2004-10-22 / Travel

By Natasha Whitling Singing Russia I was a member of an Earthwatch Institute research team, and our task was to record the folk songs and folklore of a dying culture. These are my stories. Episode 13– The End

“Kiev station,” a man’s voice said over the intercom, interrupting the constant stream of Russian techno music being piped through the speaker above my head. It was 8 am and we had completed our overnight train ride from Bryansk. We all gathered our suitcases and stumbled, still half asleep, to the taxi ramp. There we said our final goodbyes. Kevin was headed to his hotel, Kate and I to a travel hostel, and Anna, Dorothy, Carole, and Lyman were going to stay at Yelena’s apartment until their flights left in the afternoon. 
Kate and I still had one full day in Moscow and we planned to take advantage of it and explore the sights. Our hostel was about a 20 minute walk from the nearest subway stop and with the curious similarities between all the Soviet buildings, finding your way back at dusk can be tricky. 
The main landmarks associated with Moscow are the Kremlin and Red Square. Several buildings and cathedrals grace Red Square, one of the most recognizable being St. Basil’s cathedral. Its swirling spires and Byzantine domes that resemble multicolored candies make it an easy landmark. St. Basil’s was commissioned by Czar Ivan (better known as Ivan the Terrible who was infamous for murdering his own son). Legend has it that after seeing the beauty of the cathedral Ivan ordered the artisan’s eyes be gouged out so that he could never create anything more beautiful than St. Basil’s. (Another Russian fable? Perhaps.) 
Red Square is also home to Lenin’s Mausoleum where the famous Bolshevik’s embalmed body is on display to tours. No cameras are allowed inside the tomb and strict silence is expected out of respect. Many people have speculated that Lenin’s body is less Lenin and more wax, but no definitive proof has been offered. 
Inside the Kremlin walls the Armory provides a glimpse of Russia’s illustrious royal past with clothes, furniture, and crowns of czars and czarinas. Even though the majority of them are now in private ownership, a few Faberge eggs still remain on display in the Armory. 
Behind the Armory is a series of cathedrals each used for different purposes. For example, the Cathedral of the Archangel Michael houses the remains of every czar from 1325–1626 (with the exception of Boris Godunov). Moscow is such a large city, that it would require a stay of a few weeks to fully absorb all it has to offer. Kate and I managed to visit GUM, a large three level, upscale fashion mall next to Red Square, Old Arbat Street, the oldest street in Moscow that features everything from electronics and souvenir stores to outdoor vendors and street performers, before absorbing the lives of everyday Muscovites in a small urban park. 
Kate and I, after many trips through the ornate Moscow subway stations, finally met up with Anna and Kevin for a farewell supper. We opted against another traditional Russian meal in favor of American cuisine with a Russian flair at T.G.I. Friday’s. It was a bit surreal to see American memorabilia and cuisine in the heart of the Russian capital. 
Kate and I miraculously found our way back through all the twists and turns to our hostel and a well–deserved night’s rest. 
The next day I took an early taxi to the Sheremetyevo airport, soaking in my remaining minutes in the city. It seems that every time I visit Russia a little slice of me is left behind and a little more of this curious land is left in its place.

“Kiev station,” a man’s voice said over the intercom, interrupting the constant stream of Russian techno music being piped through the speaker above my head. It was 8 am and we had completed our overnight train ride from Bryansk. We all gathered our suitcases and stumbled, still half asleep, to the taxi ramp. There we said our final goodbyes. Kevin was headed to his hotel, Kate and I to a travel hostel, and Anna, Dorothy, Carole, and Lyman were going to stay at Yelena’s apartment until their flights left in the afternoon. Kate and I still had one full day in Moscow and we planned to take advantage of it and explore the sights. Our hostel was about a 20 minute walk from the nearest subway stop and with the curious similarities between all the Soviet buildings, finding your way back at dusk can be tricky. The main landmarks associated with Moscow are the Kremlin and Red Square. Several buildings and cathedrals grace Red Square, one of the most recognizable being St. Basil’s cathedral. Its swirling spires and Byzantine domes that resemble multicolored candies make it an easy landmark. St. Basil’s was commissioned by Czar Ivan (better known as Ivan the Terrible who was infamous for murdering his own son). Legend has it that after seeing the beauty of the cathedral Ivan ordered the artisan’s eyes be gouged out so that he could never create anything more beautiful than St. Basil’s. (Another Russian fable? Perhaps.) Red Square is also home to Lenin’s Mausoleum where the famous Bolshevik’s embalmed body is on display to tours. No cameras are allowed inside the tomb and strict silence is expected out of respect. Many people have speculated that Lenin’s body is less Lenin and more wax, but no definitive proof has been offered. Inside the Kremlin walls the Armory provides a glimpse of Russia’s illustrious royal past with clothes, furniture, and crowns of czars and czarinas. Even though the majority of them are now in private ownership, a few Faberge eggs still remain on display in the Armory. Behind the Armory is a series of cathedrals each used for different purposes. For example, the Cathedral of the Archangel Michael houses the remains of every czar from 1325–1626 (with the exception of Boris Godunov). Moscow is such a large city, that it would require a stay of a few weeks to fully absorb all it has to offer. Kate and I managed to visit GUM, a large three level, upscale fashion mall next to Red Square, Old Arbat Street, the oldest street in Moscow that features everything from electronics and souvenir stores to outdoor vendors and street performers, before absorbing the lives of everyday Muscovites in a small urban park. Kate and I, after many trips through the ornate Moscow subway stations, finally met up with Anna and Kevin for a farewell supper. We opted against another traditional Russian meal in favor of American cuisine with a Russian flair at T.G.I. Friday’s. It was a bit surreal to see American memorabilia and cuisine in the heart of the Russian capital. Kate and I miraculously found our way back through all the twists and turns to our hostel and a well–deserved night’s rest. The next day I took an early taxi to the Sheremetyevo airport, soaking in my remaining minutes in the city. It seems that every time I visit Russia a little slice of me is left behind and a little more of this curious land is left in its place.

The yellow building surrounded by the Kremlin walls  is the offical residence of President Putin. The smaller pyramid 
structure is Lenin’s Mausoleum.
The yellow building surrounded by the Kremlin walls is the offical residence of President Putin. The smaller pyramid structure is Lenin’s Mausoleum. If you are interested in taking part in an Earthwatch Expedition please visit their website at www.earthwatch.org or call 800-776-0188.

St. Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow
St. Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow

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