The XVI century English embassy has survived against all odds on Varvarka street in the Kitay-Gorod district. The first English was established in 1553 in this building to facilitate trade with India and the Orient through the Russian territory, and the Muscovy Company was given exclusive and tax-free rights to trade. The Russian merchants grew wealthy through the relationship, and Tzar Ivan IV even asked the hand of Queen Elizabeth in marriage, and got very angry when his offer was rejected. This was the beginning of opening up of Russia to Europe and European ideas. The embassy was expelled in 1649 in condemnation of the execution of the English king by Cromwell.
The building was discovered by accident in the XX century, as by then it became a part of an apartment block. It was restored for the Queen Elizabeth II's visit in the 1990s.
The second royal dynasty, the Romanovs, have preserved their familial medieval palace as a museum, which is why it has miraculously survived to this day. Unfortunately when I was in Moscow last time it was closed for restoration, but I hope to see it when I am in town next time. I actually have never been inside.
This small red church, built by Ivan III in 1380, is at the start of a remarkable street of churches ~ Ulitsa Varvarka ~ located in the area of the city called the Kitai Gorod.
The area's name is sometimes translated as China Town, but there isn't really any China Town here. The name may come from kita which were bundles of sticks used to reinforce the first walls. Kitai may also be based on a Mongolian word for central ~ this area was the first real settlement of the city, outside of the Kremlin. We found wandering through this area to be fascinating, as it holds a great mix of old churches and newer buildings.
Please try to ignore the overpowering monstrosity (Hotel Rossiya) in the background of this photo ~ the Church of St. George really is very eye-catching. This scene just doesn't do any justice to the colours of the green onion-domes, which are decorated with gold stars and crosses.
This is the most eastern of the Ulitsa Varvarka churches. It was built by merchant traders in 1657-58, with the bell tower added in 1818.
I love the colour of this red-brick cathedral and its green, gold and red domes. It stands out, even in the row of beautiful churches on Ulitsa Varvarka.
It on the Romanov estate in 1634, following a family death. The lower level holds a refectory and winter church and the upper level has the summer church and a Chamber of the Robes. For a reason we were unable to ascertain, the church was closed during our visit.
The exterior of the palace is painting in various colours and geometric patterns, the flowers were in bloom and there is also an ornamental staircase ~ all these things combining to make a beautiful courtyard entrance.
Once inside, we led ourselves on a self-guided tour through rooms dating from the 17th century. In each room, there are cue cards with a narrative in several languages ~ you can read these if you want to add a bit of history and practical knowledge to the visit.
The decor is faithful to the period in which the home was in use. The exhibits display period furnitue, clothing and household items. . .as well as ceramic stoves, gilded leather wall-coverings and carved wooden ceilings. (They are very low ceilings in some places ~ so be careful!)
The entrance to this palace is a little hard to find, as you must make your way to the street level behind ulitsa Varvarka (put yourself on even footing with the entrance to the Hotel Rossiya) in order to enter.
The palace was built in the 16th century by Nikita Romanov and it served as home to him and his family until 1613, when they moved to the Kremlin.
The stone basement marks the area of the house where the men (and boys from about age 8) spent their time; the wooden upper floor was reserved for ladies and children.
It has been open as a museum since 1859 and it's a neat place to stop in for a look at a past lifestyle. Tour groups are given heavy preference here, so be prepared to be pushed aside a couple of times if you're on your own.
This simple church, closed for construction at the time of our visit, was erected by merchants from Novgorod in 1690-1700.
The church was initally built to house the remains of St. Maxim, a holy fool who died in 1433. Although I didn't get it in this photo, there also is a neighbouring bell tower, which is known as Moscow's leaning tower, for its less-than-vertical alignment.
At the end of the row of churches on Ulitsa Varvarka, you'll come across this asymmetrical building with a steep wooden roof. The Old English Court is one of the oldest secular, or non-reigious, buildings in Moscow, dating from the 1550s.
It is open today as a museum, with an exhibit on the history of trade and England-Russia relations, but we didn't enter, as we had just come out of the Palace of the Romanov Boyars (we have a self-imposed museum limit each day).
The building ~ a storage and trading house ~ was originally gifted to an Englishman, Richard Chanceller, as part of Ivan the Terrible's efforts to establish trading routes with that counrty.