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Flying Air France to Moscow took the whole day, departing at 9:40 AM from the apartment on Rue Claude Bernard to arriving at the Marriott Tyverska at 8:00 PM Moscow time (two time zones earlier than Paris).
We had packed the gifts of medical supplies, including all sorts of OTC medications and suture materials among the five bags we brought so that we wouldn’t lose it all if we were stopped coming through customs. Entry to Russia reminded me of entering Italy when I was 15 years old. There was some formality, but very little and we were quickly through customs and met up with our driver who took us to the hotel. We saw modern European and Japanese cars everywhere. Later we learned that there are over 3 million privately owned car in Moscow, a city of 10.5 million (official) people with some unofficial estimates going as high as 13 million.
We’re staying at the Marriott on miles I’ve accumulated over the years. Thank you ABEM.
We grabbed a quick and expensive dinner in the hotel restaurant and I got a WiFi account which unfortunately doesn’t work in my room. It does in the kid’s room and in the lounge where I’m sitting now. So I’ll have to be more disciplined and organized in my blogging.
We spent today touring, visiting Lenin’s tomb, seeing the Kremlin wall and visiting various churches, including St. Basil’s shown here. Ludmilla Chmyga (chmyga at mail dot ru) took us around first through the metro which was entirely as described with inlaid stone floors and finished ceilings well lighted with various art pieces in the Soviet style. Our guide helped us beat the line for Lenin’s tomb, but nothing could save us from having to walk all around the outside of the square and view the statuary after exiting the tomb . . . statues of long dead Soviet leaders.
Saint Basil’s sits in Red Square, which contrary to my prior understanding was not named such in honor/recognition of Communism but rather because the name "red" means beautiful–rather like the "Firebird" symbol. With our back to St. Basil’s we’re facing the Gum Department Store. The sun really was brilliant at our back and thus the washed out sky so I could get our faces to appear. I’m not so practiced with Photoshop.
The GUM Department store (over my left shoulder in the photo above right) is a modern commercial enterprise with every name you might imagine: L’Oreal, Rolex and more. No more a state enterprise, it resembles in every way a visit to a modern mall except for the architecture which is marked by gorgeous 19th century colonnades and wrought-iron work. Apparently escalators have been installed only in the last five years. Soon after GUM and a pit stop at the Metropol Hotel we were picked up by a mini-bus and driver who took us around the city for an orienting tour. We heard about the old churches demolished by the Soviets–especially Stalin–and the rebuilding splurge of recent years.
We saw Moscow University and views of the city from various hillsides. All in all it was a fine and somewhat fatiguing tour which ended with a stop at one of Simone’s favorite destinations in any city: a supermarket.
When Simone was here in November 1992 to complete Masha’s adoption, it was at the height of the turmoil and disorder after the end of the Soviet Union. There was nothing in the stores. There were scarcely potatoes to be had let alone other produce. She took the family she stayed with to a "green store" not because it was ecological or had great produce but because you could only spend American Greenbacks there. She bought edible, though not great food on that trip. Today, Simone was bowled over by what she saw of the store’s stock and I by its interior architecture.