Nine years is a long time.
In my quest to return to that time of my life and those fond memories, I find once again that you cannot go back. You can go back to the place, but it is never quite the same. Even more so, Moscow and the people have changed with the time just as I have. I was told it had changed before I left, and could sense something in my friend’s voice – but didn’t really know what to expect. I guess I expected the same place with just a bunch of scaffolding signaling the flux of money. Imagine my surprise when I saw an Ikea not 15 minutes from the airport, along with ten shiny, new, car dealerships – and not Ladas… BMWs and Mercedes. Every day we drove to work, there were more things that reminded me of how things have changed. Like the disappearance of the massive Worker and Collective Farm Girl statue at the Exhibition Park – not just a Communist icon, but an exquisite piece of art. Removed, seemingly erased.
I venture back out on my last day since I am feeling worlds better. I know I must return to the Kremlin and decide I will visit the cathedrals within her walls. Gone was the ticket made from a fragment of newsprint – a nice printing with a metallic hologram stamp in its place. It amuses me and I head inside. When I was last here, they had just started refurbishing Ivan’s Bell Tower. Now it sat there with its pristine white paint and fresh golden domes amidst all the other cathedrals in fresh coat of white wash. All but one cathedral… I was pleased to see no fresh paint job on the Assumption Cathedral. It sat there in the very same shell I remembered. It was heartwarming – and in the cold I stood there and kind of felt like I was finally at where it was trying to go. Of course when I walked in, I found that compete peace with the beauty of the entire interior painted with frescoes or covered in icons.
Once I left the protective walls of the Kremlin, I walked around towards Red Square. I saw a gate open and took a picture and then realized as I heard marching boots that it was the top of the hour. The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in full dress uniform with the high stepping salute of years gone by. The Kremlin symbolizes the rich history of the country and doesn’t it let it be forgotten.
Even Red Square showed signs of the changing times with the addition of an ice skating rink gracing the red bricks that millions of soldiers have marched on. I t was as amazing as ever to crest the bottom hill and see St. Basil’s grow into view. But the new paint on the bricks removes some of the charm. I quickly make it inside and wander around the exquisitely painted halls that connect the tiny chapels until it closes.
Later that day, wandering around the Arbat picking up a few more gifts, I find this alley covered in graffitti - a popular hangout with some of the kids.
I have always appreciated the contrast Moscow presents. The utterly beautiful cathedrals and Stalin architecture flanked by utilitarian apartment high rises. So with the new paint and new mind set for some, comes the cherished history, The relatively unchanged Metro with its incredibly ornate stations... except that one entrance to the most famous station Mayakovskaya that they moved and remodeled. Imagine my surprise when trying to go to the popular expat hangout Starlite Diner, when I arose from the escalator and nothing looked right... especially the shiny mew mosaic on the ceiling. Wow, was I lost! I mean really, who moves a Metro station? I think they did it just to screw with the Americans... In any case, the rest of the station is intact and stills of my favorite mosaics are below. The other images are from a museum that I felt appropriate to end with. Along with one shot of the Comsonaut Museum Monument... of course going through remodeling!
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Susan N. Freeman