20 PICTURE ALBUM
Wednesday, August 20
Steve: Our train arrived in Moscow right on time and
a taxi got us quickly to our hotel. We immediately noticed the wide boulevards,
sometimes with six or more lanes - this was already very different from St.
Petersburg. Moscow feels like a much larger city. We intentionally decided
to stay at a modern, more Western-style hotel while were in Moscow, and found
the Marriott Grand Hotel to be exactly what we were looking for. It's on the
main street (Tverskaya) and it definitely caters to Americans. Everyone speaks
English, there's an American-style breakfast, a concierge desk, a swimming
pool and even a wireless internet system! At this point in our travels, we
are all ready for this type of change.
After a good breakfast and getting settled in our room, we were ready to
explore Moscow. Our friends the Kluges in Reading had put us in touch with
Anna Maslova, one of Laurel's cousins living in Moscow. We have been emailing
with Anna over the past several weeks and were extremely excited that Anna
would be able to spend the day with us walking through the center of Moscow.
We find that the first day in any new city is often our most enjoyable. No
matter how much we've read, we never know exactly what to expect, and we love
the feeling of anticipation as we approach famous sites and areas in new cities.
Anna is studying art in Moscow, and has lived here all her life - it was wonderful
to have her along with us today, and we had a great time exploring the city
We started by walking to the Kremlin and Red Square. Paula and I have many
memories of reading about the Kremlin and seeing it on TV during the 1980's
- it was a very interesting feeling walking there today as visitors. We remember
clearly the days when the Kremlin and Red Square were symbols of the threat
that the USSR posed to America and its
allies. The Red Square area was closed several weeks ago due to fears about
terrorism - this actually gave us a good feeling about how large the area
is (since are no pedestrians allowed). Unfortunately, this means that we were
not able to see Lenin's tomb, which is something we had hoped to do. The buildings
and architecture around the Kremlin are all very beautiful - especially the
State History Museum and St. Basil's Cathedral (currently undergoing restoration).
Anna showed us several towers that have been rebuilt since the Soviet era
- they originally were torn down by the Soviets to allow tanks and other military
equipment to roll through Red Square. We decided not to actually go inside
the Kremlin complex today to visit its museums and collections - we plan
on saving that for another day.
Before leaving the Kremlin area, we walked onto a bridge over the Moscow
River to get a better view. This gave us a good appreciation for the overall
size of the Kremlin - it's very impressive. We were also able to see the broad
mix of architectural styles in Moscow - modern buildings mixed in with traditional
Russian cathedrals. One of Stalin's "Seven Sisters" really stood
out. These are large buildings that Stalin ordered to be erected to show the
world that the USSR could create impressive structures, just like in the West.
walked to the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, currently the largest church in
Russia. Anna explained that the original cathedral had been destroyed by Stalin,
and had recently been totally rebuilt (completed in 1997). Stalin had planned
to replace the cathedral with a huge "Palace of Soviets", but the
project never happened and instead the cathedral became the world's largest
swimming pool. The reconstructed cathedral (the project cost $350
million) has been very controversial in Moscow - many have strongly objected
to idea of a modern total reconstruction of such an important church.
We walked to the Arbat, a long pedestrian mall filled with shops, street
performers and artists. This is one of Moscow's most famous streets, and we
enjoyed strolling the length of the mall and talking with Anna more about
life in Moscow. We had an interesting discussion about the people of Russia,
and why they sometimes appear not as friendly or eager to help as in Western
Europe. Anna suggested that this may be a lasting legacy from Soviet times
when people were taught to be distrustful of others.
We took the Metro to the Gorky Park area to visit Sculptures Park. This is
a collection of Soviet statues that have been removed from their original
locations and displayed here. The most ironic statue was one of Stalin, located
just in front of a contemporary piece memorializing the victims of his regime.
It was also very interesting to see the wide variety of busts of Lenin, Brezhnev
and several others that are displayed here. It seemed to us that this collection
was created as a unique way of acknowledging the major impact that these people
have had on the recent history of Moscow, while no longer honoring them as
Remembering our unfortunate Metro experience in St. Petersburg (ending up
going in exactly the wrong direction), we wouldn't let Anna leave us without
a lesson on using the Moscow metro. Fortunately, she's a real pro, and was
give us very clear directions on how to get back to the hotel (complete with
hand-drawn maps!). Sure enough, we made it back with no problems, and enjoyed
taking some time to take pictures at the Mayakovskaya station near our hotel
(this apparently won a major award at the 1938 World's Fair in New York).
We decided that we were ready for an American meal (our first since we've
been on the road!), and thoroughly enjoyed nachos, fried mozzarella sticks
and hamburgers at TGI Fridays near our hotel. Moscow feels like a much larger
city than St. Petersburg, and there are many more restaurants like this that
specifically cater to Americans (the prices were even listed in dollars).
We will have three more days here before leaving for Istanbul. Our plan is
to spend one day traveling with Anna to a small town and monastery about an
hour away, another day on the outskirts of the city in an area called Kolomenskoe,
and our final day touring the Kremlin and some of Moscow's museums.
Distance Walked: 5.77 miles