My trip to Moscow hadn’t really started on the best note. The immigration officials couldn’t find my name on their records and after arguing through gestures, the lady finally realized that alphabets ‘S’ and ‘C’ are not the same. Finally, I was granted entry into the capital of Russia. After the hustle-bustle of Delhi, Moscow definitely comes as bit of a shocker. There are no traffic jams on the roads, vast empty spaces abound and there is a general feeling of immense order. The roads there have a special middle lane where only ambulances and VIP cars can drive. Other than that, the lane remains free of vehicles and believe me, it does.
Our first tourist destination was the Kremlin. Historically and symbolically, Kremlin is the heart of Moscow. It is said to have been here since the Bronze age, and saw different architectural changes under different rulers. Its present look was made under the supervision of Italian architects. It has famous sites like the Aresenal, the State Kremlin Palace, Cathedral Square, Tsar Cannon and Bell, Ivan the Great Belltower and many more. The Cathedral Square is the simply majestic; the contrast of gold plated turrets and white buildings can leave anyone awe-struck. The Tsar Cannon and Bell are also curious things; they are so huge that according to our guide, the two hundred ton Bell never rung and forty ton Cannon never fired!
Next we headed to the Lenin Museum, which has a wonderfully preserved display of all grandeur of the past Tsars. It is just amazing, their horses wore more expensive attire than I will ever be able to wear! The ladies had the biggest and richest of the gowns and thinnest of the waists. The king’s crown makes one think in those times, money might have just grown on trees.
After this great visit to the past, we went to WWII Memorial. It was a very solemn journey. There is a chamber containing a million artificial tear drops hanging from the ceiling – in memory of all those brave soldiers who lost their lives. The Memorial also contains beautiful paintings portraying the great battles in Russia – very realistically. In the complex is also a very high Memorial Stella at the base of which is St. George slaying the dragon and the tip has an angel. The Stella is so tall that really, it seems to be reaching for the sky. The complex has some very beautiful tulips gardens and fountains. The wind was blowing at such intensity that it was really difficult to walk in the direction opposite to which it was blowing.
We also went to see the immensely popular St. Basil. It is interesting how most travel books always carry a picture of this great cathedral. Not visiting it can almost tantamount to blasphemy!! This cathedral is not a part of Kremlin. It is on the Red Square. The Cathedral’s onion-domes are designed to represent the uniqueness of Russia situated between Europe and Asia. It is basically famous for its nine towers which are all uniquely designed and brightly coloured. Feasting one’s eyes to the onion domes on St. Basil is a must. Seeing this cathedral, one gets a little idea of the grandeur that pervaded the reign of Ivan the Terrible.
In the night, we went to the famous Moscow circus. This tradition continuing till today is simply a treat to watch. The trapeze artists performed some amazing feats. The acrobat artists were hanging from the thinnest of ropes and the most dangerous of locations, almost creating an expectation – ok now they’ll fall for sure. The joker was actually funny. But the show stealers were the feats by the tigers, the best and most conventional being their leap from the circle of fire. One confession I must make here – I sat at the edge of my chair throughout, ready to run lest they should escape. It was really a great experience, and not one I would be forgetting it for a long time.
The next day was my birthday so we basically ate a lot and travelled in the Metro. The stations do merit a description. Each station is designed very artistically and very differently from the others. One station has beautiful stain glass paintings, one had amazing frescos. Yet another one has beautiful chandeliers. These stations had originally been designed as shelters in the event of a nuclear war and hence they are very deep. Just travelling in this tube system is an experience. It is quite different from the drab stations of Delhi where only stark advertisements galore.
My family and I were in Moscow for just a day and a half, and hence we could not cover much. But we were left awe-struck with whatever we saw in those few days. Naturally, we bought vodka and porcelain figurines, including the fat lady which opens at the waist to become a container for vodka! As we stepped out of the metro and readied ourselves, rather unwilling for the airport, it started snowing lightly. We took ice cream from a nearby stall and just stood there, soaking in the entire Moscow experience.
That’s how I celebrated my birthday; being out there in the freezing cold in the summer month of May, eating my ice-cream and snow flakes at the same time. On May 11, Moscow had been unwilling to grant me entry. On May 13, Moscow didn’t want me to leave; the airport forgot to issue me (yes, me again), a boarding pass, ensuring thirty minutes of us running around, trying to decipher the Russian language.
[Image Source:] http://www.flickr.com/photos/joelaron/458430692/