Hiking in the Cinque Terre

Friday, April 11, 2008

Russia, Day 4





Wedding Cake Tower (1930's), Skyscrapers (2010), Kremlin (1100's)

Day Four 

We had coffee at our regular coffee shop, Coffee House.  I picked up the free daily Moscow Times paper for the day's news.  The plan of the day was to visit Victory Park and Museum.  The metro to Park Pobedy was a breeze.  The Cyrillic Alphabet is becoming easier to decipher.  We arrived at the new metro station.  I was stunned at the beauty of the station.  Its depth underground was similar to the others, but the marble and limestone were shinier and more lustrous.  Also, there was a mural of Russia's military victories over the years – from Napoleon to the Second World War.  We were very impressed. 

There were two exits at the top of the metro escalators.  One led to the famous arch commemorating Napoleon’s path of retreat from Moscow after the 1812 war.  The other exit, the one we used, was the direction to Victory Park and Museum.  The grounds - monuments, fountains and museum - were all dedicated to the Great Patriotic War, what we call the Second World War.   From where we stood in the park, we could easily see Moscow's newest skyscrapers.  The cluster of buildings is called Moscow City.  

We walked towards the museum, noticing the landscaping and fountains.  We lined up to buy our tickets.  In line, I met an American girl who spoke fluent Russian.  She helped us by our tickets.  One inside the museum, Kade and I checked our bags at the cloak room and started our tour.  About thirty minutes into the tour, we went to the cafeteria for a snack.  A funny incident occurred with the guy working the snack bar.  He got miffed when I opened the Coke cooler on my own.  Too bad he was speaking only Russian!  I can only guess that I disturbed his little world.  After snacking, we resumed our tour.  I love WWII history, so I relished looking at each exhibit.  We ended up spending a total of three hours walking around the museum.  This was terribly inadequate, but our minds and bodies were starting to tire.  We did notice a group of Japanese tourists - probably WWII vets - being led by Russian guides through the exhibition rooms.   

Upon exiting the museum, we walked around the back where there was another promenade that extended for what seemed like a couple of miles.  As with many Russian parks and museums, the size of this one was mind-boggling.  We managed to walk a bit and thought about viewing the artillery and military hardware exhibits.  Luckily, we obeyed our minds and realized it would be foolish to press on.  Besides, we were going to be in Moscow awhile, so perhaps we could come back.  As we walked back around the museum to the front side, where the obelisk statue and fountains are, we noticed people walking and jogging.  We also noticed kids skateboarding and two or three wedding parties.  It's common for the bride and groom to visit prominent landmarks and beautiful sites on the day of the wedding.  These newlyweds were surrounded by their families, bridesmaids and groomsmen.  Of course, there was also a photographer by their sides.  The mode of transportation most used by these newlyweds is a limo. 

We sat down at one of the kiosks on the grounds of the park.  We ordered lamb shashlik and some bread for a quick meal.  It actually was pretty filling.  The only trouble was trying to keep our plastic plates and paper napkins from flying off.  It was a windy day! 

After our meal, we walked past a circus tent, which was on the Victory Park grounds.  We continued on to the metro.  Our destination was the Universitet station, where we could buy some tickets to the Moscow State Circus.  We exited the station and noticed big apartment blocks.  These apartments were obviously better built and more attractive than other Soviet-era blocks that are common in the city.  I was impressed by these.  We waited for the “walking signal” and then made our way across the street to the circus.  We bought our tickets for a performance a few nights later.  As we walked back to the metro station, we looked up and saw Moscow State University, which is arguably the most well-known of the Seven Sisters towers. 

We hopped on the metro and went to Kievskaya station.  It was about rush hour and boy did we feel it.  The crowd of people was hard to comprehend.  At this point, we were practically delirious from lack of nourishment, fatigue and soreness.  We exited the metro car at Kievskaya.  I briefly admired the ornate decor of the statue, but was soon swept up in the throngs of commuters who walked towards the steep escalators.  We were mainly focusing on trying to find a giant food bazaar that had been featured on Martha Stewart's show.  At the top of the escalator - and just before reaching the exit to the street level - I noticed several policeman checking documents of commuters.  We acted as inconspicuous as possible and made our way into a huge, modern mall that was next door.  We asked ladies at the info desk if they knew where the bazaar was.  No one seemed to really know.  I was feeling very moody at this time, and I'm sure Kade didn't think I was good company.  

Eventually I decided to walk down to the embankment to buy tickets for the Moskva River Cruise that’s on the Must-Do List in Moscow.  Tickets were $10.  We got on board and the cruise started.  We bought a Sprite and a Coke and sat back for the ride.  The bridges of the city were marvelous to view.  Alongside the river were lush gardens and walking trails.  We enjoyed seeing sunbathers and fitness buffs enjoying their day.  We neared a bend in the river and the most beautiful stretch of thick green treetops came into view.  This canopy of trees provided a gorgeous foreground for the Moscow State Tower, which looks like a wedding cake.   

Other notable landmarks that came into view were the Academy of Sciences, the Church of the Savior, the Red October Chocolate Factory, Gorky Park and the Peter the Great Monument.  Tourists on board were clamoring for pictures.  A young, nice-looking couple seemed oblivious to all the sites as each other in their arms.   

We disembarked at Red Square and found the metro station.  We were exhausted.  We picked up some foods at our bakery - the lady was now smiling...or at least more understanding.  Back at the hostel, we couldn't wait to sleep.  Depleted of all energy, we managed to eat, take a shower and rub in Muscle Rub.  Only some loud, drunk backpackers, arriving back in the wee hours of the morning, kept me from sleeping very soundly.  Regardless, I got what I wanted: to sleep in.

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