Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

LETTER VIII.

Journey to Moscow-Bad roads-River Medveditza-Origin of its

name-Arrival at Moscow-The Kremlin-Condition of the cityIvan Veliki — The imperial palace — Ancient apartments of the Russian princesses — The great bell — The holy gate - The Exercise House--Intention of proceeding southwards.

Moscow, October 10th, 1837. We arrived here late last Friday night, after a journey from Yaroslav, which the state of the roads rendered extremely fatiguing and disagreeable. A new line of road is in progress, but is not yet completed, and the old road is in the meantime utterly neglected. We started on Thursday morning in a hard frost, which still continues, but which had been preceded by very heavy rain ; during the wet weather the mud had become very deep, and had been much cut up by wheels, while it was now as hard as stone, and rougher than any ploughed field, so that in many places it was difficult to find a practicable track for the carriage. Occasionally the two wheels on one side would break through the crust of ice, and plunge into a hole so

deep, that I thought it impossible we could recover our equilibrium, and I hardly thought we could get here without being upset. However, no accident occurred, thanks to the skill and care of the istvostchiks, who now and then left the high road for several versts at a time, and drove us along mere tracks through fields and woods. In one of the latter, the path being somewhat narrow, a young birch-tree, of about the thickness of a man's leg, got caught between the wheel and the body of the carriage, and was brought to the ground with a crash; no harm, however, was done, though I was rather alarmed at first by the idea that the carriage itself, and not the tree had suffered.

The road, on leaving Yaroslav, lay, for nearly a mile along a causeway, twenty or thirty feet high, across a low flat. A small river, called the Medveditza, flows here into the Volga; and, until the causeway was made, all communication was cut off between the two sides, except with boats, at the period of the annual floods; for, when the snow melts, and the ice breaks up, the rivers overflow to a great height, and cover the low ground. The Medveditza was so named by an ancient Prince, in commemoration of his having killed a bear single-handed, at the spot where it joins the Volga; meilved, in Russian, signifying a bear. The arms of the province and town appear to commemorate the same event, since they consist of a bear carrying a battle-axe. Be

tween Yaroslav and Moscow the country is much finer than any part of Russia I have yet seen.

About a hundred versts hence we passed a wood of tolerably large oak trees, but we met with no oaks afterwards. We reached a town half-way, called Periaslav, about half-past nine at night;, and as we could not travel in the dark, in consequence of the state of the road, we remained there till day-light, sleeping upon a sofa and some chairs, wrapped up in our cloaks; for, although we got a warm and clean room in the inn, beds were a luxury not to be met with, most Russian travellers, as I have already told you, carrying their own with them.

We were in the carriage again by five o'clock the next morning; but, from the state of the road, we did not reach the gates of Moscow till half-past twelve at night. Here my passport was shown, and we were immediately admitted, and found ourselves, with no small degree of satisfaction, traversing the streets of the ancient city, which were dimly lighted and empty, and through which we drove for more than an hour before we reached our journey's end. We are lodged in my father-in-law's house, which is empty and dismantled, the family being in the country; however, we make ourselves tolerably comfortable during our short stay, and we spend, as you may suppose, most of our time abroad.

M— has, fortunately, a married sister living

[ocr errors]

here, who, with her husband, has been very kind in going about with us to see the sights, and to act as interpreter.

The first step to take on the morning after our arrival, was to engage a carriage, and we have a very neat and comfortable chariot with four horses, for about thirteen shillings a day. It arrives at whatever time we order in the morning, and remains at our disposal till we come home, as late as we please at night, standing whenever we are not using it, in the court-yard ; the horses being fed when necessary with nose-bags, but never entering a stable, or being taken off the carriage all day.

We went first to visit the relations whom I have mentioned, who live at some distance on the further side of the river Moskva. I was not aware that we should pass near the Kremlin on our way, and the view of it, which burst upon us unexpectedly, on reaching the bridge, was, by far, the most striking thing of the kind I ever saw. The Kremlin stands in the middle of the city on an elevation, the base of which is circled by white Tartar walls, and washed on one side by the river. The mount itself is covered by most picturesque buildings of various forms, churches, arsenals, palaces, and towers; while upwards of thirty gilt cupolas of various sizes, and at various heights, shoot up, and stand in relief against the sky, giving an oriental appearance to the scene, which, on my first introduction to it was not a little enhanced

in beauty by the clear blue sky, and the bright hue which shone on the water and on the gilded roofs.

The following day being Sunday we attended service in the English church, which is plain but neatly fitted up; the congregation was small and scanty; however the attendance is, no doubt, better in winter when the town is full. In the afternoon we went to dine with an aunt of M-'s, who lived at the very further side of the town, so that the drive served to give me a very fair idea of the extent of Moscow; it was, in fact, a complete journey to the lady's house, which, though within the gates, was almost in the country, since there were three or four acres of land attached to it. On the outskirts of the city may still be seen a few ruined houses, which have never been rebuilt since the French invasion. In general, however, Moscow exhibits no signs of the devastation which then took place, though the scattered manner in which it is built, and the number of fine houses, which are no longer inhabited, or kept up by their possessors, give a certain air of desertion to the town, and impress one with the feeling that its glory is departed. The ancient glory of Moscow has, indeed, taken wings for Petersburg; but it is said, that although yearly more and more deserted by the courtly and fashionable, it is gradually rising into increased prosperity as a commercial and manufacturing town.

We have driven in various directions about the

« ForrigeFortsett »