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Published: October 9th 2007
I've never seen so many uniforms as in Russia, in particular Moscow. This place is packed with policemen. The uniforms are green, black, blue, camouflaged, you name it. They're everywhere, sometimes blowing whistles to let you know you've done something wrong, sometimes canoodling with their girlfriends in dark alleyways, and mostly, just standing around looking serious. Good if you have a fetish for uniforms, I suppose!
I arrived in Moscow on Saturday night, after a swift visit to Dostoevsky's grave in St Petersburg with Elena, a new friend, and a 6-hour trip from St Petersburg on a relatively modern train. As I exited from the train, my fellow passengers and I were welcomed by a jubilant and triumphant hymn blaring from the platforms loudspeakers - a soundtrack accentuated with the clanking of vodka glasses and the joyful sounds of many a family reunion. I was met by what can only be described as the Armenian embodiment of Bela Lugosi on the train station. He is wonderful, with huge rolling 'rrrrrrrrr's', deep piercing eyes and a black briefcase, and he navigated me through the city whilst swearing loudly at the police, near-crashing a couple of times, to my new abode at
a Russian babushka's apartment in the North-West of Moscow. It's a nice place, near a big park, and I continue to be amazed about the street markets dominated by the babushkas selling their wares near the metro stations.
Moscow is an impressive place. It's been raining pretty much non-stop since I got here, apart from Sunday afternoon, when I visited Red Square and the Kremlin. Now, I am not easily impressed by so-called tourist sights, but Red Square really is impressive. The place is *huge*, and nothing quite prepares you for the first sight of St Basil's Cathedral. It's like something out of 1001 nights, extremely beautiful and enchanting. I read somewhere that it was commissioned by Ivan the Terrible, and that he was so pleased with the results that he had the architect's eyes put out, so that he could not reproduce something so excellent elsewhere! Inside the Kremlin, Cathedral Square is really wonderful, too. As you can probably guess, it consists of a number of extra-ordinary Cathedrals with ornate, gilded domes and elaborate artwork, both outside and inside. It was a lovely, windy October afternoon, with very few tourists around, and it was nice to be able
to stroll around leisurely in the vast space and adjacent gardens. I have some great pictures but I can't connect my camera to this computer, so I'll have to upload them next time.
I simply love the Russian language. I love it when Russians speak Russian, but I love it even more when they speak English. I picked up a tourist magazine in a bookshop the other day and was greatly charmed by the writing. Here is some advice from Yuri Luzkhov, the city's mayor: 'Please keep your distance from the overcrowded places, be cautious with the abandoned things and boxes, and you may not fear!' or 'Finally, we have come to speak about the street thieves. Don't keep any precious things in the hand and carry your bags under the armpits!'
Today I visited the post office to send a small packet to Germany. I was surprised to learn that you have to keep big letters and packets open in Russia so that the postal staff can inspect what you are sending before approving it and sealing the parcel elaborately and ceremoniously!
Another stunning thing about Moscow are the metros. Constructed in the 1930's, they are
architectural marble masterpieces, complete with the biggest chandeliers I have ever seen, gilded and colourful mosaics and statues. They look more like palaces or opera houses than metro stations. However, I am getting weary of being in big cities - tired of the noise, the speed and the many people. I am looking forward to leaving for Siberia this evening - I am taking the Transsiberian Railway tonight from Moscow, a four-day trip to Irkutsk in Siberia.
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