With all the hostel dramas it was quite an effort to force ourselves to get out and explore a little bit and make some use of the day remaining. A major incentive was the Sunday only market which Ivan informed us was the premier one in the country. He was right if the product desired was leather jackets, stonewash jeans, bad shoes, frumpy looking female underwear, or fur coats. An important discovery was that when the stall assistant approaches trying to entice you into a truly appalling leather jacket by saying “mafia” in a hopeful way it is not because he is or thinks you are but that by making such a purchase you could look like a mafioso type. Tempting.
Also for animal abuse; the very first stall left us in absolute astonishment being confronted with the sight of three bears in an enclosure with long ropes around their necks accompanied by a swarthy looking man wearing a red silk Chinese overcoat with matching hat and carrying a menacing looking whip. The despair was palpable with the bears seemingly in a drug induced stupor, their eyes red and weepy and only being roused into money making action by the prods and strikes of the ringmaster who also sought to elicit a response by sitting on their backs. We watched in disgust for a while willing the subdued animals to snap and have their revenge but they sensed their own hopeless situation and remained unmoved. It was extremely sad and upsetting and that this is the main market in the most populous city in Europe is almost unbelievable.
A picture of despair.
In part just to get it out of the way Red Square, the Kremlin and surrounding area became our starting point for establishing ourselves in Moscow. The student I.D. failed me this time and it could well be why I was in a pretty average mood for the Kremlin getting stung for 350 руъ while the other two got in free. Then all it was was a collection of Orthodox cathedrals that all seemed exactly the same (I’m sure there are meaningful differences and a proper understanding of the Orthodox church would bring these to light) topped by gold domes and with murals of halo bound saints adorning the interior walls. Some monks were singing in one which was nice though a little mixed up with the high tenor being a big round fellow and the bass notes coming from someone who missed his calling as a jockey. With the armoury and diamond fund costing the equivalent of a night’s accommodation between them and huge queues we made do with the biggest bell ever cast and a big cannon. The bell was so big that it broke before ever being able to be rung. Fail!
My recommendation for people visiting Moscow could be to skip the Kremlin and just walk round a bit to Red Square. The cathedrals look way cooler poking up over the walls anyway and if you really want to see the treasure that ticket can be bought just for that bit from a separate gate. Red Square is also much more fun to walk along as you can pretend you are part of a military parade trying to keep and even step across the tiled surface. The space itself is quite awe inspiring with the camber of the black tiles producing an infinity effect away to the end where St Basil’s cathedral is much smaller than expected. Then there are the towering red walls enclosing the Kremlin running down one side and the imposing facade of what is now the ridiculously opulent GUM shopping arcade on the other. Then you turn around and the palatial State History Museum is towering over you.
Probably my favourite photo so far.
The other super amazing feature of Red Square is Lenin’s Mausoleum. Tucked under the Kremlin wall is the rather unassuming red and black granite, eternal life representing cube and pyramid where the actual body of one of the most polarising figures of last century lies in his wax coating and dark suit and tie. He is not the only one interred under the walls with Yuri Gargarin and other Soviet heroes forming an honour guard of sorts along the wall as the path leads to the entrance. Busts of ‘great’ Communist Party members look over you down the exit path with the notable exception of Trotsky and inclusion of Stalin, the only time we found his likeness publicly displayed. Inside the mausoleum it was an initially disorientating experience with only the most cursory of lighting for guidance down the stairs and corridor leading to the central display chamber. The whole was were smartly uniformed guards spaced evenly every ten metres or so making sure that everyone kept moving. This meant walking as slowly as possible around the glass case containing the surprisingly small body. It was a very odd feeling looking upon a body from which life had exited 85 years ago yet appeared to be sleeping peacefully, if a little waxy.
No cameras allowed inside, so here I am out.
Tags: animals, kremlin, landmark, market, Moscow, Russia, theft, Travel