Thursday, October 11, 2007

Москва (Moscow)

Moscow is less European than St. Petersburg; much more like what we were expecting Russia to be like. It's been cold and rainy and the city is bigger, more spread out, and more clogged with traffic.

Luckily, the Metro is amazing, so we can get over all of these things. The Soviets were particularly proud of three things: the space program, the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Moscow Metro. The stations are decorated like palaces, with marble columns, colourful mosaics, stained-glass windows and chandeliers. And, they're deep enough that they could be used as nuclear fallout shelters (two minutes down on the escalator)...

We visited St. Basil's cathedral (which had been our only mental picture of Moscow), Red Square and the Kremlin. Inside the Kremlin (which is just a Russia word for fortress), there are many more Russian Orthodox cathedrals and an impressive collection of royal jewels, gold, silver and Fabergé eggs (and our fake student cards got us in really cheap). The Fabergé eggs were incredible: fist-sized "Easter eggs" of hard stone, decorated with precious metals, with intricate jeweled 'trinkets' inside - including a five-carriage clockwork train.

We also visited a GULAG museum. It was shockingly small and unknown, considering that it is the only museum dedicated to a system of forced labour camps that killed more than 2 million Russians. After having visited Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps, it was hard to believe that Stalin's crimes are being covered up so well.

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