Thursday, September 21, 2006

Moscow 2006: The Re-Mix, Part Dva

(I'm not going to lose another one. And I don't care if you have to break your train of thought.)

In the daylight Moscow's transformation was complete. And what made it even better was that today was gloriously warm and sunny. I stepped out of the Metro and found myself right outside of Red Square.

Man, have they snazzed this place up! Red Square had been totally impressive both in 1992 and even when I was there in 1982 and the Commies really ran the place. Unlike Tianamien Square, it just has a unity and an architectual pizzazz that's hard to top, what with the Kremlin, St Basil's, etc. But back then, among other things, it was surrounded by a traffic clogged 10 lane madness. Now all that was gone and had been replaced with a massive and park-like pedestrian area. With fine new construction going on all around the area, a sunny day, and happy walkers all around, the ambience was delicious.

I walked into Red Square, and was once again awed by the Kremlin, St. Basil's, etc. The main square was closed off for some reason, but I lolled around the perimeter, along the front of the gigantic GUM department store.

Built before the Commies and evoking Faberge and fin de siecle elegance, it had just started to change from a horribly dull commie retail space in 1992. Now it is fancier than any Galleria in the world. And remember, all those Gallerias are trying to copy the fountains and crenellated archways of the original GUM.

I walked back into Red Square, and noticed people walking into Lenin's Tomb across the way. I had never gone there in my previous visits, what with the long lines and all. But now... Then I also noticed that the Kremlin itself wouldn't be open tomorrow. All of a sudden I was out of lolling mode.

Quickly all the way around to the entrance. The tomb was free, but everyone had to check their cameras for 30 roubles. Back to the entrance and the walk across the plaza to the tomb. Guards made sure that everyone was properly somber.

You know how great cathedrals make even agnostics feel reverent? Well, I don't care what your belief system is, there is something SO indelibly and ineffably creepy about seeing Marxist Materialism epitomized in Lenin's waxy corpse. I was glad to get back out into the sunlight.

Now, however, the walkway took you along the Kremlin's wall, where all kinds of Communists I had never heard of were buried. Finally, we passed the cenotaphs (look it up) of, among others, Andropov, Breshnev, and Stalin. Then it was back to Red Square. And a half mile walk all around to go get your damn camera!

I walked around another quarter mile to the Kremlin ticket office. Once there, I found out that all the cathedrals inside had been closed for a week, and would only reopen on Friday.

I had been trying to decide whether to leave the city on Thursday or Friday. That settled it.

It was still a glorious, warm, sunny day. And as luck would have on this side of the Kremlin there was a glorious, warm, sunny park. I sat down on a bench and spaced out for a while.

Then I got up and proceeded to circumnavigate the Kremlin's walls, walking along the Moscow River, and ending up back at the south end of Red Square and St. Basil's. I gawked and gawked.

Then I zipped over to the Red Square's Sbarro's for some food.

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