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Rybny lane, or Fish Lane, runs parallel with the adjacent Khrustalny or Crystal Lane. It joins Birzhevaya or Stock-Market Square with Ilyinka Street and the Znamensky Monastery on Varvarka.
It's not hard to guess that the street-name here came from the fish-stalls which sprang up here in the C18th and early C19th. But back in the C17th it had been called Vvedensky Lane, because of the Vvedensky, or Church of the Holy Mother's Calling, which used to stand here. The lane seems to be a small connection between the facades of two great Merchant Halls, New and Old. There's something not quite Muscovite about this short straight little Fish Street, like a gully – always choc-a-bloc with cars, yet without any people passing at all.
Fish has always held pride of place on the Russian table. Fried, steamed, smoked or dried. Fish soup, fish pasties or a grand pie with fish – these were always the highlights of any Russian tavern menu in the C19th. Favourite dishes would feature different kinds of sturgeon, salmon, chub salmon, whitefish or sterlet. Live fish would be brought in barrels from as far as Lake Baikal in Siberia, and there's a famous story of scientist Mikhail Lomonosov running away from his village home in a fish barrel. The Russian attitude to fish-eating is nicely illustrated in this old tale from the C19th. “The other day Stroganov was treating his friend Alexander Lvovich to a lovely meal, when a fire broke out in the house. The police galloped as quick as they could, and everyone was panicking. But Alexander Lvovich kept his head, and shouted with all his might - “Save the sterlet and the whitefish!”.
Kitay-gorod is one of the oldest parts of Moscow. It appeared nearby the old wooden Kremlin. Although the name translates as “Chinatown,” it probably derives from kita (wattle), referring to the wall that surrounded this early Kremlin suburb. Today, remains of an old city wall and colorful churches are scattered throughout this ancient neighborhood.
The stone walls were erected in the 16th century by an Italian architect known under the name Petrok Maly and originally featured 13 towers and six gates. They were as thick as they were high. The last of the towers were demolished in the 1930s, but small portions of the wall still stand. One of two remaining parts of the wall is located in Zaryadye and the other near the exit from the Okhotny Ryad station of Moscow Metro behind the Hotel Metropol.
Kitay-gorod starts at Red Square. Apart from Red Square, the quarter is bordered by the chain of Central Squares of Moscow, notably Theatre Square (in front of Bolshoi Theatre), Lubyanka Square (in front of the KGB headquarters), and Slavyanskaya Square.
Since time immemorial Kitay-gorod has been developing as a trading area. And for centuries it was known as the most prestigious business area of Moscow. Its three main streets — Varvarka, Ilyinka, and Nikolskaya — are lined with banks, shops, and storehouses. There are also lots of historical buildings that relate to the heritage of the federal and global importance now.
In our tour you will walk along Nikolskaya Street that is famous for being the site of Moscow's first university, the Slavic Greek Latin Academy, housed in extant Zaikonospassky monastery (1660s). Another monastery cathedral, the main church of Epiphany Bogoyavlensky Monastery (1690s), is the oldest male monastery in Moscow, stands in the middle of Kitay-gorod in the eponymous Bogoyavlensky Lane. The 18th century survives in the exterior walls of the otherwise rebuilt Gostiny Dvor (Guest Merchant's Court) by Giacomo Quarenghi.
A whole quarter of Kitay-gorod adjacent to the Moskva River and known as Zaryadye (now just Varvarka Street) was demolished in the 20th century, sparing only those structures that were classified as historic monuments. These include the Cathedral of the Sign (1679–84), the Church of All Saints (1680s), St. George's Church on Pskov Hill (1657), St. Maksim's Church (1698), St. Anna's Church at the Corner (1510s), St. Barbara's Church (1796–1804), the Old English Embassy (1550s), and the 16th century Romanov boyar residence. The two last are the museums. You can visit them to see the life of the first Romanovs in the 16-17th centuries.