One of the highlights of my last trip to Moscow was seeing Lenin’s embalmed corpse. When I told my guide (a friend of a friend) that I wanted to see it, he scoffed.
“That is not the real Moscow,” he said.
I’m still wondering what the real Moscow is.
This morning, we woke early to queue up for the Lenin Mausoleum, which is only open from 10-1. We even arrived 20 minutes before 10. No one was in line and a metal barricade surrounded the rectangular red and black mausoleum. You couldn’t even get around the back to see the busts of other Soviet leaders, including Stalin.
Bad sign. We hung out until 10 in the bitter cold of Red Square, then asked a guard.
“Closed until New Year. Construction.”
I don’t know, maybe it’s better this way. How could the experience possibly compare to that moment 11 years ago? I’ve elevated it to the status of one of my favorite travel moments ever. How many embalmed legends does one get to see in a lifetime? The dimmed lights, the almost ceremonial procession. The memory lives on.
Rob will just have to settle for my description.
My other memory from that magical day was walking underground to a shopping mall where I struggled to communicate to a food stand lady that I wanted the bliny with mushrooms. (Russia was the first place I started to like mushrooms.) That bliny counter seems to have been replaced by a brightly lit food court featuring a Subway and Burger King where they almost speak English. In my memory the bliny counter was dimly lit. In black and white even.
Thanks, globalization for taking away my authentic cultural experience. We went to a sit-down place where I enjoyed poppy seed bliny with chocolate and vanilla sauce (and stopped at Burger King so Rob could get a cheeseburger), before venturing to the Cosmonautics Museum.
In Your Pocket told us the museum would be all in Russian, but happily, that turned out not to be true. Plus, our arrival was marked by a grand Moscow redemption. As we emerged from the metro, sun streamed through the bitter cold to highlight a monument aimed at the sky honoring the Soviet space race. Imagine! Our destination clearly visible from the metro exit. Unprecedented.
Not only are there English descriptions of some of the models of satellites and capsules, the Cosmonautics Museum features the stuffed bodies of Belka and Strelka, the first dogs in space. You’d think this would disturb me, as I can’t even watch clips from a taxidermy show on The Soup, but seeing those little doggies made my day.
If I can’t see Lenin, I’ll settle for Belka and Strelka.
That’s their real landing capsule, I think.