Russian adventure update.
Mike took us for a tour of the Kremlin today. We walked for 4 hours - should have remembered the Kremlin was a fortress - hence on a hill. It's huge and lots of cobble stone and steps.
Saw some incredible stuff. Lots of coronation gowns, carriages, state gifts, etc. Cathedral Square has more churches than I thought - each is magnificent. They were setting up for the big New Year's Eve celebration - had to step over cables, etc. They had just delivered these elaborate ice sculptures of various sites in the Kremlin - hope the pictures will show the details. Since it is the government center, there are lots of restricted areas and police types.
Passed lots of vendors but didn't get to convert any money so I couldn't buy anything - this is a cash economy. Lots of various head gear - Amy and Claire would have ball trying things on me! Passed 2 MacDonalds and saw lots of American logos - there is a huge Mercedes symbol on a building in competition with the stars. The guide told us a lot about the skyline - the stars rotate with the wind but the crosses on churches are always aligned east to west. During WWII they were camoflauged in Moscow and removed in the countryside. Seems to have confused the Germans.
Rode the subway - very crowded and gets warm. Trains run about a minute apart - no one runs for a train or holds the doors or pushes - as clean as they advertise - marble stations - very deep - reminds me of London. I was surprised to see dogs in the stations - strays not guide ones. Mike said strays are all over Moscow. They aren't aggressive and roam by themselves - not in packs. The crows are 2 toned - grey bodies with black wings and heads that end in "collars". I didn't see any together to tell if the collar patterns are the same on each bird. There doesn't seem to be any accommodations for people with disabilities anywhere.
Lots of plain hair styles - guess hat hair is a common malady. Didn't notice any trash cans. There are people with booms sweeping everywhere - young men not old ladies. The only trash I saw was cigarette butts.
We had lunch in a fancy restaurant. They have "business lunch specials" - full meals at low prices. We had a salad, borcht, and some white fish with delicious mashed potatoes. We each had a bottle of water for our "cocktail" - all for 250 ruples (the exchange rate at Kenndy was 20:1) so that was less than $50 for the 3 of us - not bad because Lisa says a bottle of water at a restaurant goes for around $10!
People don't drink the tap water here - Brita must make a fortune!
There is a tram system - the red and yellow cars from "Doctor Zhivago" are still running! Traffic is horrendous - there doesn't seem to be any traffic lights. They must be there but you have to fight to make a left turn - not that much of a problem - everything is so backed up so you can just nose your way across. Hard to imagine the car race scenes in the Bourne movies! I can understand why Lisa won't drive here. No one walks across a street - there are underground passage ways for pedestriains - but in the middle of the block - adds to the walking.
I understand why Lisa says everything here is grey - the sun was out for maybe 10 minutes and it's dark around 4:30. They must use something like ashes instead of salt on the snow - the streets are clear but dirty - the cars are filthy. The people are well dressed - lots of fur, of course. Didn't notice many Ipods or people talking - everyone keeps to themsleves with down cast eyes - few smiles. Even the kids on school tours weren't fooling around. Noticable difference in attitudes from New Yorkers.
Have to get some sleep - body is fighting switching times.