide.
Many visitors are surprised to discover Red Square is not red at all.
"We repeatedly say to them the old meaning of the Russian word ‘krasna' not only means red in color, but beautiful," said our tour guide.
"It's a beautiful square, the main sightseeing point in Moscow," said one man.
"Lenin's tomb is on one side. The great big GUM department store is on the other side. St. Basil's cathedral is at one end. And it's a great big open square," said Hilder.
"We say from the times of Joseph Stalin, who organized military parades in Red Square, it was empty," said our tour guide. "It used to be big in size, it was more functional square. It was a simple market square in the middle of the city. It was turned into an official big square."
Red Square may have a President Putin impersonator, but there is so much more to see. A large GUM department store, would remind Hoosiers of Circle Centre Mall in downtown Indianapolis. The GUM has become a popular place for brides and grooms to gather inside to take wedding pictures.
Michael and Tanya Kargo said they posed for a number of pictures because they enjoyed the architecture and were trying to stay out of the rain.
The instantly recognizable St. Basil the Blessed cathedral with the colorful onion domes that every person wants to capture with a camera or a paintbrush.
"I think (St. Basil) looks like a birthday cake. It's tasty. It's colorful, even in bad weather. It's positive, it's bright. It attracts attention. It's lovely. This one is very positive and colorful. That's why I paint it," said a Russian man selling his paintings near St. Basil. "Of course, I'm proud of being Russian. One cannot feel differently being in such a great country, such a beautiful culture and all this history. Culture is something that unites us, which makes us different at the same time."
Beyond the walls of the Kremlin and Red Square, we found Russian listening to live music on a busy street that would remind Hoosiers of Georgia Street during the Super Bowl.
Russians in this affluent part of Moscow were shopping at expensive stores and eating at a variety of American restaurants like McDonalds, Burger King, Subway and Dunkin' Donuts. It seemed as though every Russian had a smart phone.
In many ways, this is not your father's Russia. But at its core, the Kremlin and Red Square still represent the heart of the Olympic host country. Rich in history. Steeped in tradition. Proud of its place in Russia.
"It's impossible to imagine our country without Red Square and the Cathedral of Basil the Blessed. It's like the face of the country, the main symbol of Moscow. It's impossible to imagine life without it," said the Russian painter.