WORLD CUP FEVER

After a bitter defeat for England on Wednesday evening, Croatia have claimed their place in the FIFA World Cup™ Final and will fight France for the title on Sunday 15th July at 18:00 local time.

The match will take place in one of our favourite Russian cities, at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. The stadium was originally built to host the Spartakiad in 1956, an international sports event sponsored by Soviet Union to rival the Olympics. Since opening a number of major events have been held here, including the Summer Olympics in 1980. It is the largest football venue in Russia and one of the biggest in Europe, hosting over 3,000 matches so far.

For most of the last century, Moscow was not only the capital of Russia but the centre of world Communism, as well as the political and economic centre of all the Soviet Union Republics. Although records show that the area was inhabited in Neolithic times, the first mention of Moscow (Moskva in Russian) was in 1147 when a fort was built beside the Moskva river. A city grew and a major trading centre was established here. Soon it became the most important city in Russia and its capital until 1712 when Peter the Great transferred it to his new city of St Petersburg. Moscow became the capital once more in 1918 when Lenin transferred it back again after the civil war. In September of 1997 the city celebrated its 850th anniversary, undergoing a considerable face lift under the auspices of Moscow’s progress Mayor, Yury Luzhkov.

However, the appearance of the city centre is a result of massive reconstruction instituted by Stalin in the 1930s that resulted in the demolition of much of Moscow’s historic heart. Old, historic landmarks were replaced with monumental stone government buildings that included the seven Stalin Gothic (or wedding cake) style buildings. These were slowly allowed to deteriorate during the Soviet rule but fortunately were not demolished.

The Soviet flag flew over the city for the last time on 25th December 1991, and since then Moscow has been transformed. Beautiful pre-Revolutionary buildings that had been allowed to fall into disrepair under the Soviet system are being lovingly restored to their former glory. Of the many buildings completed, three have re-opened as luxury hotels and are well worth seeing: The Savoy, Metropol and National, all of which are situated near the Bolshoi Theatre and Red Square.

The Moscow Kremlin (which means fortress) is the centre of Moscow and of Russian politics. A large, walled castle situated on Borovitsky Hill, the Kremlin is the former home of the Tsars and the seat of Russian Government – dating mainly from the 15th century, although the first wooden fort was built on the site in 1150. The Cathedral of the Assumption, built in 1479, was used for the coronation of the Tsars and the Cathedral of the Archangel, completed in 1509, was used for burying them – 46 Tsars were laid to rest within its walls. Also inside the Kremlin walls stands the Armoury, Russia’s oldest museum and one of its most impressive. Built in the 18th century and surrounded by 800 captured Napoleonic cannons, the Armoury Museum contains a display of jewels and court regalia, armour and weapons from the Romanov dynasty. In Hall 3 is the Great Siberian Easter Egg – one of the finest Imperial Easter eggs made by Carl Faberge ́, which contains a clockwork train with gold engine and coaches.

St Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square is perhaps the most recognisable symbol of Russia. The Square owes its origins to Ivan III, the Great Prince of Muscovy, who in the late 15th century ordered all buildings to be removed from the eastern wall of the Kremlin to use the square for trading. Red Square had several names: Market, Trinity and Fire (after the great fire of 1571). From 1918-1920 all traders were banned from the Square and in the early 1960s all traffic was banned with Red Square becoming a pedestrian area. St Basil’s was created between 1555 and 1561 to celebrate Ivan the Terrible’s taking of the Tatar stronghold of Kazan on 1st October 1552. Legend has it that Ivan, upon its completion, had the architect blinded so that he could never build anything as beautiful again.

There is so much to explore in Moscow, which is why so many travellers add it to their bucket list and why it is a consistent favourite on our Trans-Siberian tours throughout the year. Learn more about the fascinating places you can visit aboard our train on the world's greatest railway journey by clicking the link below.

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