I escaped the rains in Korea to “enjoy” off-and-on drizzle in Russia. But really the sprinkles were barely a blip on my radar and on the amazing start of my time an an unabashed tourist in Russia.
I decided that since I was awake at 6am (I can hear the gasps and shock of those who know me well) and starving, I should get a decent breakfast and hot chocolate. I had a quiet laugh to myself when the lady at the cafe told me that she made sure to put 3 sugars in my hot chocolate and when it finally filtered through my sluggish brain I shuddered and braced myself for the extremely high and unneeded amount of sugar in my hot chocolate. The very first thought through my mind after I first my sip was that I couldn’t believe that there was only 3 sugars and I couldn’t taste a single grain of sugar. And then I remembered that I was in Europe and hot chocolate isn’t sugary like in Korea. And then I was happy.
I was able to see Lenin’s Tomb on the side of the Red Square, it was interesting how much security was around his tomb. I had to check my camera…almost a dollar (20 rubles) to check my camera before I could go see Lenin. And the security guy took even more time to check my purse because he didn’t believe that I didn’t have a cell phone. It’s a beautiful tribute to a man who I think genuinely loved his country and tried to do something, extremely drastic yes, to help right some of the glaring wrongs that were not only being committed but encouraged by the tsarist system. But the system that he helped make had its own glaring problems of its own.
In my brain I understand that the Kremlin was big, but it didn’t hot me how big until I saw it in person. I think at least two Smithsonians could fit in the Kremlin. All of the churches that were open to the public had frescos and paintings that were extremely old and sensitive to camera flashes, so obviously I didn’t take any photos but I did buy a book (surprise!) with beautiful photos of each church.
The best moment was when I walked into the Church of the Archangel Michael and upon seeing the gorgeous icons (completely restored) and the presenceof God, I just stood still, jaw dropped until the old woman in charge of ticket checking told me to move because I was blocking the door and other people couldn’t come in.
And the runner-up moment was several Japanese tourists were asking the Kremlin guards to pose for photos and the kept on saying no to the tourist. So before I asked my question about where something was, they would say, “No photo.” And after I assured them that I had a definite tourist question, they were more than willing to help me out.
After about the first hour of wandering around the Red Square I got used to my mouth constantly hanging open in wonder and awe at all the beautiful things surrounding the area. Oh and Augsburg, Germany, I knew nothing of it before I went to Russia, but based on the two exhibits that I saw in Moscow, especially the metalwork exhibit, it’s now on my list of places to visit.
Right outside the Kremlin, there is the Russian Tomb of the Unknown Solider. It was a beautiful tribute to those who given their lives for their country and sadly there’s not a way at the moment to figure out who it is.
There’s this great deal that if you buy a ticket for the State History Museum and St. Basil’s for the same day, you can get both for 330 rubles ($11). One thing that I think that Russia has done very well is to acknowledge its communist roots/history. So many countries around the world like to pretend away the more negative parts of their history as “tiny blips” or as the fault of someone else’s fault. St. Basil’s Cathedral was extremely gorgeous, on the outside it’s somewhat a mess of colors, but on the inside it’s an unbelievable collection of frescos, icons, and goldwork. There was this choir – an all men’s Russian choir – that performed int he biggest chamber on the second floor and they were awesome, so of course, I didn’t have enough money to buy their CD. 😦
For lunch I had some olive cheese bread and tea from Gym across the Red Square and I don’t think that anything else could have been better.
Dinner was the lovely Cafe Botanika, which would be my weekly hangout if I actually lived in Moscow.