Now that we have found our bearings and can find our way around the greater city we wanted our Moscow sightseeing tours to be more daring. At the end of week 2 we ventured even further across Moscow, heading to Izmailovo Kremlin (Kremlin is actually a Russian word for fort, I think, and not just the name of The Kremlin where the centre of Russian history is based and what we in the west think is the only Kremlin.). This is a rather interesting place and is apparently the largest arts and crafts market in the world, certainly felt that way. Cost of admission equated to less than 50 cents each.
This is a replica old style village with museums, wedding venues, hotels, cafes, etc (none of which we got to see by the way.) with and art and craft market around it at the weekends. Master craftsmen come here from all over Russia as well as a fair amount of dodgy looking Russian hat salesmen, who can somehow drop their “Best” price on a hat from 2,000 roubles ($NZ 80) to 500 roubles ($NZ 12.50) the less interest you show in it, unfortunately wasn’t the style I was after so passed up on it, at which point I think he said something similar to “well piss off then you tight arse prick…” (or и проваливай тогда вы плотно осел укол in Russian). There are hundreds (possibly thousands) of stalls here selling every kind of souvenir you can imagine. Fortunately this market isn’t like the one outside “The Kremlin” where there are about 100 stalls all selling the same things. It was bustling with people, some stalls were great where you could stop and have a look at what they had to offer, while at others the moment you paused to look at something they were on you in much the same way as at the Old Souk in Dubai.
These guys would try everything they could to convince you to buy something, even if you didn’t want it because, as I heard 1 such stall holder exclaim, “oh, come on I have to make a living too…” which in a way seems quite sad as it does seem to highlight how hard it is to survive here when you are in the “have not’s”, which is quite evident throughout the whole city and which I will cover in a separate post.
Me and the kids were busy eyeing up the kebab stands for lunch and were at one about to place our order when Angela dragged us away, as Obarra (the Spanish girl who is a workmate of Angela’s) had told her that there were reports of them actually giving you cat meat at these stalls, so weren’t allowed to risk this new delicacy…. (sure it couldn’t have been any worse than horse could it ?)
Another cultural aspect that one has to accept over here is their love of fur, not that we have anything against using fur itself, just that some particular furs are harder to accept the use of than others. There are a lot of stalls selling hats, vests and coats made of various kinds of fur like, rabbit, mink and fox, which is similar to our own use of possum, however it does get a bit saddening to see wolf and bear skins being sold in a market. It is obviously accepted over here, but we are not fully familiar with the circumstances under which these skins are obtained, so can’t really criticise.
Jimmy managed to find himself a little wooden sword on our way out, which he proceeded to wave with absolute gusto all the way to the train station, nearly stabbing about 3 unsuspecting by-passers on the way.
The trip home involves catching the Metro on the blue line back to Lenin Library Station in central Moscow , then jump onto our red line train to home. Wandering through these Metro stations is certainly a joy for anyone interested in architecture, for while they might seem grungy and grimey, they are certainly nothing short of impressive architecturally. They are also full of Bolshevik imagery and statues of heroes of the revolution, it gives one an appreciation of how truly oppressive life must have been here in Soviet times, if it is what it is now after 20+ years of “Glasnost”. The station we start our return trip from has a number of large statues adorning the platform, depicting the peasants who rose up and gained victory for the Communist ideal.
One thing that we didn’t realise that day was that it was the same day as Vladimir Putin’s 60th birthday as well as a Moscow derby in the soccer at Luzhniki Stadium a few stops from our home station on our line. What brought our attention to the thought that something might be happening was the huge presence of police once we got to Lenin Library Station. The police here, contrary to popular belief seem pretty low key, and when you do see them they seem to be mostly standing around talking, smoking, drinking coffee, shopping or occasionally standing somewhere near the side of a road twirling their trunction around, and sometimes giving a little toot on their whistle if they see someone who may be thinking about jay walking, or who hasn’t made a very good job of parking their car, they are actually quite funny to watch, very similar to our western depiction of say a 1950’s New York beat cop, they don’t have any of the protective gear that our police have as part of their daily uniform, although they do have a revolver, which could I guess be pretty protective…
And you don’t really see them in great numbers. This day was different, as we entered the station they were everywhere, there was a smoko room full of them as you entered the platform, then once you hit the platform you start seeing the riot police, fully kitted with their protective gear, helmets, visors and battens, half of them with their battens already in their hands ready to knock the snot out of some little soccer hooligan. We board the train and head on our merry way, luckily we were still a few hours ahead of game time, so the trains weren’t packed, but they were full and you could tell there were a few lads on their way to the soccer. At each station we passed the police presence grew greater all the way to the station closest to the stadium after which their numbers dropped considerably for the last couple of stops. We have since found that one no-no in Moscow for a foreigner is to travel on the Metro at the same time as the football crowds, as you become an instant target. Anyway we made it home safely, and read on the net the next day that the fighting wasn’t as bad as the match before…..