Seated on the train for St Petersburg, heading to what I thought would be the ultimate highlight of my trip I can’t help feeling sad to leave Moscow. This came as a total surprise to me.
I discovered Russia whilst I was a child growing up in Argentina, as I loved daydreaming about travelling and used to sit in front of the TV and watch the Saturday movies. A full afternoon filled with adventure, history, drama and love stories.
One of the love stories started my love affair with Russia, the film was called ‘The Journey’ starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr and it had it all for me – drama, love and passion. The most important sentiment, which becomes obvious in the film, is the conflict which the border guard, Major Surov feels when a mysterious foreign woman arrives. During the entire movie he tries so hard to hide or fight his curiosity, interest, or maybe love. Both create a strain of mixed tension, passion, trust and love. I will not continue…you should enjoy the movie yourself.
The reason I start this small review with this reference is that Moscow is in a way like the Major Surov, from my point of view, hiding their real core and soul. This city tries to hide behind the big concrete buildings, the 7 Stalin skyscrapers (seven sisters), the big ‘Russian White House’ which is the house of the Government of the Russian Federation, the KGB building, the big churches, museums, monuments – all of them BIG.
Moscow protects itself. Its river ‘Moskva’ was the first natural protection, then as the years went by they created not one, but three protective rings, the most famous is the Kremlin, a big red fortress in the heart of the city.
The city I discovered, the one you can walk day and night, is the creative, passionate Moscow. All of the buildings and fortresses are there telling us a story of a country of people working on hard land, enduring harsh cold weather, surviving wars, whilst in the upper classes there were lots of marriages of convenience, betrays and plots. More passion and history!
The musicians and poets, Tolstoy, Pushkin living in the Arbat district, where I can Imagine them drinking coffee, gambling all of their money away whilst reciting poetry, writing a novel or debating new ideas. And today we can read about this in their many books and see for ourselves the old architecture, museums – and for me a highlight ‘The Chekhov Theatre’.
You will find the newest version of Moscow in each street, where their citizens will be riding a scooter or skateboarding through the crowds to get to work, where you will be given a free rock band concert in an unusual corner of the city. The gentler version of Moscow is also visible all day – these are the painters, the crafters, the violin players, and the improv actors at Teatralnaya Square. They are all around the Bolshoi Theatre talking in their native tongue, which makes no difference, as you will lose yourself in their passion.
Moscow was and still is an unexpected surprise to me. I was fearful of the big avenues and buildings, however, I saw what was behind all of that – a true gift for the avid traveller.