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We’re grateful to have Russian guides as we travel Moscow’s famed subway. It’s one thing not speaking the language, quite another to not even recognize the letters of the Cyrillic alphabet. Though its a great way to get around, we don’t trust our ability to identify the stops from what, to us, is a scramble of unrecognizable symbols. Built mostly in the ’30s, each station is a work of art and spotless. My favorite has huge bronze art-decoish statues of the heroes of the revolution – farmers, soldiers, factory workers, athletes, nurses – and a dog whose nose it’s good luck to rub.
An atmospheric snow falls as we visit the Kremlin. Kremlin means fort and and that’s how it started life in the 12th century, a smallish triangular wooden fort, Moscow’s first settlement. It’s present form dates largely from the 1500s and was the headquarters of the church as well as the government, and home to Russia’s rulers. From here Ivan the Terrible orchestrated his terror, Napoleon watched Russia burn, Lenin fashioned the proletariat dictatorship, Stalin purged his ranks, Khrushchev fought the cold war, Gorbachov unleashed perestroika and Yeltsin concocted the New Russia.
Today, Putin rules from the yellow former senate building and the royal palace, still home to Russia’s president, serves ceremonial functions.
Three of Russia’s most important churches are located here – Assumption Cathedral, Archangel Cathedral and Annunciation Cathedral, golden domed and filled with sumptuous icons and more gold.
This afternoon we’re on our own. We walk along the river-facing Kremlin wall and come to the Pushkin Museum. It has some marvelous paintings, but also a unique weirdness. It houses replicas of famous artworks. Russians, largely unable to travel outside the USSR to see the originals, could still come to the Pushkin and view them.
We manage to find a taxi, and it’s off to the Moscow Circus. Just fantastic. The arena is filled with families, all dressed in their best for the outing. We sit behind a family of three including a delighted small boy. Throughout the performance, he can hardly contain himself, pointing at each new spectacle – “Look! Look!” We’re pretty sure that’s what he’s saying.
IMG_1296 One thrill after another. Click for a bit of the action. We don’t want it to end – the gymnastics are amazing, costumes great fun. Just what a circus should be. Somehow, in the milling crowd after the show, we manage to locate the driver Viking has arranged, and we head back to our floating hotel driving through a Moscow lit up for the night.