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Published: August 6th 2007
So I did. Nico now carrying as he had plenty of space in rucksack.
Arrive in Moscow after 18 hour train journey, exactly on time. Shocked at the lack of delays - would just not be acceptable in England. Again, the weather is fantastic. We successful negotiate the metro, with me speaking Russian like a native (paddy), drop off the bags in Sweet Arbat hostel (v nice, great welcome, fab location on Moscows main street), and dash across the city to complete my world tour of stuffed former communist leaders. Lenin is on display in his mausoleum on Red Sq until 1pm on Thursdays and having just made it in time to see him, I have to say in terms of presentation he is the clear winner of the 3 (Chairman Mao and Uncle Ho being the competition). Walking down the steps into his crypt you are plunged into almost total darkness. As your eyes adjust to the dim light you realise that you are nose to nose with a stoney faced Russian guard. Leaping back and squealing in horror is frowned upon, as I soon discover. Lenin himself is remarkably well preserved and filing past his poor body was a strangely moving experience. Keeping him in this state is against his own wishes and
V original pose at St Basils
Glad that the kindly passerby who took this picture managed to cut off the top of the cathedral.
there is talk of giving him the decent burial he requested, next to his mothers grave. However Yeltsin's attempt to do this was met with uproar so he will remain in Red Square for the foreseeable future.
We stumble out of the mausoleum and continue along the Kremlin wall, passing the carved stone heads of former leaders including Stalin and Brezhnev. Red Square is immense, with St Basils and the State History Museum squaring up to each other at opposite ends and at the sides the GUM designer department faces towards the Kremlin wall. The sqare was originally a market, and the 'Red' comes from a corruption of an earlier name, meaning beautiful. It is certainly dramatic - for me thoughts of the past colour the beauty.
St Basils is the maddest looking thing ever. Just waiting for Willy Wonka to come sliding down the roof with a handful of lollipops. I love it, in all its madness.
Outside the Statue History musuem a pair of arestingly realistic Lenin and Stalin lookalikes are hanging around waiting for tourist photo ops. Next to them is a sad sight. 2 little monkeys, already half dead, wearing hand-knitted pink woolly
jumpers are tossed between a few men touting also for tourist photo trade. In addition to the tragic monkeys, a pair of huge live eagles chained to a stand, and a queue of people waiting to get their picture taken.
We decide to spend the evening as we usually would in London on a Thursday - at the opera. We get some tickets for the Bolshoi, get spruced up (brush hair, Nico possibly changes socks) and settle down for some high-brow fun. The opera, entitled Boris Godunov, is roughly based on the trials and tribulations of Boris himself, defacto Russian regent from 1584 to 1598 and then tsar from 1598 to 1605. He was appointed by Ivan the Terrible on his deathbed as part of a council to guide the tsars son, Feodor. Ivan had another son, Dmitri, who subsequently met a suspicious end.
The sets are incredible - from the tsar's palace to a shadowy monastery to forest scenes and a country inn each is utterly convincing and beautiful too. Specially like the Russian Orthodox priest costumes too. Fabulous. The whole thing is sung in Russian with English subtitles on two wee tv screens at the sides
of the stage. The story drags towards the end (15 minute deathbed scene - get on with it!) and the ending itself is as terrible as Ivan himself. Still, I enjoy it overall and am more than happy to taste some Russian champagnskoya at half time- very sweet and bubbly. Amazingly, it gets the Frenchman's approval too.
Moscow day 2 and a trip round the Kremlin is on the cards. Golden onion dome cathedrals with magnificent frescos and icons are definitely worth a visit, although bit disappointed that there is no information/museum/anything on Russian government or politics. Don't expect Putin himself to show us around, but would a minister have been too much to ask? We have our second encounter with Boris G as we see the church where he was crowned tsar. Back through Red Square we pass at least 10 brides and grooms lining up to get their pictures taken at the Eternal Flame on our way to the Moscow River where we take a boat in the direction of Gorky park. It's a very nice trip, past the Kremlin, Peter the Great statue, many churches and huge dramatic soviet style buildings and my favourite, the chocolate
Outside old Lubyanka prison
Street decoration for Victory Day - celebrated on 9th May
factory. Bit surprised when a large Russian lady decides to sit pretty much on my knee for part of the journey on the otherwise empty boat but decide it must be a Russian thing and smile pleasantly. We have a Scorpions moment as the park comes into view, even doing the whistling bit for our Ru. We decide to walk back to the city centre along the river side with the intention of stopping off to visit the supposedly fabulous sculture park filled with soviet era statues. This proves to be a serious and exhausting mission but bolstered by many icecreams and a sausage-on-a-stick for Nico we keep going, determined to find it. Have many interesting converstaions in Russian with random passersby who are very surprised and amused by my strange and unusual accent - still no sculpture park. Eventually, knackered, we find it. Hurray! Costs about 4 quid each to get in but we happily hand it over, really looking forward to getting inside. Walk through several sections of animal sculptures and round things, walk through some more filled with the entwined couples so often lovingly recreated in poundstretcher shops throughout Europe. Disillusion sets in. We see one cool
Intellectual Nico at the Bolshoi opera
The first of our many encounters with Tsar Boris Godunov who seems to have some connection with everything we do in Russia.
Lenin head and a couple of Stalins and that's our lot. Get out fast and swear vengance on the guidebook that sent us there.
Mad trip back on rush hour metro to pick up our bags and some supplies for the trip (carrot salad, russian-style laughing cow cheese triangles for moi, sausage and caviar for the monsieur) then off to Yaroslavsky station for the 20:25 to Ekaterinburg.
Really enjoyed our time in Moscow. Would definitely like to come back as, as always, so much more stuff to see and do. V surprised at generally friendly attitude of people in shops, stations, on the streets. Not what I was expecting at all. Goddam stereotypes.. Also missed out on that 2 ft russian doll that Nico refused to let me buy (but it has 30 - 30! - small dolls inside!) so will be back to pick it up😊
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