*Check out our complete Moscow photo gallery below*
We spent our last full day here wrapping up the most “touristy” (although most of the tourists here are Russian) sites on our itinerary. We started out with the Lenin mausoleum. The mausoleum has pretty limited hours of 1000-1300 only and closed Monday and Friday. The VERY limited hours might reflect the periods of the year when those hours are nearly the only time there is daylight. Looking at the numbers, it’s pretty clear this place endures a bitter, cold, dark, endless winter each year…. kinda like we endured in Boston last year.
Admission to the mausoleum is free, although you really have to get there early. The line to get in starts building about an hour early and quickly gets really, really long. So long in fact, that in today’s case they stopped letting people in at a certain point, even though it was still well within their limited hours. Luckily, Martha had made sure we got there plenty early though and we were in the first batch to….. ummm…. walk solemnly past Vladimir Lenin’s preserved corpse. Actually, you know, the queuing process for this was not terribly dissimilar to waiting for “Space Mountain” at Disney World. The line was endless and moved slowly, you’re surrounded by beautifully manicured lawns and gardens, you’re waiting in the hot sun, and when you finally get where you’re going it’s over in like a minute. Well, ok, maybe they’re not that similar. The thing is, while I’m normally pretty irreverent, they set this whole experience up so completely that you can’t help but just STFU and sort of pay your respects. After finally finishing up in line, a Russian officer let’s in small batches of people into a gated area in Red Square. Then, you have to check any and all bags, cameras, and phones. Finally, after a complete security check, you start to get ushered behind the mausoleum through marble walkways lined with monuments to prior Soviet leaders.
Entering the building, it takes a moment for your eyes to adjust from the bright light outside. Walls, floors, and ceiling are all black marble. The center of the walkway has a rubberized mat that, as you start to descend down stairs makes the place more and more quiet. As you enter the viewing room, the only light is the expertly placed artificial light directing your eyes to the body of Lenin. The display was pretty incredible, in fact, almost too perfect. I can see why some people say it’s not his real body but a wax replica. At a distance of maybe five feet or so, I think I reflexively scanned areas that might evince whether I was looking at a human or wax figure. Fingernails. Facial hair. Details in the facial features. Who knows? I do know they put on quite a display of peaceful rest and perfect preservation. I was also surprised at how small of a man he was.
With that out of the way in no time, we walked around Red Square a bit and planned out the rest of the day. I have that little portable “Zipshot” tripod with me so I grabbed a few bracketed shots to make HDR images later (see gallery). I have to say, the Russians really are pretty permissive when it comes to photography. I mean, if you pull out a tripod at a Mexico tourist destination they’ll come at you like you had a weapon. In Russia, they authorities could care less. After a few shots we went ahead and toured the inside of St. Basil’s, which was mostly unremarkable. Grabbed some ok pics looking into the onion domes from the inside. The place is really in disrepair in a lot of areas inside though. Our next stop was the Kremlin. Now, I sort of knew that there wasn’t anything that amazing in there. However, having passed by those gigantic, imposing red brick walls that cordon off the place like some top secret city, I just HAD to go. Had to. Well, in short, it’s a bunch of museums and churches. Kind of expensive to get tickets, long lines, lots of formalities, and more tourists than any other place we’d been. “The Armory” was a collection of diamonds, gold, silver, platinum, and precious gemstones…. and then displays of all of these things on every imaginable historic artifact from crown jewels to guns to clothing to carriages. I mean, how many gigantic golden jewel-encrusted bibles do you need? The diamond collection was pretty cool though…. and well guarded. Other than that, endless displays of things rich people spent their money on way before they had cars. Actually, I’m not gonna lie, the Faberge eggs were kinda badass. One of then had a complete solid gold working train model inside. No pictures allowed though, and the guards there have big guns and only speak Russian.
Happy to report that we managed some pretty delicious and cheap eats today. While Russian food still isn’t a favorite per se, the stuff we’ve sampled has steadily improved our perception over the second day. For lunch, we stopped by a food court type area near Red Square. I had Borscht for the second day in a row (this time hot), and I gotta say I really like this stuff. Russians clearly know how to cook with beets, so I don’t know what was going on with that abomination at the first restaurant. Along with the Borscht, I had a crepe type thing with salmon roe and some fresh kvass on tap that was really good. Martha had an unidentifiable soup (that was good) and a sandwich that had kind of like salisbury steak with tartar sauce. Like a…. Russian Big Mac.
After all the tours in the Kremlin and a little more time in Red Square we headed over to “Gum” mall in the evening for some dinner at our “favorite” little potato place. Actually, every Russian restaurant is really a potato place, but we thought this one was good. Potato madness and some good dessert. I’m sorry Russia, your desserts are all right, especially the cherry strudel.
Well, that pretty much wraps up our time in Russia for this trip. Tomorrow evening we head out to New Delhi, India, and (I imagine) into a completely different world.