Day 30 – 16th March 2017 Moscow
Moscow above ground today – and by car! Polina came and picked us up at 10 am for our drive around Moscow with three main destinations. Traffic is slow everywhere so while 3 destinations may not sound like much – it takes most of the day.
First the Moscow State University – the central building is huge and one of the series mysteriously named the Seven Sisters created in the Stalinist Empire style. As well as being tall and imposing it has several interesting anecdotes and myths attached. Polina having been a student there had lots of fun, fact and mythical stories. First, that the main building contains the most important faculties that the Russian state considered mandatory to preserve – if armageddon was to occur. That is Mathematics, Physics,
Geography and Geology. Apparently there are bunkers underneath the building that would ensure that these academics would be preserved. Oh how jolly a world full of mathematicians! A tantalising story is that there is a secret underground passage to the nearest metro which again would ensure that the key academics would survive and get out of town.
Stories also abound about the design and construction of the building. Prisoners were brought from the Gulags to assist in the construction of the building.
Being there also gave us a chance to look over the city and the Moscow river. We could see very clearly the major sporting stadium, the Financial district and the Kremlin off in the distance.
Next stop Victory Park – everything in Moscow seems to be based on the theory that big is best and this is no exception. Victory Park sets out the armed conflicts that Russia has been involved in and celebrates particularly the “Great Patriotic War” or what we call World War II. A huge area slowly stepping up to a monument has 5 levels representing the 5 years of war. Culminating in a stele 141.8 metres high. That number representing the 1418 days Russia was involved in WWII.
Unlike many war memorials around the world that are somber and restricted places – this memorial encourages everyday life and visitors – cafes line the park, people congregate, skateboard, chat and festivals are held here. Honouring the soldiers by including the memorial as a part of life not just of the past.
After a coffee we then moved on to the Exhibition Park a concept originally set out in the 1930s to reflect Russian expertise in agriculture and to celebrate the uniqueness of the various “republics’ that made up the Soviet Union. Each building has a distinct and different style including each of the states represented and the specific topics such as history, technology and space and oceanography. The park is HUGE – said to cover 2,375,000 square metres and includes schools for various crafts and technology, gardens,
Today it is an interesting place that reflects the state of the transition of the Soviet Union to the post soviet state. Some of the former republics such as Armenia have decided to use their pavilion to promote tourism and certain agricultural products.
We were there in a transition time when much maintenance was being done. During winter a large ice skating rink is installed and in summer there are major events held at the park there. We were told of one which involved participants planting cherry trees to create a Cherry Orchard a la Chekov.
Then to our “Great race” challenge – getting on the Metro and getting home. Polina talked us through the stations and we counted off the required seven stations (station names are in cyrillics and only posted occasionally on the wall side of the stations making it hard to see). We confidentally leapt off at the right station and headed in the wrong direction. Eventually we ended up at a great bustling, modern canteen. Firstly we stood and watched operation for a time. Then we took a number realising we would not know when our number was called! Assistance came from all around when no-one responded to the number called – because it was ours. There was then much hilarity as we tried to navigate the system through pointing and grunting. Fortunately the good natured serving staff had as much fun as we did.
Not so much the chemist attendant down the street who decided that as she didn’t speak English she was going to ignore any attempt to communicate until we pointed to a pack of Coldrex and she begrudgingly accepted our money. On to the supermarket and home to delicious antipasto and a bottle Beaujolais.
Oh this travelling life is hard.