Sunday, 20 November 2011

Episode 18 (part four): Goth Moscow (Lenin the Mummy, the Cemetary and a massive Cathedral)

“Nyet!” said the scary Russian police lady. “You need to leave all bags and cameras in the museum before queuing up here!” We shuffled off heads bowed in shame. Of course it was high time to visit Lenin in his mausoleum on Red Square and I got everybody out of bed with a rousing speech about the joys of visiting a dead communist! Jovial tone aside, the tomb and embalmed body of Lenin is surely a candidate for one of the wonders of the world, especially to an amateur history buff like me, so let me explain a moment...Not only is it a testament to human achievement (the mummification of a body to a level in which it can be viewed) but also the architecture and eerie atmosphere of the place gives a real sense that “here lies one of the most significant shapers of the modern world, don’t stare, keep quiet, pay your respects and move on.”
Lenin's Mausoleum on Red Square

Sure enough, the guards inside the tomb quickly moved us through with snaps of their fingers and hisses for disrespectful, noisy tourists to be. Apart from the charge of leaving your bag (roughly 60 roubles) this is a free attraction and also includes a walk around the back of the tomb, under the Kremlin walls, where many other famous heroes of the revolution lie. Someone still puts flowers on these graves, someone still puts flowers on Stalin’s...

The grave of Anton Chekhov
Not quite having our fill of death for one weekend, we took a metro trip to ‘Novodechivy Cemetary‘ (the Moscow equivalent of the ‘Père Lachaise Cemetary’ in Paris) where many famous Russians are buried. We managed to find the grave of Chekhov, Mayakovsky, Khrushchev and Yeltsin yet were disappointed by the poor map of the graveyard which did not lead us to where Gogol and Bulgakov are supposed to lie. Nevermind! Have to come back when i’m living there in January! This cemetery was again a free attraction and certainly should be on the list of things to do for literary and history fans visiting the city.

Our final major visit was to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour which, after being destroyed and turned into an open-air swimming pool by Stalin, now dominates the skyline as a national icon of the Orthodox Church. It is truly lavish and a contrast to the grim, candlelit interior of St Basils. It reminded me of the Vatican and was awe-inspiring.

We had plenty of time left to kill before our 9 o clock train to Veliki Novgorod so we chilled out in a cafe on the beloved Arbat and passed a pleasant afternoon in high-spirited debate about pretty much everything:  corporate greed (ironic as we were sat in a McKafe), pro-wrestling, Beyonce vs Rihanna, the state of the UK, the state of Russia, the upcoming elections and the American education system. ..
This leads me to say a simple thank you to Alex, Jaya and Marilyn who made a good trip great. Travelling with you was a joy and I really hope we can the chance to reunite one day for other adventures.
Alex and I kicking back in Mckafe

Concluding episode on Veliki Novgorod will be out soon! (I will eventually have this all written up!)

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