Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Moscow: Even More Spectacular Than Expected

A Very Excited Kellie on Red Square
I am ecstatic to say that this weekend I was able to check another bullet point off my bucket list: Red Square and the Kremlin, Moscow. Not only was Red Square on my bucket list, it was listed on my number 7 slot. Even after my first impressions of this famous destination, I think that this incredible sight definitely deserve a seat among the world's best. After checking into Godzilla Hostel and grabbing a quick dinner, my friends and I wanted to explore the wonders of the once capital of the Soviet Union. While exploring the center of the city, I was immediately astonished by the opulence surrounding me. The streets were pristine and very europeanized; we passed stores filled with Gucci merchandise (which I’m assuming is a far cry from Soviet times). All of the sudden I end up standing in front of the infamous Bolshoi Theater with a view of the brick red Kremlin to the south. The Red Square at night is truly spectacular. The lights emanating from the St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin make this historically significant plaza sparkle. I was actually standing in the place where dozens of Soviet military demonstrations had taken place and where all the General Secretaries of the Soviet Union have been buried! Not to mention the grey stone tablet located next to St. Basil’s Cathedral that had been used as an executioner’s block for centuries. 

Church of the Annunciation in the Moscow Kremlin
The Kremlin oddly enough is a monument to the last strength of the Orthodox Church. The structure of the Kremlin itself is a huge red bricked wall that surrounds the administrative buildings of the capital. Once I ascended the stairs to the entrance of the Kremlin, I was significantly shocked at my surroundings. Ahead of me: dozens of yellow hued government buildings (I was hoping that Putin was going to hop out of one of them). Several black sedans drove by. I assumed these cars were driven by the Russian equivalent of the Secret Service. And to the right of these government buildings were about six golden domed Orthodox Churches. I have no idea how these church survived Stalin’s crusade to destroy churches, but they did and right in the heart of the Kremlin no less! What I did not expect was to see the tombs of all the ancient Russian princes and Tsars in the Archangel Kremlin Church. I can now say that I have seen the burial sites for some of the most famous leaders of Russia: Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Tsar Nicholas II, and Ivan the Terrible. Unfortunately, I did not get to see the so-called “Miracle of the Soviet Union”- Lenin’s preserved body in the center of Red Square. Apparently a 100 year old body needs a lot of TLC so Lenin's body was undergoing scientific repair (fermentation) while we were in Moscow. I’m determined to see this very strange aspect of Russia, so next time in Moscow, this will be the first stop.

On another Soviet related note, my friends and I found the only statue left of Stalin in the entire city of Moscow. Here he is, noseless and all:

The Last Joseph Stalin
Statues of Stalin used to cover the Moscow landscape, even in every Metro stop. After Stalin’s death, General Secretary Khrushchev initiated a de-stalinization campaign and removed the hundreds of the statues of the “fearless leader.” By 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed, all the statues had been destroyed except this lone one. It was placed in what can only be referred to as a statue graveyard where propaganda statues of Lenin and Brezhnev also stand.

The last twenty-four hours I spent in Moscow were a whirlwind. My friends and I went to a Kareoke bar we sang our hearts out to “Back in the USSR,” Adele, and the Spice Girls among many others. Then it was up for an early morning at a flea market in the south of the city. This market was one of the best I’ve ever seen. People were selling old Soviet Propaganda posters, nesting dolls, samovars, and random old trinkets. I was able to buy the Russian fur hat that I’ve alway wanted. Yippeee! Then it was off to a few more stops before heading back to St. Pete on the overnight train. The first being old Arbat street where artists and street performers spend their days on this cobble stone street. Also, there was Pink Berry Frozen Yogurt!! so I had to have some of that.  
Cathedral of Christ the Savior

Last not very much not least, we headed over to the biggest church in Russia: Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Just look at this place! beautiful, and guess what? it’s a complete recreation because Stalin had the church bombed in order to create a swimming pool. Another fun fact about this church: this is the location where the band Pussy Riot held their infamous concert a year ago. After this concert, they were arrested  for “hooliganism” and were sent to prison. On a more positive note, this cathedral has an amazing view of the Kremlin and central Moscow. 

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