A sense of Deja Vu washed over me when I first stepped out of the Revolution Square. It reminded me a lot of Montevideo. The designs of the buildings, the heights, the colors. Honestly I myself am not too sure why. However, a few minutes walking on the cobblestone streets and passing Orthodox Churches, one then got the feeling that one is in Europe. Moscow is really not what I expected. Having been to Kiev three times, I expected Moscow to leave a similar impression of somberness and a lot of more boring gray square buildings (I refer them as communist buildings, but that is probably more of my own personal stereotype and bias). Walking around the centre of Moscow (Red Square, Arbatskaya (shopping street), Teatralnaya (theatre district where the famous Bolshoi Theatre is located), one could see the adoption of European culture at its very best that Moscow had done in the past. The buildings are of Baroque and Renaissance styles. The only difference are the shapes of the churches. We do not see grand, somber Cathedral like that of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, but here in Moscow, the churches we see are colorful buildings with dome style designs. The most interesting is of course: St. Basil’s Church. The outside and inside are both magnificent. It has been newly restored. One gets a sense of wonder visiting it. We also got a treat by five good looking men serenading operatic songs inside of the of the Church’s chamber. Btw, a disclaimer, I came with no reading of Russian history, nor did I have a guide with me explaining the history. This trip will mostly be focused on first impressions and personal observations….so I apologize if I write something ignorant. It would not be on purpose I assure you.
Moscow of the past and Moscow of the now are both lands of excess. The arts and historical pieces in the Kremlin’s Armoury Museum and the Diamond Fund exhibition show the splendor and excessive indulgence of the Romanov dynasty (I was not surprised that the peasant revolted). The pieces I saw in the museum (the silver platters, the prayer altar books, the jewelries, the carriages, the weapons, the horse riding equipments, the thrones) are all amazing and beautiful but they all have one thing in common, they are excessive in size, design, and the use of precious metals/precious stones. The carriages are even more lavish than the ones I saw in Queen’s Mew of Buckingham Palace. I had never seen silver and gold vases and platters so huge!!!! And the diamonds, the crown, and the jewelries are really something else. Any girl (including this one) would drool looking at them. Amazing, amazing pieces. Moscow of today is similar too I suppose. We are told that if you are not beautiful enough or rich enough, one can forget about getting into hip clubs and restaurants.
There is something about Moscow that I like though. Actually if I speak more Russian, I will be cool traveling alone (during the day and early evenings anyways). Yesterday I was exploring the Metros alone to visit a few of the 10 most beautiful Metro stations (that is a treat in itself and I highly recommend allotting time to see them when one visits Moscow). My group were visiting the newly opened cold war bunker (which I avoided due to my tendency for panic attack). Though afterwards I found out that there’s a stairs so I could have gone down. My fear is to be stuck underground in a lift shaft (thus I decided to avoid Potosi silver mine when I visited Bolivia ages ago and I decided not to go down to the Bunker. The Bunker itself received mixed reviews from the group. One said it was a Disneyland and I do not think he meant it in a complimentary way). I asked people questions in my super broken Russian and they were quite friendly and helpful. No one stared or looked at me weird. I felt very comfortable in the Metro all alone. If I can afford living in downtown Moscow, I think I would not mind living here for a bit. It would be an experience. I think Moscow can be one of those cities where we go for a weekend for very hip, very lavish weekend like going to Hong Kong or NY or Miami or Dubai – where we go out to eat and dance and drink and shop at the hippest places. The riverbank (we did a river cruise yesterday) were still very underutilized. More clubs and restaurants can be built there with a rooftop bar/club for the summer months. I am surprisingly secretly hoping work will take me here again one day and that means I better start committing myself to learning Russian (outside the classes).