After spending approx 1.5 months on the roads, trails and jailoos of Kyrgyzstan - I came to Tajikistan a little bit tired, exhausted and with somewhat 'lighter pockets'. By then, I have already experienced some episodes of traveler's diarrhea, getting ridiculously sick while trekking around Kyrgyzstan's Arslanbob and worst of all - my 'trusty' backpack's suspension system completely fell apart while I was literally out on a limb in southern Kyrgyzstan mountains. Despite this grim introduction - the moment I stood against this massive wall of mountains that separates Kyrgyzstan from Tajikistan, known as the Alay Pamir range - I knew I was heading for the right place. Tajikistan - which has been a dream of mine ever since I pitched my tent on the footsteps of Muztagh Ata, a mountain located about 100 miles to the east in neighboring Xinjiang - was becoming a reality. The sight of 6-7 thousander mountains soaring against dry, desolate deserts is too epic to explain in words. That sight was what drew me in to Tajikistan in begin with and that's also the picture that was left engraved in my head, long after I returned home from the Stans.
There's more to Tajikistan than that, obviously, which is what this post is all about. Most of my trip was focused in the Pamirs, the remote mountainous region found in eastern Tajikistan. Many people choose to cycle the Pamirs or traverse it by a hired car. I opted for going by a mixture of hitching, hiking and the occasional marshrutka (officially - a shared taxi. practically - an old guy passing by in an old private Lada car). As a part-time backpacker, part-time student, my budget was very limited (and that's an understatement) - but even if funds are not a problem for you, I didn't came across too many opportunities to throw your cash around anyway. Tajikistan is not a very hard place to travel in my opinion, and non-trekkers can enjoy this country too, no doubt. However, moving around from place to place is not always easy, the infrastructure is pretty much bare-bones, and the 'backpacker scene' is no where to be seen - so in case you had Thailand in mind, maybe you should save Tajikistan for a later time in your life. Far from being expensive, Tajikistan ain't that cheap either. The remoteness of everything here makes food, gas and everything else that needs to be shipped across the desert, somewhat pricey. All in all - I managed to wander around for a month, spending something between 600$-750$ (excluding my plane ticket back home).
The "high season" in Tajikistan is the summer months of July-August. I traveled during September & October so it's definitely possible to go there during the "shoulder season" but you should know you're risking having a few bad weather days. The biggest disadvantage that comes with travelling in October was the fact that at times, it seemed as there were no other travelers at all left in the country. That can make things difficult for you if you are traveling alone and you are looking for some trekking buddies to join you while you are 'out there'. Unless you are a super-hard-core-rugged tough guy (or your name is Bear Grylls), you would probably want to avoid the winter months - when roads become blocked with heavy snow and temperatures drop to absurd extremes in the Pamirs.
This post ain't going to focus much on the useful practicalities (visa, GBAO permission stamps, bureaucracy issues etc.) but mainly on the non-useful stuff (e.g. my own personal experiences: getting lost in the Shokh Dara valley, getting bitten by a dog in Khorog, meeting a man that was injured by a mine in Javshanguz etc.). I will try to break my ongoing boring blabber with some pictures every once in a while to make things easier for you. Here we go.
#tajikistan #pamirs #budget
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Moscow Kremlin (Moskovsky Kreml) (Московский Кремль):
Attractions: The Kutafiya Tower, The Trinity Tower, The State Kremlin Palace, The Arsenal, The Senate, Tsar Cannon, The Patriarch's Palace, The 12 Apostles' Church, The One-Pillar Chamber, The Archangel's Cathedral, The Ivan-the-Great Bell Tower, Belfry Assumption, The Filaret Annex, The Tsar Bell, The Annunciation Cathedral, The Terem Palace, The Assumption Cathedral, The Faceted Chamber, The Church of Laying Our Lady Holy Robe, The Grand Kremlin Palace, The Secret Tower, The Water-Supplying Tower, The First Nameless Tower, The Armoury Museum, The Diamonds Fund, The Borovitskaya (Saviour) Tower, The Secret Garden, The Tsar Cannon, The Saviour Tower, Alexander Gardens, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Tip 1: General instructions.
Tip 2: from the Kremlin entrance to the the Annunciation cathedral in the Cathedrals' Square (Sobornaya Ploshchad).
Tip 3: from the Faceted Palace or Faceted Chamber in the Cathedrals' Square (Sobornaya Ploshchad) to the Diamonds Fund.
Tip 4: The Armoury Museum.
Tip 5: The Kremlin Gardens, from Spaskaya Tower to Borovitskaya Tower and back to Alexander gardens.
Tip 6: Tourist Hotel Complex "Izmailovo" (Gamma-Delta).
The Moscow Kremlin (Russian: Московский Кремль) is a historic fortified complex at the very heart of Moscow, overlooking the Moskva River (to the south), Saint Basil's Cathedral (often mistaken as the Kremlin) and Red Square (to the east) and the Alexander Garden (Alexandrovsky sad) (to the west). It is the best known of Kremlins (Russian citadels) and includes four palaces, four cathedrals, and the enclosing Kremlin Wall with Kremlin towers. The complex serves as the official residence of the President of Russia. WOW, there is just so much to see and steeped in history - if you're in Moscow you need to take the time to visit !
Transportaion: The nearest subway stations are "Arbatskaya" (Dark Blue line) (see photo below), “Borovitskaya” (Боровицкая) (Grey line), “Biblioteka imeni Lenina” (Red line) and "Alexandrovsky Sad (Light Blue line)". They are all, actually, one big station - subdivided into four stations - according to their correspondent Metro line.
From Arbatskaya station (see photo below) (the Dark Blue line):
Head northeast toward Vozdvizhenka St, 95 m. Turn right onto Vozdvizhenka St, 550 m. You see the Lenin National Library of Russia and Dostoyevsky sculpture in front of it - on your right.
Pass through the subway tunnel and you face the Moscow Kremlin.
From Biblioteka imeni Lenina” (Red line) and "Alexandrovsky Sad (Grey line) - exit to Vozdvizhenka street, pass the tunnel and you face the Moscow Kremlin.
From Borovitskaya (Боровицкая) TO Kutafya tower (the main entrance / Ticket office): From Borovitskaya Metro station head north on Mokhovaya ulitsa (Мохова вул./ул. Моховая) toward Vozdvizhenka street (ул. Воздвиженка) and Biblioteka imeni Lenina Metro station, 500 m. Turn right, pass the tunnel and you face the Moscow Kremlin.
The Kremlin Visitors Centre courtyrad. On the right side are the tickets cashiers:
there is vast garden opposite the tickets cashiers and the visitors centre:
Without online tickets reservation - it might take time to purchase entrance tickets:
• Both of the queues - might be chaotic. The personnel does not speak English.
Opening hours: TOURIST CENTER TICKET OFFICES:10.00 - 17.00. MUSEUM SHOP (Alexander garden): 09.30 to 16.30 except of Thursdays.
May 9 - closed. Note: The Kremlin is sometimes closed to the public during state visits, and other important ceremonies. Check with the Kremlin web site, your hotel or tour guide before you go.
Prices: In the tickets office / Kremlin web site you can buy tickets for: the Kremlin grounds and Cathedrals (500 Rub.), for the Armoury (700 Rub.) and for the Museum of History of the Kremlin architecture in the Ivan the Great Bell-Tower (500 Rub.).
What you CANNOT BUY - either, online or through the tickets office, are the tickets to the famous Diamond Fund (500 RUB/person), the small two-room museum with the Catherine the Great's diamonds crown and the collection of jewelry, biggest ever mined uncut diamonds and platinum and golden nuggets in the country. For that, you'll need to go inside the very building of the Armory Museum and buy tickets right in there in front of the Fund's entrance, because both of the museums are in the same building OR outside the armoury through an outside cashier - a few metres from the Armoury entrance.
Types of tickets:
-Ticket for visiting the architectural complex of the Cathedrals Square and Kremlin grounds (ACTUALLY, THE MAIN ENTRANCE TICKET) - 500 RUB (available online). For persons under the age of 18 the visit to the architectural complex of the Cathedrals Square is free of charge. The ticket for visiting the architectural complex of the Cathedrals Square allows free access to: several museums, cathedrals, the Church of Laying Our Lady’s Holy Robe, the Patriarch's Palace, museums' permanent expositions: "Russian wooden sculpture" in the cloister of the Church of Laying Our Lady's Holy Robe, "Treasures and antiquities of the Moscow Kremlin" in the Annunciation Cathedral, "Ancention convent" in the South annex of the Archangel's Cathedral. Cost of the guided tour (for a group under 20 persons): 4000 RUB.
-Ticket to the Armoury Chamber - 700 RUB (available online). For persons under the age of 18 the visit to the Armoury Chamber is free of charge. Exhibit sessions in the Armoury Chamber start at 10.00, 12.00, 14.30 and 16.30. The Armoury Chamber is open for visitors till 18. 00. Cost of the guided tour (for a group under 20 persons): 4000 RUB. Audio guides in English are available and worth the 150 ruble price tag if you're not with a group.
-Ticket to the Museum of History of the Kremlin architecture in the Ivan the Great Bell-Tower - 500 RUB (available online). NO DISCOUNTS. Exhibit sessions in the Ivan the Great Bell-Tower start at 10.15, 11.30, 13.45, 15.00 and 16.00. Not more than 10 visitors are admitted for one single session. Children under the age of 12 are not permitted to visit the Bell-Tower. You can climb to the top of the the tower - 137 steps.
-Ticket to the Diamonds Fund - 500 RUB. You must have a ticket to the Armoury Museum in advance (on line or purchased in the Tickets booths). NO ONLINE TICKETS - just in the tickets offices. This price is ON TOP of the Armoury Museum ticket. You can enter the Diamonds Fund after entering the Armoury Museum or outside of it. It is a museum into another museum. They don't accept credit card.
Kremlin entrepreneurs recently reintroduced the centuries-old changing of the guard on Cathedral Square -- but for a fee. The elaborate and carefully choreographed ceremony, which involves 12 horses, 45 soldiers in czarist-era uniforms, and the presidential orchestra, is held every Saturday at noon for visitors who pay 700 rubles for a special ticket. In addition to the guard-changing ceremony, the ticket includes tours of the churches on Cathedral Square (but not the Armoury or Diamond Fund).
There are 2 entrances.
Buying tickets through the Automatic (Vending) Machines:
The big white machines are at the farthermost side behind the queuing lines. The first thing you need to know about it - is if the machine is out of tickets. These machines are for locals with Cyrillic instructions. First of all, check out if the top button is sensitive or "clickable". If it is pale and transparent -, the station is out of tickets. Try another machine. Next click the middle one of the three. Next press as many times, the brown button "Увеличить" (more) as many people you want to add to your single ticket chosen by default. Press the button on the bottom-right part of the screen "Далее" (next). Insert the amount of money written on the display - to the narrow green-lit slot on the right (accepts 100, 500 and 1000 RUB, gives change). Count down 25 seconds and take your ticket and change behind the brown glass, above which you actually can see the only thing translated here: Tickets and Cash.
Bags must be deposited at the Left-luggage office just north of main ticket office. The Left-Luggage Office is open daily from 09.00 till 18.30. On the occasion of religious services, held in the Kremlin cathedrals, the Left-Luggage Office is open from 07.30 till 18.30. During cultural events, celebrated in the State Kremlin Palace, luggage can be stored from 09.00 till 23.00. The baggage storage service is provided on presentation of the entrance tickets. The baggage storage service is free of charge. Big bags or backpacks are not allowed inside.
Show your ticket, climb the steps, put your mobile and metal things on the narrow brown table on the right side of the metal detector, your bag on the X-Ray moving belt and yourself through the detector's arch.
Taking photos is forbidden inside the Armoury or the Diamonds Fund. It is allowed into the Cathedrals but without flash.
This routine can be done in any weather - even in sporadic rain day. In case of rain - you miss the Kremlin gardens and, probably, small-scale military parades into the Kremlin territories.
Facilities for tourist inside the Kremlin are very poor. There is a busy WC in the entrance of the Visitors Centre. There is one near the Armoury entrance (near the end of our route). The problem is around the Cathedrals' Square. There you can find a modest WC near the souvenirs shop. You have to pay 30 Rub. for using it. It is always busy and concerned with a long queue of patient-waiting persons.
Just sausages and sandwiches in a sporadic stall(s) here and there. Bring sandwiches and drinks with you.
Allow, at least, 4-5 hours (including the gardens and the armoury). With the Diamonds Fund - allow additional 1-2 hours. Paying for permanent or temporary exhibitions in the Kremlin museums will add 1-2 hours more. With its five palaces, four cathedrals, vast array of governmental sites, the wall, the towers and its gardens - allow 1 day.