Monday, November 24, 2008


Stalin, obviously, in Red Square.

Moscow - home to skinny dogs, fat pigeons and creative parking. Arriving in a large city after such a long train ride was exciting, but as exciting as having the first shower in 7 days. Less exciting was the news that Red Square was closed, but luckily only for two of the three days we had there. We managed to get in to see Lenin's mausoleum on our first day (which weirdly wasn't part of the closed bit, considering it seemed to be a Communist convention that it was closed for). Weird, waxy Lenin (short man, small hands) is guarded in his dark, solemn tomb by intensely stern soldiers -- loitering and loud displays of emotion were strictly prohibited, we were shushed and ushered through with haste.
Our first male local guide, Eugene, was a lot of fun. Studying languages at university, Eugene wants to be a musician. He's in two bands at the moment -- the main one is Russian reggae-punk and the other is Hardcore-Emo Rock ... After the drudgery of Julie's company, having someone who was enthusiastic about their city and actually had non-guide book information for us was great.
We went to a ballet in the Kremlin (also permitted entrance then, but only via a side gate) which didn't feel like the three hours, despite the fact we couldn't find a glass of champagne to save ourselves. R thought several scenes were unnecessary to the plot.
A visit to the art gallery (the Repin painting of Ivan the Terrible clutching his dying son, who is rumoured to have been accidentally slain by Ivan's own hand in a heated argument, will stay with me for some time) was topped off when we walked out to a seriously impressive sunset over the Moscova River, the Kremlin buildings and Red Square.
Our last day we finally managed to get into the Square and R, Kat and I lined up for an hour in the freezing wind to get into the Armoury, which was the coldest I've ever been -- how the Russians fought wars in this climate I will never understand. It is an impressive place, as is the entire Kremlin.
On our final day we made a trip to Gorky Park. Despite not being a hub of fun at this time of year(it was like a ghost town), we still had to pay to get in. Rusty went on the roller coaster.
We still had eight hours to kill before our midnight train, and no one was in great spirits after two sleepless nights (a severely mentally unwell American woman kept us awake with bouts of sobbing and typing emails outside our room, with what sounded more like a couple of hammers than hands ... the embassy eventually came and gave her some cash and a ticket home) so logically we took another long walk (the Russians and their long marches...) to an observation point at 'Sparrow Hill'. This, and a long banquet dinner, eventually got us to our last train on the trans-Mongolian trip: an 8 hour overnight to St Petersburg, which was a breeze after the other previous epic legs.
You had to pay these women to use "their" toilets. They stink.

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