Wow, you guys are good guessers. I thought I was being all mysterious but clearly Im as transparent as cling wrap. 1,000 blog points goes to the Laura of Journey Chic for guessing Moscow.
On Thursday we flew off to Chicago to catch a red eye flight to Moscow. The weather reports were all over the place calling for anything from pouring rain in 55 degree temps to full sun at 75 degrees. I guess meteorology in Russia is even less accurate than it is here. We got overcast skies at about 65 degrees all weekend long. Could have been a lot worse.
Moscow is a very dichotomous city. Amazing architecture, preserved culture, extreme wealth in some ways, paralleled by crumbling buildings, erased history and poverty in others.
View from our hotel room.
Our hotel was a short walk from Red Square so we spent a lot of time in the area.
Clearly the most tourist friendly area of the city, its also very beautiful and rich in history. I wasn't kidding when I said I've wanted to visit Russia since I was little. Maybe its because I was a preadolescent during Glasnost? But it was a surreal experience to be standing in Red Square.
Our first stop was the famous St. Basil's, commissioned by Ivan the Terrible and built in the 16th century. Legend has it that upon completion the czar ordered the architect to be blinded to prevent him from ever recreating another structure to rival the beauty of this cathedral.
Fighting jet lag weariness, we stopped to stroll in GUM, the most beautiful shopping mall that takes up an entire side of Red Square. Just like the exterior, the interior is striking - from its all glass cathedral ceilings to the beautiful steel and corbel work inside. Take a look. Pretty to stroll around in, the stores here were all strictly high end. I didn't bother even peaking inside them as its all too rich for my blood.
We had a confusing meal at the Canteen on the 3rd floor, walked around a little more and called it a night. We had booked a tour guide for Saturday and had a full day ahead of us.
After meeting our guide, we made it back to Red Square to learn a little more of the history, hear the Kremlin bells ring and snap a few more photos.
I got brave here and snapped a quick shot of two officers outside of Lenin's tomb. I should point out that there is an extreme police presence everywhere you turn. And they don't look friendly.
I should point out that while police presence is normally a good thing, its not quite that clear cut here. Its not unheard of for tourists to be stopped by police to review your papers and then extort a sum of money in exchange for your release. The idea of a armed force being so corrupt as to extort passersbys with impunity scares the crap out of me. So I was very keen on not doing anything - like snapping a photograph or making eye contact - to bring their attention on me. Thankfully, we had no such incidents on our trip. It added a little tension whenever we walked around but that was part of the experience.
Speaking of the dichotomous nature of the city, the numerous armed officers about were a stark contrast to the many couples we saw in the midst of pubilc displays of affection. Lots of holding hands, kissing and loving looks were all about. Loads of newlyweds taking photos as well.
We did leave Red Square at some point to see some other interesting sites.
Victims of Adult Vices
Newlyweds put a lock on one of the metal trees on this bridge and then throw the key in the river. I totally loved this tradition and think someone should steal it here.
Another church that Im sure is extremely important whose name escapes me. Interesting factoid about religious services here - worshippers don't sit down to pray...they walk around and pray at different stations throughout the building.
Novodevichy Convent. I later learned there is a fabulous cemetery nearby we failed to visit. Oh well, we'll have to get it next time.
Our appointment with the Kremlin was nearing. My attempt at a ladies room break was halted by the discovery that at least some of the public toilets don't have toilet paper! And I don't mean they were out of toilet paper - I mean they don't have it at all. Very inconvenient if you don't happen to carry tissues.
Tomb of the unknown solider
We got a break in the clouds that afternoon as we made our way to the top of the bell tower inside the Kremlin walls.
I have no idea what this says.
This post is already incredibly long so I hope you're still awake. I still have the rest of the trip to share so I'll be back with part two. (continued here)
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