Thursday, March 15, 2007

Day 7, Moscow: When Pushkin comes to shove

Babel: big in the city, beard ban, Gogh medicine

Getting off at Kropotkinskaya Metro, me and Jamie inadvertently find ourselves visiting the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Stalin destroyed the original 19th century version in 1933 to build a massive Empire State-beating skybusting palace which was going to be topped with a hundred-metre statue of Lenin whose eyes would emit an evil bright red beam. It never happened – instead, they built a swimming pool. That was a bit crap, so in the mid-1990s, they rebuilt the old church, to exactly the same design.


"And what did you do in the mid-90s?"
"I built this, what did you do?"


"So he told them his scheme for a Saviour Machine"

Just across the river is the statue of Peter the Great. My potted Russian history tells me that PtG banned beards in Russian society (later imposing a beard tax), worked incognito in the dockyards of England and Holland to learn a few shipbuilding skills, and had a disproportionately small head. I think he was “great” thanks to the combination of progressive reforms and only torturing and massacring a small proportion of the population, unusual for Russian leaders, it seems. Anyway, here he is, on his boat:


Happy Peter

Then onto the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, and the Museum of Private Collections. Both were amazingly empty – at one stage I found myself completely alone in a room of five Van Goghs and three Sisleys. They had three Henri Rousseaus too – I LOVE HIM - and this miniature by Rodin (Eternal Spring) which was so amazing I almost cried. Contents clearly not very Russian, but NONETHELESS TOTALLY SWEET.

***

In the evening, we have a late dinner at a Georgian restaurant which features the grumpiest waitress in the world. A few people are dancing too, with a certain degree of skilll. The waitress is annoyed by this, particularly after one couple nearly knock her over as she tries to show us to our table.

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