This was definately a different destination that didn't quite fit with the other European cities that I had been to. When I was first approached with the idea of going the first thing I said was "WHAT???" my nose crinkled, my eyebrows raised, this is usually the look I give someone when I think they've said something a bit strange...Moscow was a little different from the other travel destination suggestions of Dublin, Athens and Seville...but I thought about it for a minute and said why not...Russia....cool. Of course there were the usual travel annonyances...getting tickets, having the hotel write us an invitation (visa req.), getting visas...and oh yeah terrorist bomb attacks...but despite all of this we got there.
On the drive from the airport my head was turning from one side of the street to the other, trying to take everything in...this was one of the only places that I have ever been where I didn't have any expectations...I had no idea what the city would look like and the only pictures I had seen were of the Kremlin. On the way into the city there are the standard high rise, pre-capitalist apartments...these actually resembled some places back in the States. There were a number of really large streets, 8 - 10 lanes wide, no doubt they were so large because people needed a lot of space, since they didn't really understand the "stay-in-your-own-lane" driving concept. And along the streets there were snack bars (imbiss style), little casinos and small stores....all announcing their wares in flashing flourescents...lovely. This led us to take note of one big difference from Germany....things were open and it was late...and not only are stores open late...but they are also open on Sundays (wow)...definately a sign of a changed economy.
Okay I'll do more random Moscow chat later....let's talk tourist sights.
This is probably one of the most recognized sights of Russia...St.Basil's cathedral, built in the 16th century and commissioned by Ivan the Terrible. The picture above of a ceiling was taken in St.Basil's. Stalin wanted to remove the cathedral because it interferred with parades that led into the Red Square. These days natural causes might cause its demise since lack of maintenance may lead the cathedral to slip into the Moscow River. Rumor has it that Napolean was pretty smitten with this building and wanted to take it apart so he could take it with him to France...I was smitten with it as well since I took at least 7 pictures of this building..out of the corner of my eye I could see my travel partner shaking his head at my picture taking, I just couldn't help it.
So here I am...the Red Square...cool, I thought this was pretty neat, especially when you think about all of the historical events that have taken place here. I decided to play it cool though and left all of my protest banners at home. The building behind me is the state historical museum...I wish this shot was a little wider because if it were you would see behind me, to the left, Lenin's mausoleum and to the right GUM, the huge state department store. One of the things we were really looking forward to seeing was Lenin's masouleum...yeah us and everyone else....kinda strange figuring we were going to see the embalmed body of one of fathers of Russian communism... Anyway let me give you some hints if you want to go see Lenin - you can only go in between 10 and 1 and you've got to find the line to get in...it's right next to the wall of the Kremlin...and find yourself a bag holder (we didn't) no cameras are allowed, no cameras (imagine a Russian accent...oh and this time imagine a soldier saying it to you)...so we saw the mausoleum...but just from the outside...well lesson learned for the next time.
Get me into The Kremlin