“Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
As confusing as we found Berlin, we suspected Moscow will be less so, only because we know so little about her. Completely abandoning our comfort zone, we left our alphabet and headed into the great unknown.
At Sheremetyevo Airport, a clean and modern facility, Ritva and Sirpa greeted us at the baggage carousel, their flight having arrived twenty minutes earlier. An unexplained delay resulted in our baggage taking nearly an hour to reach the carousel, hopefully not a sign of future problems.
The legendary Moscow traffic surrounded the drive to the Intercontinental. Expecting that Sunday afternoon should provide a clear path to city center failed to consider the extended four day Russian holiday, celebrating the defeat of the Nazis in World War II. Vacationing Moscovites clogged the roads returning to the city of 12 million. As the multiple lane freeway approached the city, the median divider disappeared, a lane or two vanished, and the speed limit dropped, but the traffic never abated. With a little more than a mile from Red Square, the bumper to bumper traffic escorted us all the way to the hotel. The driver Lois booked in advance spoke some English and drove well in the traffic.
The young lady, who checked us into the Intercontinental, made a great impression, with an excellent command of English, her knowledge of the property and a beautiful smile. She granted us a late, 6pm check out for Tuesday, as our train does not depart until nearly midnight.
After a short break we headed out for a drink and then to Red Square.
The end of a weekend of a cappella music filled the streets, attempting to override the drone of the traffic. One four man group performed a rendition of Take the Last Train to Clarksville in honor of Wendy Strickler.
As we approached Red Square, the enormity of the area began to register. The Square is truly massive.
The Gum high end retail mall to the east turned on their lights.
The walls of the Kremlin and Lenin’s Tomb occupied the space to the west, while in front, the spires of St Basil stood. The grandstand and scaffolding from the War World II annual celebration also appeared, as crews worked to remove them.
Exhausted from the long day with just a few hours sleep, we headed back to the hotel, amazed at the vibrant, modern city we were discovering.
When we leave Moscow on Tuesday night, we have no idea if will have any cell service or internet connection until we reach Beijing in two weeks. Accordingly, this may be our last post for quite some time.