I’m leaving Moscow today on my 6-day journey across Siberia, Mongolia and into China!
Before I do that, I checked out of my hostel and ventured into the Kremlin. The heart of Moscow, the political centre of Russia, it’s a moated and walled-in complex of vast palatial buildings and cathedrals right next to the Red Square.
With the vast amounts of tourists and locals milling about outside, going through the ticketed gates and across a bridge over the moat, the inside of the Kremlin is a bit disconcertingly quiet and ordered, even for Russia.
I shouldn’t be surprised because it is every bit a functioning governing centre as it is a tourist attraction.
Security is tight and uniformed guards stand in key positions.
Inside are wide roads through which large sedans with darkened windows drive, waved along by the guards. Bright white zebra crossings guide you across the roads and to where tourists are permitted to go. Although there are no signs, if you so much as venture onto the roads where there are no crossings, or walk the wrong way down the street, you hear a shrill whistle and get a baton batting you back to where you should go.
You walk in not knowing the unwritten rules, but you learn from the mistakes of others and you let the guards intimidate you into submission.
Saying that, the Kremlin is magnificent.
I don’t know about the enormous state buildings as we’re not allowed in, but at the centre of the Kremlin are five (I think) cathedrals and churches in the Russian Orthodox style, complete with tall golden domes and beautiful arches. Their insides are awe-strucking. In the largest of them, every inch of the entire building is painted. The walls, the ceilings, the arches, the domes, the columns. Every imaginable surface is delicately painted and gold glimmers everywhere. Forget cold grey gothic churches, these things are magnificent and I just sat and stared.
If you go to Russia, go to Moscow and just marvel at these things. I don’t care about the people and the food and really, the rest of Russia, but I care about these churches and cathedrals and I can’t say enough about them.
After enough marveling, I was quite proud that I didn’t get prodded by a guard, and I left to go to a supermarket to stock up on 6 days of food (a bottle of water, two meals of Russian instant noodles per day, biscuits, Mars bars, two boxes of tea, powdered drinking chocolate, some questionable Russian powdered soup, equally questionable bread, the remains of my breakfast sausages, cheese and yoghurt, and enough cash in my money belt to ward of starvation should all of the above turn out too dodgy to eat).
Lugging my rucksack, my backpack, my shoulder bag, and probably about 4 big grocery bags, I managed to navigate the Moscow metro and stumble onto the designated platform without me or the bags falling to pieces.
I spent half an hour waiting at the designated platform before realising it wasn’t really the designated platform and managed to stumble onto the correct one with time to spare.
I clambered to my feet and stood with everyone else as the train rolled into the platform. Never in my life have I ever been so happy to see anything Chinese!
When I realised that it was a Chinese train with Chinese carriage attendants, I was absolutely overjoyed!
In fact, I was so estatic I had to hold myself back from embracing the attendants. Instead, I exclaimed to one of them, “I’m so happy to see Chinese people!” He just smiled and probably thought me a wierdo.
I don’t think it’s so much as seeing Chinese people. I’d probably be just as happy if it happens to be an English or even a New Zealand train that rolled in. It was the prospect of seeing non-Russians, of being able to read signs again, of being able to communicate with people again.
To top it all of, Jack and Vanessa, with whom I’ve already coincidentally shared the same train from Paris to Berlin, then from Berlin to St. Petes and then from St. Petes to Moscow….well, they’ll be living right next door to me for the next 6 days. Whoopee!