Red Square

by Rachel on November 18, 2009

Red Square, Moscow

Getting into the city of Moscow took far less time than in St. Petersburg because there was no need to stand in the endless passport line (and I use the word “line” loosely) and our bags (and this time we were quite sure to double check that they were in fact OUR bags) appeared quite quickly. A modern minibus complete with ventilation and functioning seat belts was waiting just where it should have been – no mid-road luggage dragging required, and we were deposited in front of our hotel in just under an hour.

Our hotel looked directly onto Red Square. After a few minutes unloading and a quick phone call to our Russian cousins who had taken the overnight bandit-filled train from St. Petersburg to Moscow in order to spend three days with us in their nation’s Capitol, we were soon all together, the nine of us, off to see Red Square and the Kremlin. The mighty square certainly lived up to its reputation. We were all speechless when we arrived, highly unusual for our garrulous bunch. Red Square was simply incredible. One could FEEL history all around. You could not help but hear the sound of a thousand soldier’s footsteps, the echoes of political rallies and the rumble of tanks. The Church on one end, and the long façade of GUM (the department store built in the 1800s) combined with the spectacular wall of the Kremlin and Lenin’s Tomb make the place otherworldly. Frantically buzzing with tourist activity, we and our tourist brethren spent an hour taking photos, gawking at the majesty of it all. My family and I never felt at ease in the big Russian squares. There was always a sense that there were sinister folks lurking around the edges. Most of the larger streets, including the one between Red Square and our hotel, could not be crossed above ground. Massive underground passageways connected one road to another. None of these passageways felt safe. They weren’t dark, but they were menacing, crowded and chaotic. We had one moment where my stepmother saw a man with a large knife, who seemed to be after someone, it wasn’t clear whom, and we moved quickly away. Relaxing it wasn’t.

Once we’d had our fill of Red Square, we made the short walk back past our hotel to Academia, a charming, hip Italian Restaurant (just say NO to more Beef Stroganoff) that had absolutely great food, superb pasta, pizza and exceptional salmon. There wasn’t a dill sprig in sight – even on the salmon. Who knew it would be such a relief to have a dill-free meal? I’ve never seen myself as anti-dill. In general I’m really quite pro-herbs, but there is a point when enough is enough. After three weeks in Russia I needed treatment for dill-overexposure. It’s not nearly as dangerous as radiation poisoning, but it does take many months to get over.

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