"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible." ~ T. E. Lawrence
Red Square is quintessential Russia; embodying such rich culture and history without being a museum display. As I have travel on the brain with my upcoming trip to Israel, I’ve been remembering past adventures.
On a soggy day in June, we emerged from the depths of Kitay-gorod Metro to the patter of drizzling rain and grey skies. Stepping into Red Square for the first time was surreal. I had seen photos of the place, movies shot on this ground, but to be there in that moment, it all became reality. This was the face of Russia that I had grown to know. That facade is only a mask of what Russia truly is to me. Russia is in it’s people, in walking the streets during the day, speaking the language, eating the food, being confused for a local. But this facade, this is what the world knows of Russia: the heart blood of the nation, the center of a powerful city.
Lenin’s Mausoleum stands with it’s block-like construction, right angles and smooth surface. And beyond it, the high walls of the Kremlin, almost as though Lenin’s tomb guard the entrance to the “Seat of Grand Dukes”, “Residence of the Tzars”, and now presidents.
Then there are the onion-shaped domes and spires of St. Basil’s Cathedral. This place had captured my imagination for years. As a child I had imagined it as the castle-home of the Nutcracker Prince – all brilliant colors, beautiful shapes, and stately elegance. Sadly, the cathedral was undergoing its scheduled restoration when I was in Moscow so some of it was under wraps.
And then there was Kitay-gorod itself – the historic merchant quarter of Moscow. We wandered through GUM, one of Russia’s main department stores, and I was awe-struck by the opulent decor. Crown mouldings painted over in gold, wall finishing of marble, a ceiling that reminded me of mosaic glass, while pristine windows displayed the wares of some of the best names in fashion: Dooney and Burke handbags, Prada shoes, Louis Vuitton clutches, perfumes that I couldn’t even afford to sample. It was window-shopping in the extreme.
My favorite by far was St. Basil’s Cathedral. It had stolen my heart long ago as a child, and seeing it in-person was a thrill. I still see Red Square in movies every now and then. It makes me smile to know I’ve had the chance to stand on those ruddy bricks and be impacted by a place of such significance for Russia.