Monday, 21 March 2011

Moscow (22/02 – 02/03)

First of all, pardon me for all the grammar mistakes, I’m writing fast, I just want to say whatever passes through my mind when remembering. And forgive me for all the missing parts I don’t recall now, and the pictures, which I will post later on.

It was a clear day but the first thing I noticed when I stepped out of the wagon was the extreme cold that Moscow was suffering that day.

I was soon leaded out of the train station by my CS host, and while we talked I could only be awed by everything I saw.

It is true that I couldn’t sleep much on the platskart carriage (3rd class) last night, and I was kind of overexcited, instead of awfully tired. And I remained like this all day long, despite my attempts at sleeping.

We quickly got into a huge corridor followed by hundreds of people, and I was open-mouthed as we entered the beautiful metro.

Loads of people were in there too, but due to the early time most people were silent, heading to their jobs as fast as possible.

I was also amazed by the beautiful totally frozen Moskva river as we passed over it inside the metro.

I didn’t do much productive that day, given my exhausted condition.

Thanksfully my host was absolutely helpful and provided me with everything I needed, and some that I didn’t. I started to got used to having tea every hour, as they offer you at any time.

In any case, yet again I took calmly the task of knowing Moscow, as I did in Kiev. Well, I thought that there were going to be tens of obvious sights not to miss, but in the end that was not the case.

Next day my host became my guide through a maze of relatively unknown places in Moscow, mostly related to Russian literates, of which Russia was so aboundant, in a time.

Starting off from the Lomonosov university, which is on an upper part of the city, a huge Stalinist skyscrapper overlooking the Moskva, near the Sparrows Park, to where we headed next.

I really couldn’t have pictured before that streets were completely covered by a thick and hard layer of ice all winter long, because I had never seen anything like that, but obviously it is the commonest of things in these latitudes.

Not only streets, but the paths leading down in Sparrows Park were very slippery too, but I managed not to fall to the floor. There were many times in Moscow were I was about to fall due to the ice, but I didn’t actually knock the floor till I got to Kazan (twice on the same day).

Finally we saw the Novodevichy monastery, right in the middle of Moscow, near the Stadium by the river, a very ancient sacred place, home to a cemetery too, where the Russian personalities of all times are buried, including writers, scientists, Soviet politicians, and lately, president Yeltsin.

I soon reached my cold enduring limit that day. Truly I was awfully cold, the only exposed part of my body being probably my lips, nose and eyes, but they were getting positively numb.

I couldn’t stand it for long, so we took a rest to have lunch near the new Byzantine-style cathedral, where the Palace of the Soviets was going to be built before WWII (but they made an open-air swimming pool in its place).

In the afternoon we walked through the narrow winding streets near Arbat, old and new, a famous street for musicians and tourists.

We saw a facade decorated with a strange bust of Tolstoi, and after that statues dedicated to others writers I sinceresly don’t remember… but well, notably Sholom Aleichem (the Jewish writer of Tevye the Milkman and his daughters, the book that was the inspiration for the Broadway musical and film Fiddler on the Roof).

In the following days I tried several times to see the mummy of Lenin, but with no luck at all; I found it closed every time, in spite of the timetables that said it should be open.

Thanks to that I came to know quite well the Red Square and all the surroundings, Manege, Teatralnaya, Kitai Gorod, etc.

Most sights of Moscow were in that area, including the walled Kremlin, to where I entered too, just to see the Tsar’s treasury and its old churches.

Apart from that I did nothing much of the touristy things. In a way, I kind of lived in Moscow for more than a week.

I met some old friends, like Katia, Valentina and Anna, and even went to cinema (funny enough, I watched ‘Biutiful’ in Spanish with Russian subtitles).

Perhaps the disappointing part was that I really didn’t taste the night life in Moscow, and even if I was there for the Maslenitsa (Russian Carnival) week, I didn’t stay for the partying on the weekend.

On the other hand, I attended some Spanish lessons my friend Katia gives to Russian students, and I helped them in conversational skills and deepening into the meanings of made up expressions. It was a refreshing experience, and quite the out of the ordinary things tourists do. I really felt like I was living temporarily in Moscow, not just visiting.

Before I departed I wanted to see a city of the so called Golden ring surrounding Moscow, but most of them were too far away for a day trip, so I got to Sergiev Posad, a small town with a heavy religious background around Saint Sergius.

And the last but not the least, I had my choice of Russian traditional dishes in a very cosy (but quite modern looking) place. Delicious borsch with Smetana, and many other cheap specialities whose names I didn’t get.

But Asia was already calling me (so easily perceived from Moscow), and I had to take the first one of the trains that would eventually take me to Vladivostok, following the transsiberian line.

I had already bought five tickets online with fixed date & time, and printed them at Yaroslavskaya station, so only thing I had to do was to hop on the train.

I took the train to Nizhny Novgorod, my first stop East of Moscow, at Kurskaya station, and having received a bouquet of flowers from Valentina, I said good-bye to this part of my travelling life.

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