Breathing in Happiness .....
Because Everyone Smiles the Same Language!
Yes, it is Europe in all its glory and a lot more of itself. Moscow – Москвa, my very first exposure to Russia is regal, classic, contemporary & inviting!!! The people welcoming & large hearted!! A little restrained apparently, but full of life like the Spanish & the Italian actually once I gel in!
The sights & sounds very modern but not overwhelmingly automated. A touch of humans everywhere, keeps me connected when Google Translate fumbles. And I have to say this, technology is helpful but a smiling face at the metro ticketing or the grocery store or even at the restaurant handing out the surprise menu in English makes me so very happy!!
The glory of the Tsars & Tsarinas long gone by captured at the magnificent Kremlin, the socialistic approaches & communism which held the people together then and finally the emerging of each of the new republics from the union and the beautiful harmony today washes out the image of a violent & unnerving political history. She is a tough place they say and why not! Sticking to rules & discipline keeps Москвa free of unnerving sightings of radical people.
Москвa is alive & full of life at her own pace & terms!
Muscovites on the streets, in the shops double check with me “INDIA?”. What follows is a very courteous “Namaste”, something no one has wished me during my visits different places across the world. My country gives me proud moments in the recent years but Moscow makes me cherish my Indianness on a different terrain.
The Red Square flaunts what Moscow is all about. Grandeur & richness, the seat of Russian power. The beautiful hotels right on the square & the rich streets like the Tverskaya are imposing & grand. The Tverskaya in particular is reputed to have a hint of the Oxford Street & the Champs Elysees; but I miss the hustle & bustle of these inspite of the style & panache. I take better to the livelier Arbat, a street little away from the centre of Moscow where I find myself more than often. The flashy Norby Arbat where I am put up is chic and I am told it used to be the Las Vegas of Moscow once upon a time! The huge departmental store GUM is nothing short of style and gives tough competition to the Lafayette so powerfully embedded in my mind.
The Kremlin had an impression of its own until I really cross the walls of this majestic fortress to see the most gorgeous churches, the immaculate gardens and the beautiful fountains inside her walls. The Armoury finds me surprised as it had mislead me completely as there are less of arms and more of the grand outfits, jewels & carriages of the tsars & the tsarinas of the bygone era. Gone is the dread of the illusionary spies big in my mind with the Hollywood movies & some books I must have read. Kremlin is huge, sprawls lavishly over quite a bit of the centre with the river on one end and the Red Square with the most colourful St Basil’s cathedral at the other end. This picture postcard perfect, colourful cathedral is actually called the Cathedral of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God and is a bunch of cathedrals commissioned one after the other to commemorate the win over of Kazan over a whole load of years. Looks really grand from the outside and has a pretty inside with an eye-catching indulgence in the red bricks all around. This is easily the best recognized sight in Moscow!
It is a real pity that I have to give a miss to the cathedral I was really looking forward to, Christ the Saviour because of huge queues as the remains of an important saint are on display. The kilometers long lines are impressively managed but deters me from attempting to enter.
Moscow, I had heard is one of the greenest capital cities of the world and rightly so. It is not only the huge parks like the impressive Gorky park but the small green boulevards and the green patches everywhere that earn it this title.
Moscow metro stations catch me unaware, museums in themselves. The half day tour seeing the deepest and the most beautifully curated metro stations in the world was a huge surprise. A couple of them even served as bunkers against the air raids of the Nazis they say. Believable & true. At the deepest station is Park Pobedy my mountain sickness surfaces while descending into the heart of the station.
Right from the Red Square & the pretty Kremlin, the winding Moskva river, the straight out of the fairy tale St Basil’s cathedral, the imposing Stalin Skyscrapers, the most amazing metro stations, the throbbing streets of the Arbat, the lovely food - beet borscht, the blinies & the kasha, Moscow captivates me for sure!!
Москвa lives in her history, her people and her modern facades reflecting what Russia is to me. A little bit of Europe a little bit of its own.