THE GREAT AMERICAN VACATION
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Few places in the world possess the historic resonance of the Kremlin, the walled ancient heart of Moscow and the oldest part of the city. The first wooden structure was erected on this site some time in the 12th century. As Moscow grew, the city followed the traditional pattern of Russian cities, developing in concentric circles around the elevated fortress at its center (kreml means "citadel"
or "fortress"). After Moscow emerged as the center of a vast empire in the late 15th century, the Kremlin came to symbolize the mystery and power of Russia, as it has ever since. Before the black-suited men of the Bolshevik Revolution took over, tsars were ceremoniously crowned and buried here. In the 20th century the Kremlin became synonymous with the Soviet government, and "Kremlinologists," Western specialists who studied the movements of the politicians in and around the fortress, made careers out of trying to decipher Soviet Russian policies. Much has changed since the Soviet Union broke up, but the Kremlin itself remains mysteriously alluring. A visit to the ancient Kremlin grounds reveals many signs of the old—and new—Russian enigma.
You can buy tickets for the Kremlin grounds and cathedrals at the two kiosks at the base of the Kutafya Tower in Alexander Garden (Aleksandrovsky Sad). Tickets, which cost 350R, grant you access to all the churches and temporary exhibits within the Kremlin. Tickets to the Armory Chamber (Oruzheynaya Palata) and Diamond Fund (Almazny Fond) cost extra (700R and 500R, respectively); you can buy them at the kiosks or at the entrances to these buildings. Tickets for the Diamond Fund are limited in number and are sold 1½ hours before the four showings each day. Between April and October tickets are also available for a changing-of-the-guard ceremony, which takes place on Saturday at noon. Ignore scalpers selling tickets. Keep in mind that you need to buy a 50R ticket if you wish to take pictures with your camera, and that video cameras aren't allowed. All heavy bags must be checked for about 60R at the kamera khraneniya, which is in Alexander Garden, to the right down and behind the stairs from the ticket kiosks.
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There are three ancient monasteries along the banks of the Moskva River, in the southeast section of Moscow. They date to Moscow's earliest...