Friday, September 14, 2012

02 August 2012 Moscow, Russian Federation Walk by the Mosk-wa / Down to Gorky Park/ And listen to the Winds In Moscow! I had not expected this before, but I really this city so far – it is super-expensive, even compared to London, but there's so much to see and do here that don't require admission fees that you could easily cruise around all day, not spend a rouble and still have a good time. My friends Jason and Madeline and myself arrived at 10:00am. After a couple hours' worth of orienting ourselves to the new city, figuring out the metro system, picking up train tickets for the next step of the journey, we left the Kievska train station and found our hostel in the Kitai Gorod (literally “China Town” in Russian) neighborhood of the city. Conveniently, this district is only a few blocks away from Red Square and the Kremlin, so we dropped off our things at the hostel and made like good tourists to goof around in the former heart of the USSR. Nowadays the Red Square is far less solemn and forbidding than during Soviet times (where, according to a professor of mine who had gone there in 1970s, people would only whisper and never go there unless for official reasons), so you can take as many goofy photos as you'd like. The Kremlin is still the active seat of Russian national government, so there are limits, but they are surprisingly accepting of tourists. On that day, Red Square and the surrounding parks were full of ex-paratroopers! It turns out that the 2nd of August is Russian Paratroopers' Day (In Russia and many former Soviet countries, many professions have their own national holidays), so there were tons of Russian veterans singing patriotic songs, drunkenly trying to march io the rhythm of accordianss, and swimming in the fountains. I didn't see harassment, but it definitely was a strange sight. After a short lunch, we met with the Rifes' Russian acquaintance, Vladimir. The Rifes met Vlad on a train trip in Ukraine, where they bonded quickly over American Civil War history (Turns out Vlad is a fan of Gone with the Wind), and he insisted that he meet us in central Moscow and give us an action-packed walking tour of the city. And what a tour it was! There is so much history in Moscow that it overlaps and forms sendiments. Technically, Kyiv is much older than Moscow, but so many historical events have happened here in recorded history, or at least historians tend to focus on the little on the banks of the Moskva river. Every few steps, Vlad would stop us and describe (in fine English) some otherwise unseen plaque that survived from Tsarist times, or a building that housed the first printing press in Russia, or an ancient Old Belivers' Church hidden beside a modern walking bridge. There was simply too much to absorb in a day, so go look at these pictures:

Church of Christ the Savior. This church was destroyed by the Soviet government in the 1940s (Lavrenti Beria, the most feared and despised leader of the NKVD/KGB ever, personally pushed the detonator). The foundation was refitted as a swimming pool, and so it remained until the 1990s, when a new church was built over it.

Red Square at night. Behind us is the Church of the Holy Shroud, which is popularly known as St. Basil's Cathedral.

I know I always write this, but it still comes true: More coming soon. Today is Romny Day and I have forms to finish, a grant application to write, and two families to visit. It's going to a be glorious Saturday. So I hope you all have a good weekend, wherever you are, and happy trails!