Monday, December 20, 2010

Moscow– once the city behind the iron veil

Whenever one mentions Moscow, the beautiful architectural structure of St. Basil’s cathedral comes to my mind. I think the structure is one of the most absorbing and aesthetically designed, which attracts anyone’s attention even when seen in films and photographs. I have never been to Moscow myself, but if I ever do, this would be the first place I would ask the taxi driver from the airport to take me to.

Moscow has been hidden behind the veil of iron curtain for many decades. Tourists shivered in fear of being trailed by KGBs and usually declined any offer to visit this strange yet aspiring city. After the dissolution of the USSR, things changed for good and it allowed tourists trickling in this once strange city. However, Moscow still wears its cloak of a rather gloomy city mainly owing to its severe winters, very high cost of living and not very efficient transportation. Well one cannot compare it with the luxuries offered by most European cities, but it is worth visiting for that strange aura and being different from the rest. This is how a friend described it to me.

Every tourist would love to visit the famous Red Square. But my friend told me that he was dismayed to find that the square was neither a square and certainly not red. Why it is called red, no one knows really

The Kremlin is Moscow’s geographical centre, surrounded by “city within a city” of van the Great. The place abounds in small eateries, vendors, hawkers and tea houses. These provide good sit-in places to enjoy hot tea or black coffee while watching people roaming about. The tourists get fleeced by hawkers selling small gifts, replicas of city monuments and trophies. As for the Kremlin itself, it is the biggest museums of the world. Herein stored and displayed are treasures of Russian Tsars beside other valuable icons. My friend while describing Kremlin had some wonderful memories of the place. He explained that the Spasskaya Tower of Kremlin was the most awe inspiring and beautiful. I wonder what he found in it that was so worth mentioning, except that this was the main entrance to the structure. Besides the tower, the huge Emperor Bell and the Emperor Cannon are the main attractions of the tourists.

St Basil’s cathedral, that I mentioned earlier, was a small cemetery in the 16th century, until Tsar Ivan the Terrible ordered construction of seven wooden temples at the place where a stone temple named after the Feast of Protective Veil was erected. The church in the central tower was devoted to this holiday. The church towers located along the diagonals are in fact devoted to various events of Kazan campaign of 1552, when the Russian troops took over Kazan, the capital of Kazan Khanate. The cathedral has no particular or exclusive façade as it was designed for an all-round viewing. Today, the tourists are attracted to it more than a tourist attraction and throng it from all over the world to admire its architectural aesthetics rather than the religious bonding.

The Red Square also houses the Mausoleum. Well it is simply called so where the dead body of Lenin is preserved. This monumental structure tiled with dark-red granite, porphyry and black labradorite. However the red and black shades make the mausoleum look sad and dull. While the word “Lenin” is inscribed in red porphyry on the main entrance, names of thousands of people who constructed it are written at both sides of the building along the Kremlin wall.

As for leisure and pleasure, one should not miss the Gorky Park. Situated just across the Moskva River, the park was carved out by joining together the gardens of Golitsyn Hospital and the Neskuchny Palace. Spread over an area of some 120 hectares along the river, the park is haven for children. The park is divided into two parts: the first is primarily for children or those trying to entertain them, as it contains a range of funfair rides and roller coasters. One can also ride of horses, real horses, or take a ride in the boats of the river flowing to its side. The enormous Ferris wheel which was once the main attraction of the park, has been removed from the park lately. The other part is in fact the older park consisting of old buildings including two summerhouses by the famous Russian architect Mikhail Kazakov. The main attraction of the old area is the Green Theater, an outdoor amphitheater which attracts tourists in summers when operas and concerts are held here.

This is what I heard of Moscow from a friend. I wish one day I also walk down the Red Square or ring the giant Emperor Bell of the Kremlin. I won’t try to wake up Lenin his resting place inside the Mausoleum by firing the Emperor Cannon though.

But before I end my post, do you know there is a small place known as Moscow in USA? Well there is actually a place in Idaho located in between the Moscow Mountain and the Palouse hills. Initially it was known as the Paradise Valley, when settlers came this way in the 1870s. However, its name was changed to Moscow in 1877 on the request of one Samuel Neff.