Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Paris and Vienna, Step Aside


Having been weaned on American television and film, I expected the Kremlin to be a drab grey building with a whole bunch of pictures of Lenin, etc. A place where KGB agents hide in shadows waiting for the enemy. Would you believe me if I told you it is a town within a city with stunning architecture, beautiful churches and perfectly manicured gardens?

Kremlin means fort in Russian and many Russian cities have kremlins. The fort in Moscow, however, is the one to see. It is a walled city within the city. Red brick walls with 12 towers surround 70 acres of grounds that abut the Moscow River. There are several churches with the trademark Russian gold crowns, gardens, palaces and the state armory that houses the carriages, crowns, jewels and gowns of the great czars. We spent three hours there this morning wandering through the grounds, taking loads of photos. The plan was to start at Lenin's tomb, but the line way too long and slow (by the way - what's with the Communists pickling their leaders for posterity? You can see pickled Mao in Beijing, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam and Lenin in Moscow).

Now that Tony Blair has moved on to France and the Russian national holiday is over, Red Square is back open and we wandered through taking more pictures of St. Basil's and the State History Museum. To top off the afternoon, we took a ride on the Moscow Metro. Many of the stations are works of art, with chandeliers, sculptures and mosaics. The Brown Line is a ring around the city, so Rob and I got on and off at almost each stop on the line, taking pictures along the way. The coolest part of it for me is that I can read Cyrillic (the Russian alphabet) well enough to be able to navigate the Metro lines and read the signs for all the stations. Not bad for 10 days.

Yesterday, we went to GUM, which is an acronym for the State Deparment Store. The name is deceptive seeing as it is not a department store. It is a mall of 1,200 of the most high-end stores from around the world. It used to be a place where Soviets handed out rations of bread and clothes and now you can buy Prada and a Rolex if capitalism has agreed with you.

Last night, Rob, Andrea and I went to Propaganda, a trendy restaurant/night club. There were the three of us looking like dressed up backpackers surrounded by hot, Gucci-wearing Russian beauties. I can't believe I got passed the bouncers with how wrecked I looked. The place was so cool. The food was good, great vibe and, as luck would have it, it was hip hop night. The DJ's were just as good as any I have heard at home and they played real hip hop -- not the vulgar nonsense that gets marketed to white kids in the U.S. The sounds of Talib Kweli, KRS One, Dilated Peoples, Mos Def, etc. had everyone moving. The DJ's told me that it's really tough to get hip hop on vinyl in Russia, so they order a lot online. They were so cute! There were the guys in cornrows, some wearing the matching sweat suits with Pumas, doo rags, etc. I had a blast! We didn't get back to the hotel until almost 2am and awoke at 6:30 because the cheap curtains in the hotel didn't block out the sun.

We were just thrilled to have good weather.

Today's crystal blue skies provided an idyllic backdrop to the greatness of this city. I used to think that Paris and Vienna were the most beautiful cities I have ever seen, but Moscow has left them both in the dust. No picture I can possibly take will do this place justice.

Off to St. Petersburg on the midnight train.

14 Comments:

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Pickled. LOL!

 
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