Monday, August 15, 2011

Moscow (Across Russia, Part 3)

Our trip to Moscow was overnight on train #1, The Red Arrow, which departs St. Petersburg with the The Hymn to the Great City playing throughout the tracks. The car is comfortable and among the best we were on for the entire trip, but also the shortest journey. It leaves St. Petersburg minutes before midnight and arrives at 8:00 the next morning.

Moscow was the center of the Soviet empire, which at one time seemed like an unstoppable juggernaut. The legacy of the soviet system and communism still is very much present in the city, which is truly a monumental city. You do not need to look far to see a relic of the former system. Whether it's a building like the one above or the omnipresent motif of wheat and the red star (along with the hammer and sickle), these are still very commonly seen in the city.

Even if the symbols remain, Moscow today is awash in money and power. It's highly ironic that directly across the street from Lenin's mausoleum is GUM, where the Russian rich come to spend unbelievable amounts of money. We are talking clothes for children for thousands of dollars, De Beers, Cartier, Breguet, and a grocery store with every luxury capitalism can produce from every corner of the world. The amount of money circulating in just GUM alone is on a level I've never witnessed before.

Of course, not all of Moscow is like that. After the break, we'll visit the amazing Monument to the Conquerors of Space, which was truly one of the highlights of our to Moscow (and far from the beaten path). If you visit Moscow, this is definitely something to put on the list of things to see!

Phenomenal! The Monument to the Conquerors of Space is located by the VDNKH metro stop and is simply a masterpiece. It stands 100 meters tall with a graceful swoop that captures an upward rush of motion and the experience of a rocket arching overhead. From any angle the titanium covered monument is beautiful, thoughtful executed, and evocative of the story it tries to convey. The base is adorned with wall sculptures which includes depictions of workers at every step of the Soviet space program, from engineer to cosmonaut. And Lenin, of course....

The better of the two sides also contains a rather touching inclusion: Laika. Laika was a stray picked up off the streets of Moscow and the dog who became the first living being to enter space. Seeing here included here was a welcome addition among the heroes of the Russian space program.

Next week, we head to Suzdal for a day before catching a 52 hour train ride to Tomsk!

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