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Published: July 27th 2011
Ahhhhh a trip behind the iron curtain of my youth ... that place which held such a mystique in my teens when the cold war was just starting to melt and the thought of marching around Red Square in a furry hat was unimaginable! Take one crazy Canadian, one willing Aussie, throw in a long Easter weekend and that unimagined dream became a present day reality from which Russia may never recover!!
When Miss Dan asked me if I wanted to pop over to Russia for a long Easter weekend I didn't have to think about it ... I jumped at the chance. From the first email to Russia to get 'invited' to visit (internet is a wonderful thing) to the visit to the Russian Visa centre where I was practically jumping for joy at the thought of a little Russian jaunt, to a bit of concern over suicide bombings on the metro (although we figured there was probably no safer time to visit) the build up was almost as exciting as going.
Eveyone talked Moscow down before I went and even now I'm back, but I thought it rocked. Maybe it was the company, the fact we were
staying across the road from Red Square in a dodgy hostel, maybe it was just the Russianness of it, but I really liked Moscow.
Red Square was the centre of our trip and as we were staying so close to we visited at least twice a day for the colours of the day and the lights of the night. Red Square was a highlight in itself with St Basil's Cathedral at one end with it's colourful fairy tale spires and Kazan Cathedral at the other. St Basil is amazing on the outside, but the inside is where it's at. In keeping with Russian Orthadox decorative style, the walls and ceilings are covered with art. We didn't go into Kazan, but the external is beautifully restored and it holds its own when lit up at night.
Also on the Square are Lenin's Mausoleum which I had to visit having popped in to see Ho Chi Min when I was in Vietnam (only Mao to go). They must have had a job lot on the architecture and certainly did on the philosophy, with both Lenin and Uncle Ho never wanting to be stuffed and put on display. The drill in
both is the same, walk in don't stop, don't speak, don't take pictures, don't smile ... and with an armed guard at every turn you find yourself shuffling past looking at the waxen countenance of the preserved leader.
Behind the Mausoleum are the walls to the Kremlin which we breached with a trip through the Hermitage and around the grounds. As long as you stick to the designated paths you are fine, but if you step off expect to face the wrath of the whistle blowing (but still armed) guards. As a contrast you have to visit the GUM Department store on the other side of the square, an architecturally stunning building which when we were there was filled with overblown spring decorations.
We did manage to drag ourselves away from the Square to spend half a day running around the Metro system to see the chandeliers, decorations, art and mosaics and another half day treking to Izmaylovo Market ('just like Disneyland' eh Dan). This place is your classic Russian souvenir market, full of old posters, tacky souvenirs, fur hats and original 'art'. Tacky, completely overpriced, but well worth a visit ... haggle people ... haggle!
wise the highlight of the trip was a visit to Cafe Pushkin one of the finer establishments in Moscow. Save on accommodation and splurge on food has always been my philosophy and it was well worth it. We enjoyed classic Russian fare, Georgian wine and excellent service by the slightly bemused/amused waiters ... me thinks we may have been having too good a time for this refined establishment. The best bit ... 'dessert in the shape of the book' ... tasty and in the shape of a book with Pushkins head on it, what more could a girl want in Russia?
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