Robin's Adventures

Central and Eastern Europe
An Adventure Steeped in History

Cathedral of the Annunciation

The Cathedral of the Annunciation served as the personal chapel for the tsars and the Russian royal family until early in the twentieth century.

The current cathedral was built in 1489 on the ruins of several previous cathedrals that had occupied the same spot. Over the years the building has been modified, altered, added to, and renovated numerous times.

Perhaps the most interesting modification to the building was the addition of a porch for Tsar Ivan the Terrible to stand on during services. The church looked the other way when Ivan married the first three times, but when he married for the fourth time, they would no longer allow him to come into the church.

Ivan the Great Bell Tower

The bell tower, which at 266 feet was the tallest building in Russia for over 400 years, was built in 1508 because several of the churches in cathedral square of the Kremlin lacked their own bell towers.

Today, there are 22 bells in the tower. There are 4 large bells at the top and 18 smaller bells.

Kemlin Grounds

There is a beautiful park area with a formal garden within the walls of the Kremlin. In addition, a helipad was added in 2013 by President Vladimir Putin so that presidential motorcades will not disrupt local traffic in the city.

Jewish History Museum

The Jewish History Museum attempts to depict the life of Jews in Russia in the 19th and 20th centuries. The exhibits incorporate a great deal of modern technology, including videos, holograms (the woman lighting the candle is a hologram), and interactive computer activities. Most exhibits are in English as well as Russian.

Jewish Community Center

This synagogue, which started as a small wooden structure, was first built in 1926. After it was badly burned in a fire during 1993, a large seven story Jewish Community Center was built to take its place.

The current building has a synagogue, a library, sports hall, men's and women's mikvah, meeting rooms, and a kosher restaurant.

Russian Dining

While in Moscow, we ate a wide variety of food that was in many ways similar to what we might eat at home when dining in a nice restaurant. There were, however, a couple of noteworthy items that struck our fancy.

The waiter at breakfast wanted to be sure we tried a Russian pancake because, he assured us, there is nothing like it anywhere else in the world. It turned out, however, to be a blintz.

We also enjoyed Chicken Kiev for dinner one evening in a small restraunt across from Red Square.

Onward to Warsaw

We boarded an Aeroflot plane in Moscow and two hours later we were in Warsaw, Poland. The Bristol Hotel was our home base while we visited Warsaw.

The elevator signs in the Polish hotels were very amusing to us. The word \"windy\" means elevator or lift in Polish.

The Royal Castle

The Royal Castle, which provided personal offices and a residence for Polish kings, currently sits in Castle Square near the entrance to old town.

Like much of Warsaw, the castle was almost completely destroyed during World War II. Before the Nazis managed to burn and loot, much of the parquet floors, paneling, marble, sculptures, stone fireplaces and moldings, as well as some of the valuable artifacts and furniture were removed. Following the Warsaw Uprising, in 1944, Hitler had the demolished building dynamited.

The Castle was rebuilt after the war following plans for the original design. Some of the original building materials, furniture, and artifacts were returned and other works of art from the period were donated by Polish residents and by governments of other nations.

Old Town Square

Old Town Square is a charming area surrounded by restaurants, shops, and cafes. The architecture of the buildings is medieval and many are uniquely decorated. The square is bustling with activity both day and night.

None of the buildings, however, are completely original. Much of this area was badly damaged by the German Luftwaffe during the 1939 invasion of Poland and anything left standing was systematically blown up after the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.

Following the war, the area was reconstructed using paintings and architectural drawings that showed the original design and appearance of the buildings. Workers sifted through the rubble and replaced usable bricks or decorative elements in their original places in an attempt to make the reconstruction authentic.

Musical Benches

There are 15 musical benches throughout the city of Warsaw that are devoted to Chopin. Each bench, made of marble and cast iron, is located at a place in the city that is significant to the life of the composer. The benches all play musical excerpts from Chopin's work at the press of a button.

The benches are engraved with facts about the composer, a route map to the other benches, and a QR code that you can use with a smartphone to access other information about Chopin.