Red Square

It was around 11 a.m. when I arrived, but it felt like 6 a.m.  The temperature improved – about nine degrees. It was zero only twelve hours back. The sun seemed undecided whether it would come out already or not.  I was too excited to mind.

“Snow fell two days ago,” Julia, my guide remarked.  “Do you think I might be lucky today?” I responded, “the last time I saw snow was nine years ago in England.”

The weather remained predictably unpredictable.  No snow. Red Square soon became bright as the sun finally shone. Probably the same way it did in 1941…

i.    The name Red Square has nothing to do with the color of surrounding buildings, eg. the State History Museum is very red, all red; nor does the name have to do with communism
ii.    At one time Red Square was called ‘krasniya’ which means beautiful
iii.   Red Square became an official name in the 17th century
iv.   In the 1400s it was a site for rabble rousing
v.    Red Square began as a slum, and a place where the low lives, i.e. drunks and criminals, dwelt.
vi.   Red Square was once called “Fire Square” after a number of times medieval Moscow burned.
vii.  Red Square had a brutal past being the site of fierce fighting and public executions
viii. By the 20th century it became the site of military parades displaying Soviet armed forces might
ix    1941 – cadets marched through the square and straight to the front line less than 50 kilometers from Moscow
x.    1945 – Nazi standards were thrown in front of the mausoleum and trampled on by mounted Soviet commanders
xi.   2000 – celebrations to mark the end of World War II were done in the square.  Imagine the fireworks here when the world welcomed the new millennium
xii.  Around Perestroika, Red Square became the site for large musical performances, fashion shows, festivals, etc.
xiii. I thought the sound of your footsteps on Red Square sounded similar with those you make on The Shambles in York, UK.

Source: mosco.info (#1-12)
ABC Wednesday / Thursday Thirteen

Novodevichy

Novodevichy: necropolis of the famous Russian dead, and where interments are second only to those in the Kremlin in prominence. Inaugurated in 1898, it rose in significance in the 1930s when important Russians who were buried in medieval monasteries around Moscow were reburied in Novodevichiy during the Joseph Stalin era. After the fall of the Soviet Union, when the Kremlin Wall Necropolis was no longer used, Novodevichy became the place of rest for Russian notables in the arts and sciences, and of course, politics.

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Note: This is Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow. It should not be confused with Novodevichy Cemetery in Saint Petersburg.

Novodevichy Convent. Right behind is the Novodevichy Cemetery

One thing that draws me to graveyards is the quiet. It is calming while the world outside goes on and on with its drama. Reading epithets wondering what those people were like in life is a fun mental exercise, if not spiritual or emotional. You do not know them, they do not know you, you are visiting, nobody is complaining. There is something mystical in a non-verbal, one-way acquaintance. And then there are the well-known names. You know them, or not, they still do not know you, no problem. They are free from signing autographs or giving interviews; you are free to stare at or take silly selfies with them all you want.

As a fan of literature I went to Novodevichiy for Anton Chekhov. Since Boris Yeltsin is right in front so conspicuous, it was nice taking a shot at his tombstone too.  Heck, I wouldn’t have minded dropping by Rasputin’s spot if he was there. With so limited time though and Novodevichiy rather massive with a guide who was not familiar with graveyard interiors, not that I blame her, I missed the following

Names in Novodevichiy

1   Nikita Khruschev (1894-1971) head of Soviet Union
2   Nadezhda Alliluyeva (1901-1932) wife of Joseph Stalin
and the Notable Nikolais
3   Nikolai Podgorny (1903 -1983) statesman during the Cold War
4   Nikolai Burdenko (1876-1946) neurosurgeon
5   Nikolai Gogol (1809 – 1852) dramatist, satirist
6   Nikolai Rubinstein (1835-1881) pianist and composer
7   Nikolai Zabolotsky (1903 -1958) poet
8   Nikolai Zelinskiy (1861 – 1953) chemist
9   Nikolai Ostrovsky (1904 -1936) writer
10 Nikolai Tikhonov (1905 – 1997) politician
11 Nikolai Bulganin (1895 – 1975) Minister of Defense
12 Nikolai Semashko (1874 – 1949) Soviet sports administrator
13 Nikolai Tomsky (1900 – 1984) sculptor

I would spend proper time with them if I visited Russia again.

Thursday 13  /  ABC Wednesday  /  Our World Tuesday

Moscow Moments

My moments in Moscow began when I inadvertently followed an interaction among members of an FB expat group regarding Russia’s national carrier.  The desire to see the place though began back in childhood. Like other parents, mine spent considerable time telling me stories. Later I was no longer content just being told of heroes from faraway lands. By adulthood I had to see evidence or at least come close to traces of their existence.

Curiosity + A love of History + Wanderlust = Moments of

~ excitement when a plane lands bringing you to a place for the first time

~ adrenaline for traveling alone, just you and your wits wondering about safety and whether your guide would show up, making sure Plan B is intact in case Plan A runs into problems

~ tongues. You hear yourself speaking a few words of the local language and the locals smile at you. Either your attempt is passable or they are just amused to hear you try

~ cold horror. A Dementor engulfs you at airport exit. The zero temperature.

~ mounting worry when the hotel does not accept any mode of payment except the one in your wallet that does not match, and it’s midnight!

~ relief at finding an ATM that spits out currency which determines whether you spend the night on a warm bed or an airport bench

~ joy in beholding a riot of colors; your favorite season happens to be trending while you are visiting

~ awe in finding yourself on the same spot where history-making events took place and historical figures once trod

~ contrast: on the very same ground stood the first man in space, marched a battalion oozing power and there you are taking a silly selfie

~ faux pas looking for the grave of a famous person and the news is he is still alive (I will be brave in a later post and tell it)

~ pride in having survived traveling solo without breaking a limb

~ regret that you could not stay longer to immerse in details. Note to self: next time apply for a longer visa

~ gratitude for childhood wishes that come true, for learning experiences, and this adventure we call Life.

ABC Wednesday / Thursday 13