Some days when you’re travelling are absolutely perfect, everything falls into place, the experiences you have and the people you meet are memories that you’ll treasure for ages.
And some days nothing works the way you planned, and the outcome isn’t some wonderful unexpected adventure, but just a crappy disappointment where the whole system seems designed to test your patience, and your acceptance of another culture.
Guess which one was today?
It didn’t start off badly. We negotiated the subway system with ease, and made our way to Lenin’s Mausoleum, which unlike yesterday, was open. We missed the entrance, so we decided to hop over the low barrier – it’s free to get in after all.
I don’t know exactly what the woman yelled at us in Russian, but her meaning was very clear. “Go back and around and don’t think you’re above following the rules like everyone else!”
So we go properly inside, past 6 young men in full military outfits (no smiling!) to Lenin-under-glass. You aren’t allowed to stop walking and take a long look, which Mother tried unsuccessfully to ignore. You can slowly shuffle past in the dimly lit tomb, but you are most definitely not permitted to look closely…is it because it’s not actually Lenin anymore, but a wax replica? He is sort of the colour of a soy candle…Oh, and he’s short.
After admiring the corpse, we headed for the Kremlin entrance. As usual, my keen sense of direction had us walking around the Kremlin walls in the WRONG direction. And make no mistake, the Kremlin is BIG. Like 69.4 acres big. Cue the long walk.
At the entrance we stood in line to get tickets. We stood in line to enter. We stood in line to have our bags scanned…and finally we got inside…where our ticket was scanned at each of the museum-churches we entered within the Kremlin. Why? I mean, how would anyone sneak into the Kremlin, one of the most fortified structures in the city? The home of Vladimir Putin? Yeah, I’m sneaking in…and my first stop is to check out the frescos in a church before I get down to some real mischief!
The Kremlin, which is the seat of the Russian government, has been home to some of the world’s most famous and infamous leaders. Ivan the Great, Ivan the Terrible, Lenin, Stalin, Gorbachev and Yeltsin, all cast an indelible mark on Russian history from inside these walls.
It isn’t just one building, but a series of buildings within the stronghold. Towers, churches, an armory and, what I’m really here for, The Diamond Fund.
With the rather misleading name of the Armory, the building I’m most interested in was built as a weapons and arms storage area, but it has spent the better part of its existence as the a treasure trove of crown jewels, carriages, gold and silver pieces, and pricey gifts from heads of state. The famous Faberge Eggs are inside.
But one needs to stand in yet another line to buy a ticket to the Diamond Fund. And you can’t just buy a ticket for any old time, and you can’t walk through without a group (how would anyone go about pocketing a Faberge Egg or another treasure is beyond me…). So we miss the first tour time. The second tour time is 2:30. But you can’t buy tickets for that time until after the ticket sellers’ “technical break” – basically their lunch break. And that doesn’t end until 2:30…Kafka, I can hear you laughing.
Not having had anything to eat (there’s no café in the Kremlin), and knowing we are scheduled for our Metro stations tour at 4:00, we elect to forgo the diamond viewing to have a little lunch, and get warm.
We arrive for our metro tour at the indicated metro stop more than 15 minutes before the start time, as directed on my confirmation slip. And we wait. And we wait. And no one ever shows up. And it’s the last straw. There were two things I really wanted to see in Moscow – and in one day I’ve missed them both because of language barriers or inefficiency or cultural misunderstanding or I don’t know what. And for the moment, I’m seething at the city of Moscow and the Russians.