Moscow's Cow Tongue and that Red Square - Friday, August 16, 1991

Friday, August 16, 1991

We arrived in MOW about 9:40 a.m. A soon as we left the aircraft, I saw a sign for Cuban cigars from Havana. The sense of irony just overwhelmed me. We went through customs easily and the people from the hotel were right on time. We had to wait because the others on the tour with us still had to go through customs. We stood in line to change dollars. I changed $60. The exchange rate was good: 32 rubles per 1 USD. We got back a wad of money…almost a book. After that, we still had to wait, but the driver decided to not make us wait longer so they took us to the hotel. The ride was about five minutes. The hotel was actually a small cruise ship docked on the river. It was pretty unusual, but cool. The rooms were cabins with two beds and a mini bathroom with the shower head serving as a sink faucet and the shower itself. As you took a shower, the toilet area got wet. At least we had a place to sit while showering.

We unpacked and went to have lunch in the dining room as lunch was included in the package. All I could say about lunch is that the bread and butter were awesome. We were served some kind of meat that looked pretty bad. Ana kept saying it had “hair.” Later, we discovered the hair was actually taste buds and the meat was garnished tongue. Really,  great?

After lunch, we asked for information about the city. Svetlana, an Intourist rep (InTourist is the largest tour operator in the country), who spoke perfect English, got us a ride into the center of MOW (Kremlin, Red Square) for $10 USD. On the way, the taxi driver crashed. We sat speechless. It was a minor accident, but he almost lost control of the car. It was also raining, so that didn’t help. A cop stopped him, but the other driver didn’t care so everyone went their separate ways. The driver dropped us off in Red Square at about 2 p.m. and it was chilly and drizzling rain.

Red Square was impressive, but not that impressive. St. Basil’s Cathedral (designed by Brama and Postnick) for Ivan the Terrible was awesome. Note: The story about the eye gauging incident is only legend, not fact. It was in the distance and it looked like a cardboard cut-out. It looked so Communist and real and I couldn’t believe I was standing there. We passed by Lenin’s tomb. It is made of black/gray granite and it sits to the side of the square against the Kremlin wall. We walked by it because there was a large crowd waiting for something. We went into St. Basil’s for about 20 kopeks (like nothing cents) and it was no big deal. It houses several churches and glass cases with Faberge eggs. When we walked outside again, we saw three guards marching toward Lenin’s tomb. We figured it was the changing of the guards, so I ran after them with a video camera. It was incredible. Everything is timed to the second and every hour on the hour, they change guards. We wanted to go inside, but it was closed. We then saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (the one with flames) and the garden area to both sides of the tombs.

After that, we walked inside the Kremlin. We saw several cathedrals from the outside and then we took a taxi back to the hotel. It cost us only 20 rubles (less than one dollar). The hotel lady ripped us off. Well, they have to make money somehow. We got back to the hotel at about 6 p.m. We skipped dinner and went to sleep. The sleep was to last 13 hours!

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