Lenin in the flesh!
Moscow Travel Blog› entry 2 of 17 › view all entries
After a good night’s sleep we stroll to the breakfast area of our hotel to discover a buffet with beet salad, cooked beets, baked beets, beet omelet and something that looks like beet smear. Luckily there’s also a small corner that serves food without beet ingredients so that non-Russian folk won’t starve.
Our plan is to take the metro to the Kremlin. Since the Muscovy metro stations are known around the world as beautiful underground palaces, we have highlighted a number of stations we want to visit before we reach our destination.
Armed with a map of the metro system in our Lonely Planet guide, we enter the metro station near our hotel, preparing to do some quick ‘metro hopping’. We’re experienced metro users and practice has taught us that it doesn’t matter in what city you are, London, Paris, Rome, Hamburg or even Shanghai, the metro systems are all ridiculously easy to use.
But once we’ve entered the metro station, we find out that using the metro inMoscowis a whole different ball game. The map in our Lonely Planet guide, on which I highlighted the stations we want to see, only uses the Roman alphabet, while the signs and maps throughout the entire station only use the Cyrillic alphabet. Since it’s a huge ordeal to find out which platform we have to get to in order to use the right metro line and travel in the right direction, we decide to leave the visiting of recommended metro stations to the next day.
We use the map to count the number of metro stations we have to pass until we reach the Kremlin and hope for the best. As soon as we are back on the surface again, we notice that we are not where we are supposed to be.
We are very excited to see the outer walls of the Kremlin, centuries of history are to be seen on the other side of those walls and for some reason it makes me bouncy. I’ve always been mystified by the stories of Russian tsars.
First we have to get some tickets to get beyond those walls though. After some walking around we find a small shack where one very grumpy lady is selling tickets. There’s a line, which is okay, this way we can figure out what kind of ticket we like. There are several options, some tickets give entrance to just about every building on the site, other ones only to the most important sights.
The line for the tickets doesn’t seem to move an inch, because some awful screaming woman keeps barging in, walking straight up to the ticket window and demanding tickets for groups that keep arriving by busses. No matter whose turn it is at the ticket window, she ignores everything and everyone and shouts at the ticket woman. Who then serves her first.
When it’s our turn, I quickly walk up to the window and start ordering the tickets we want. Halfway my sentence the witch comes barging in, trying to interrupt me, but I won’t let her.
During our travels, Rens and I always have this role pattern: when there’s some kind of communication I do the talking since I speak better English (unless we are in conservative Middle Eastern areas, where speaking women are less appreciated), when it comes to calculating, conversions and bargaining, Rens steps in.
This time he tries to push a Russian witch out of the way while I try and order entrance tickets. This would have worked perfectly, were it not that grumpy behind the ticket window is more interested in the witch’s order than ours. It is without any doubt one of the most bizarre situations we’ve ever been in, the only way we would get our tickets in a decent time limit was to be more loud and rude than the obnoxious woman who kept cutting in line. I suppose they thought groups of tourist were more interesting than two individual travelers…
Once we passed the walls and realize we are walking around the legendary Kremlin of Moscow, all is forgotten.
The site of the Kremlin has been continuously inhabited since the second century BC, mainly in the form of a fortress. The word ‘kremlin’ was first recorded in 1331, just before it was rebuilt in oak after the Mongols had destroyed it in 1156. In this period most churches were built within the Kremlin walls, but Stalin destroyed them all in 1933. The churches that can be seen today are all reconstructions.
My personal favorite part of the Kremlin is the 17th century Terem Palace and the cluster of eleven gold domes of the Church of the Saviour, which was reserved for the use of the tsar’s family.
We leave the Kremlin and cross the Alexander Garden for a quick lunch at Sbarro.
It’s at this place that we start realizing that it is easy to admire Russians fabulous historic architecture, but that it may be challenging to feel affection for the Russian people. They do not strike us as very ‘lovable’.
After lunch we walk past the Kremlin and see the prominent red building of theStateHistoricalMuseum.
At the square in front of the State Historical Museum I also notice two vaguely familiar looking men in unusual clothes walking around. It turns out they are look-a-likes. One of them is a Lenin look-a-like, the other one is a Stalin look-a-like.
When we pass the Historical Museum, we enter the legendary Red Square. For many ages this enormous open area was used asMoscow’s main marketplace. Next to that, various ceremonies, proclamations and occasional coronations of tsars took place here.
Entering the Red Square from the Historical Museum means The Kremlin is located on our right hand side, on our left hand side department store GOeM (also known as GUM), and right in front of us the astonishing Saint Basil’s Cathedral.
I have fantasized about standing on the famous Red Square for many years, so I take a long moment, standing right in the middle of the square and savour the event.
We buy an entrance ticket at a booth with an inconceivably rude woman in it and find out the inside is like an extensive maze of small chambers, steps and narrow hallways of which every tiny inch has been painted in colourful patterns.
We also enter the beautiful buildings of GOeM, but apart from the architecture it’s not that interesting. It mainly contains shops of Gucci, Prada, Chanel and just about every other meaningless designer brand you can find in other European capitals, so as soon as we’ve admired the gorgeous galleries and ceilings, we’re quite done.
We walk into the closest metro station and count the number of stops we have to sit out until we can exit the stop near our hotel.