Red Square Moscow
Red Square Moscow – Красная площадь
I finally made it to Russia and in particularly Red Square Moscow after years of planning and planning including getting a Russian visa. It is on my bucket list and a trip of a lifetime! I enjoyed four days in Moscow before heading to Sochi to cheer Canada on during the Sochi 2014 Olympics! I will return to visit St. Petersburg, the Golden Ring, Novgorod and Siberia. There are many places to see in Russia. First up, MOSCOW! I adore this city, even surprising myself with how much….did not expect to fall in love with Moscow. Red Square Moscow lives up to the hype!
This is the iconic image of not only Moscow but also all of Russia. Red Square (Красная площадь or the transliteration is Krasnaya Ploshchad) is located at the what is considered the epicenter of Moscow: the Kremlin on the east, the masterpiece of St. Basil’s Cathedral on the south end, GUM department store on the west, and the creepy Lenin’s mausoleum beside the Kremlin wall. Red Square has seen executions, demonstrations, riots, parades and speeches throughout the centuries, dating back to the 15th century after the Kremlin walls were completed. Red Square is the focal point of Moscow socially and politically. They even set up a skating rink in the Square (although that was annoying since it was in the way when taking pictures).
I mentioned executions and that is something I want to expand on. Russia’s history is long and complicated but also quite turbulent. During the reign of Ivan the Terrible, he declared his abdication of the Russian throne several times and tortured the hostile boyars in Red Square Moscow. During the reign of Peter the Great, the Kremlin guard (Streltsy) rebelled and he executed the guards in Red Square; many were executed personally by Peter himself, ending a long struggle with the guard who had rebelled a decade earlier under Peter’s sister Sophia.
Krasnaya is now translated as red but originally it was beautiful (today beautiful is красивый – krasivyy but the ending changes due to gender/number). The name of Red Square has nothing to do with communism; it is most likely named for the beauty of St. Basil’s. It really is a gorgeous area; I was lucky enough to book a hotel nearby with a view of the Kremlin and St. Basil’s Cathedral. That was a great decision!
To visit Lenin’s Mausoleum, all electronics such as phones and cameras must be checked in a nearby building (for a small fee) and there is no charge for entry to view Lenin’s body. You walk through a metal detector and then make your way to the mausoleum. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for others buried on your right hand side near the Kremlin wall. Stalin is buried there as well as Brezhnev, Dzerzhinsky, Kalinin plus many others. If you love creepy dead bodies and graves, this is the place for you! Lenin is still a murdering bastard but it is something to see.
I visited last month (February 2014) and there wasn’t a line. But I suspect the line will be longer in the summer so go first thing in the day. Basically, you move slowly while walking around the glass-encased body of Lenin: do not talk or chew gum as respect is key and the guards will not bother you. Lenin is fairly well-preserved; I do believe this is actually Lenin even though he does look rubbery. It looks like a body that has been on display for decades; it is not perfectly preserved. He is freshened up every 18 months and this is a must on your stop in Red Square Moscow.
After visiting Lenin, go back to pick up your electronics so you can take photographs of Red Square. When I was in Moscow, the Russians had set up a skating rink in Red Square which took up quite a bit of space and blocked attempts to get the whole Square pictured.
St. Basil’s Cathedral
Saint Basil’s Cathedral is also known as The Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed or The Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin by the Moat. It is the iconic image of Russia and it does not disappoint. It was built by Ivan the Terrible in the mid-16th century to commemorate the capture of Kazan from the Mongols in 1552 by builders Barma and Postnik Yakovlev. There is a fantastical legend: the builders were blinded by Ivan the Terrible so they could not create anything as beautiful as St. Basil’s again. I enjoy the legend even though it is not accurate.
You can enter the Cathedral as it is partly a museum now; it is open daily from 11:00-17:00 and the entrance fee is 250 rubles. It is worth a quick visit inside to see icons and paintings. Words do St. Basil’s no justice; go and see for yourself. It is a trip you will never forget. While Russia may not be on anyone’s destination list right now due to the invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea, keep it in mind and you will not be disappointed.
Have you visited Russia? What did you think of Red Square? How about the a trip behind the Kremlin Wall?