Sunday, July 2, 2017

[MOSCOW] The Other Kremlin

I had several options for the second day and the most popular one was returning to St. Basil’s and sitting on one of the benches behind it. People watching. All day. Not a bad thing to do because it somehow gives me a semblance of tranquility. Don’t ask me how. But that didn’t happen in the end. In fact, I never went back to the Red Square anymore. I looked for alternatives on Wikitravel and one itinerary seemed interesting. Apparently, there’s another Kremlin no one talks about that much. It’s called Izmailovo.

Red Square’s Kremlin seems to be on top of the list of every tourist who lands in Moscow, even those who don’t have the slightest idea what to do in the city. The place has good name recall, perhaps due to it being name-dropped in the news every time something about Russia comes up. I’m not sure if you can get into the Kremlin for free. I saw people going in and out yesterday. A quick search of tickets online revealed that for some areas, you need to register, and they tend to be booked out well in advance.

What drew me to Izmailovo was its proximity to the center. You just get on the blue line at Ploshad Revolutsii which shares the same entrance and exit with the Green line’s Teatralnaya. The stop you are looking for is Partizanskaya to the northeast. The trip was quick and did not take 20 minutes. Getting out of the metro station, you have the option to head south to the park or north to the Kremlin itself. I chose to go the park first because I wanted to take a stroll. Suffice it to say that I had a jolly good time.

I’m just a ten-year old kid trapped in this emaciated 30-something body, okay? Bring me to a theme park and I’ll be supah grateful. Izmailovo has two Ferris wheels in the park itself. The theme park right at the entrance seemed to have its own, too. They don’t seem that high, though. The tallest one is on the other end of the park but I don’t know if it does give you a good panoramic view of the area. There is also no shortage of green and brown. It was nice to get away from the tourist infestation in Central Moscow.

The stroll took around an hour or two. They also have a big lake where you can go boating with the family. You can jog or run, too. At the theme park they were playing ABBA hits one right after another. And then I told myself, what better way to spend a boring Sunday afternoon than chill at this park while singing along to ABBA’s hits, eh? I then took a break and ate corn on a cob at the mall halfway between the two attractions. It was raining so I had to wait for it to stop somewhere. Next stop: Kremlin!

This Russian type of architecture, I find quite hard to place. The splash of colors suggest an affinity closer to architectural styles in Muslim countries, far detached from the monotonous grandeur of the European tradition, which seems to favor size over hue. But the similarity ends with the colors, for the shapes and patterns are uniquely Russian. In effect, it always gives me that impression that I am at a theme park. It feels like a colorful medieval town straight out of a fairy tale.

The bazaar next to the premises is also housed in small buildings of the same style but I can’t be so sure if they were part of the original or just copied the look in order to blend in. You can buy your souvenirs here. Some knowledge of Russian will definitely help if you want a good bargain. As for me, I went straight to the Kremlin’s entrance and took the obligatory photos of the stunning façade. To get inside, you have to pass through an elevated bridge of sorts leading to a beautiful archway.

Once inside, you’ll feel as though you were in some kind of Harry Potter village rip-off. I mean, this gave me more Harry Potter feels than Harry Potter World, to be honest. I’m not saying that the place looks anything like Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley. What I’m simply driving at is that the ambiance is far more legit. While the area was indeed once the location of the Romanovs’ residence back then, the buildings are just recent constructions meant to make everyone nostalgic of a bygone era. I thought they were legit!

The small plaza is sandwiched by a wooden church to the right and another tall wooden structure to the left, which does not seem to be religious in nature. To me it looked like a Himalayan rest house with a Disney inspired roof. Did I mention that the central roof is studded with gold and purple spikes? It appears to be something that Lady Gaga would design if she decided to shift careers and unleash her inner architect. That’s what makes the place so unique. It’s a like a mash up of the old, the new, and the weird.

I don’t think they hold masses in the wooden church. The interior design is interesting. True to Orthodox traditions, the central wall comes alive with vivid paintings of religious personalities while the ceiling is adorned with a chandelier that floods the intimate space with just enough illumination. You will see people come in and light an incense or just pray. And then there’s also me, the tourist, snapping photos. The church is really tall but the higher floors seem to be inaccessible. Is there even a higher floor to begin with?

The vicinity has several museums dedicated to Russian history. It also has a selection of restaurants if ever you get hungry. It is said that the place was built to showcase Russian culture, and I believe that it has achieved that goal so far. It offers you a glimpse of how life was back then without having to venture far away from the modern city center. While I don’t really consider it as a must-see, I highly recommend it if you want something different.

[MOSCOW] The Other Kremlin

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