I’m pretty sure the name “Red Square” had to be a mistranslation, you know unless of course it was briefly painted red by the blood of someone’s enemies (doubtful). The wall surrounding the Kremlin, Lenin’s tomb, and a gorgeous building at the entrance of the square are all made of beautiful red stone, but that’s about it. That being said there’s quite a bit to do on or near the square.
We’ll go with the most obvious, St. Basil’s Cathedral. I’m sure most people are thinking “Oh JOY! *over-exaggerated eye-roll*, that onion domed thing EVERYONE talks about.” First off: shush. Secondly: There’s a reason everyone talks about it. It’s freaking gorgeous. It’s not the most beautiful cathedral I’ve ever seen (so the poor architect’s eyes were taken for no reason–at least the legend says his eyes were plucked out), but it is the first–and currently only–Byzantine inspired cathedral I’ve seen, so it gets special treatment.
[Art lesson for those that want it: The Byzantine period ranges from 330-1453, so St. Basil’s actually comes after the official period; however, as we all know there’s typically an overlap in old and new artistic periods. The period started in Constantinople, modern day Istanbul, after Constantine moved the capital from Rome to Byzantine (he renamed the city Constantinople after himself–nothing says “I’m afraid people will forget that I ruled the Roman Empire and brought Christianity to my heathen followers” like naming a city after yourself. My favorite thing about art from the Byzantine period is the beautiful mosaics. A lot of them have gold in the tiles so when the sun shines on them they glisten. I am dying to see the mosaics in Chora Church. If you want to know more about Byzantine art click here.]
Inside the cathedral was a bit maze like. The hallways were small and dark, and someone–art gods help them–painted an awful brick pattern on some of the walls.The occasional awful modern additions aside the original murals were beautiful. For a special treat the Russians have kidnapped angels and forced them to sing daily in some hidden room. Okay they were people singing beautifully and willingly, but the hidden room bit is true–or we’re that bad at hide-and-go-seek.
I know I’ve mentioned the GUM, I’ll mention it again for emphasis. It’s definitely not the biggest mall I’ve seen, but it wins for most luxurious. And on top of that it has Stolovaya 57. As I said before it’s a Soviet style cafeteria. Okay, I’m not entirely sure what about it makes it “Soviet style,” besides the fact that cafeterias were rather popular in Russia during the Soviet Union, because it looked like the cafeterias I ate at from Kindergarten to 12th grade. The food isn’t the best in the world, but for a cafeteria it’s pretty darn good. It’s also relatively inexpensive. I ate a full plate for 500 rubles (around 7 USD), and of course you can get and pay more or less depending on funds and your hunger. Basically, just eat there once so you can get weird looks from people when you tell them you ate at a Soviet style cafeteria (and because it’s cheap, but that’s beside the point). Back to the GUM, the entire mall has maybe two escalators. Not a problem. Only a little weird that neither go up, they only go down. I guess after you’ve been throwing thousands of dollars around you’re too tired to walk down the steps. Life is rough for the wealthy in Moscow. Check out the GUM’s history (I haven’t read it yet, but it looks interesting).
Also on the Red Square is Lenin’s tomb. We didn’t go so I can’t really say anything on what it was like. His tomb is on the Red Square for those that may want to see it, although I’m pretty sure everyone everywhere knows where his tomb is. Something about visiting a dead man seemed kind of weird to me–this was later confirmed when I learned that there were dead religious men in the Vatican. So should you visit his tomb: it is on the square and it is weird staring at dead people.
There’s a red building at the entrance of the square that is absolutely gorgeous. I have no idea what it’s name is, but there is a museum–no idea what kind–inside it. In front of the building there’s a statue of Stalin on a horse standing on Nazi symbols.Also at the entrance is a metal square in the ground. Someone stands in the middle of it with a coin, makes a wish–we think–and then tosses the coin over their shoulder. We didn’t figure this out until our last day. When the four of us walked by it earlier we heard a coin drop. Herrball looked down thinking he dropped some changed and then picked it up. Everyone gave him the weirdest looks, and for the life of us we couldn’t figure out why…until we stopped to watch what was going on and realized he’d grabbed someone’s wishing coin. Oops.
Next up on Moscow Adventures: the Kremlin and other sites.