Last Saturday, I woke up in a Moscow hotel and ate a tasty breakfast. After a busy work week, I'd finally have a chance to tour the downtown. I checked out, then was joined by a Russian friend. We walked across the street the metro and took the red line downtown.
When we emerged, we were near the Bolshoi Theater, where we'd spent an enjoyable evening on the prior Thursday. I blogged about that experience here.
Next, we looked up the street and my friend pointed out the location of the former KGB. It's the building in the middle of this shot (tan and brown).
This picture also shows the contrast between different architectures in the downtown -- older, classic styles co-exist with Soviet era buildings and in some parts of town, notably the business district, it's all new, dominated by tall glassy towers.
We skipped getting a closer view of the KGB and walked a few blocks toward Red Square. The weather was cool, just above freezing, but there was moisture in the air which helped the cold penetrate. On a day like this, staying in motion was a good strategy for staying warm.
Very soon, we reached one of the entrances to Red Square.
My friend remarked that this entrance had formerly been totally open to the square beyond, but it had deliberately been closed off to prevent the old style military parades which had shown off elaborate and large weapons. Next, we walked inside. Looking up, a flag was waving atop a building in the Kremlin; it meant the President was working on this day.
Red Square offers a juxtaposition of many different images, of different historical eras all sharing this one space. The red brick wall we see in so many shots is the Kremlin wall, which surrounds the seat of today's Russian government, but formerly was the place where the Soviet era leaders presided. Here I am standing in Red Square and you can see the Kremlin behind me.
Looking further in another direction, the towers of St. Basil's Cathedral offer a richness of color and intricate design which was even more elaborate than I'd anticipated. This is perhaps the most prominent image one associates with Red Square, but the prior pictures I'd seen did not do justice to the beauty of this building.
All of the pictures you've seen here were taken in the course of about one hour. By now, the November weather had chilled us, so we walked across the square into a modern looking building which is actually a very high end shopping center. So this is what we see in today's Red Square - a place where multiple eras of architecture co-exist and we can also see the layers of political ideology, religion and capitalism mixing in a strange brew which is all part of today's Russia.
In the weeks before this trip, a band I play with has been exploring a beautiful song called Wind of Change, which was originally written and performed by the German band Scorpions. It's set in Moscow and is a song about the many changes that took place twenty years ago. As I walked through Red Square and then on to see other parts of downtown Moscow, this song ran through my head and added another layer of meaning to what I saw.
These are scenes I will never forget. If you ever have a chance to tour Red Square, please go. You'll see so much in a short period of time, but the images will linger and work their way into your soul.