This is a part of a mini-series of independent posts, starting here
Moscow saga, continued. Beginning of the story
Day 5 – 3 pm :
The last two days in Moscow were eventful. Tales include an unsuccessful ~11 km chase of a river cruise along the banks (with navigation errors on the part of yours truly), the Moscow Metro hop, a walk down the pretty Arbat Street, and a visit to the Gorky park. I’ll highlight the metro rides first.
Expectations weren’t high, but numbers beat street estimates by some margin. Who the hell, after all, expects a “metro hop”? Intra city train hops in Mumbai are a topic best left untouched in polite company. Don’t get me wrong, the trains will get you where you need to go. Probably the fastest way around. Also happens to be the fastest way to get drenched in sweat; some of it not yours! (That being said, I loveth _aamchi_ Mumbai local) So one can empathize with me when I say I had gone into the whole thing with what can be described as slight skepticism at best and fear at worst. Moscow’s metro stations don’t, after all, look like the friendliest places to be in. Sure, they aren’t claustrophobic; nothing in Russia quite is. Yet, I don’t know if it is the lighting, the colors, the tiling, but I’ll be damned if some of them don’t induce that feeling. Doesn’t help that their trains and tracks somehow seem incompatible with each other, evidenced in the worrisome vibrations at speeds more than 20 kmph. Or that their doors snap shut faster than Exhibit 1. Or that a few of these stations doubled up as bloody bomb shelters, not too long ago!
But what does help is the beautiful decor of the stations. And they are so well maintained, that “Moscow Metro tours” are an actual thing and one can see why! We saw multiple tourist groups snapping pictures of the pretty stained glass panels at Novoslobodskaya, the palatial interiors of Komsomolskaya, the 34 gorgeous mosaics on the Mayakovskaya ceiling, or with the frontier guard statue at Ploshchad. (It is believed that rubbing the nose of the dog which is a part of the guard’s statue is supposed to bring good luck – it is such a common activity among all that the dog’s nose has actually been worn off its bronze) All of this was expectedly surprising to a bunch of people used to strictly utilitarian modes of transport. The experience comes highly recommended. And in case you visit, don’t forget the Komsomolskaya selfie spot!
Once done with our underground shenanigans, we thought of giving a shot to another mode. After a long walk down Arbat street, (great place to shop for some paintings, or catch a theatre performance, or just sit around and watch people go by) we decided to catch a ferry ride on the Moskva river. However, in our hurry, the distance to the loading point got grossly underestimated, and we started off on the long walk ahead after a sleep-inducing lunch of Dal Makhani and Tandoori Roti. After an excruciating 2 hours, which included several navigation errors by yours truly, we got close to the loading point, only to be told that all slots for the day were full.
The saving grace for us was that we were essentially at the border of one of the most extensive and beautiful parks I have ever seen. As Russian architecture somehow seems to go, this park was massive. At 7 pm, it was bustling with people lining up for cotton candy, schnitzels, corn on the cob, beer and more, after perhaps a long day at work, children running about, cycling, skating, Segue-ing, kids enjoying the bubbles around bubble guy. Glorious summer day! We did finally get on a cruise the next day (with more planning this time), but it isn’t quite worth mentioning. So, after a tiny tour of the beautiful and _huge_ Soviet-era government buildings, after what seems like ages, we finally bid adieu to Moscow and head for St Petersburg!
As a final thought, I think I really underestimated what the city had to offer, as far as sights are concerned. Some that I have described till now showed the grandeur and the beauty of a city; once and still powerful. But along with this grandeur, one can see through the cracks if one cares to focus. I saw what was probably the most disturbing sight I have seen in my life in person, when in front of the Ritz Carlton at Red Square, I noticed a pregnant lady (probably nearing the end of her second trimester) kneeling in submission with her head hung low, and a cloth in front of her. It’s not like I haven’t seen people asking for alms on the street in Mumbai, but this somehow felt different. She was alone, didn’t have any support to hold on to, and was being thoroughly ignored, especially by the patrons walking by in their Jimmy Choos, and clutching their Guccis, and driving their Porsches. Away from home, in this grandiose city, caught up in a bubble, it brought me crashing back to the reality of a place that actually isn’t all monuments and power and glitz; that picture has imprinted itself on my brain, and even though I did not have the heart to take an actual photo, I won’t ever be able to push that image out of my head. It was a reminder. The yin to the yang…