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8 December, 2017 00:00 00 AM

Majestic Moscow

By Dr Shamim Ahmed
Majestic Moscow

We reached Domodedovo Airport in Moscow on a cloudy morning. There was a late autumn rain as we drove for an hour to our hotel downtown. It was a dream come true! I have longed to visit the country since my schooldays. The sprawling city of Moscow, the capital city of Russia, is a mixture of historical and contemporary sights. We found Moscow a modern megacity, with a rich cultural heritage and wonderful places for sightseeing.

The city is vibrant, meticulously clean with wide pavements and broad avenues, flooded with flashy cars. The road medians and city parks are beautifully manicured with flower beds and ornamental trees. The city is lively with trendy shops stuffed with branded items, cafes, and restaurants with all cuisines under the sun and open till the wee hours. Mentionable, shopping centres and banks are open till 11pm, something unusual in Europe.

The people are extremely friendly and courteous, despite language problems, the Russians went all out to make our stay as comfortable as possible. They escorted us to bus and train stations, and banks.

The very first evening, we took the subway for Moscow Kremlin. It appeared as if we were strolling down the corridor of a museum. Decorated with statues and artworks and built with marble and granite, Moscow subway stations have been dubbed as ‘underground palaces’.

The Kremlin is one of the oldest parts of the city and symbolises the whole of Russia. It is both a cultural site, as well as the centre of the Russian state and the residence of the president. Within the world famous fortified red walls are nestled various buildings of architectural beauty, such as the Armory Chamber, Cathedral of the Annunciation, Cathedral of the Archangel Michael and the Cathedral of the Assumption. The Kremlin and Red Square are UNESCO world heritage sites.

We strolled to the Red Square, Moscow’s central square from where major roads originate. We then walked to Russia’s most iconic building, the Saint Basil's Cathedral, located in the Red Square. It was built during the rule of Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible in 1554-1560 to celebrate the defeat of the Khan of Kazan. The cathedral itself is an architectural masterpiece and is the most popular tourist draw.

To the right of the Red Square is the State Historical Museum, which houses a vast collection representing every phase of Russian history, and is undoubtedly one of Russia’s finest treasure troves. Behind the museum, lies Lenin's mausoleum just outside the Kremlin walls. It is the resting place of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin. His embalmed body is preserved in a monumental granite structure. We braved the long queue in the rain for hours and ultimately entered the heavily guarded tomb. In one of the Moscow travel guides, I came across an interesting note that reads: “He may be dead, but you can’t mess with him”. However, my only regret is that no photography was allowed inside.

On the way to Lenin’s mausoleum, we came across Joseph Stalin's body buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis with 240 other pro-Bolshevik victims of the October Revolution. We later visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a war memorial dedicated to the Soviet soldiers killed during World War II, located in the Alexandrovsky Garden near the entrance to Red Square. An impressive change of guards takes place every hour.

In the evening, it was time to visit the GUM, a legendary shopping centre famous for its architectural beauty. Situated on Red Square, the 200-year-old huge complex is a gem with boutiques stuffed with brand items, cafes, restaurants, and movie theatres under the same roof.

One day, we found time to visit the Cathedral of Christ the Savior on the northern bank of the Moskva River. The tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world, it is an architectural wonder set amidst a beautifully manicured park. Just opposite the cathedral is the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. Its collection includes original paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens and Botticelli, as well as artworks from various countries, archaeological artifacts, and an extensive collection of plaster casts of sculptures from Antiquity and the Middle Ages.

In the evening, we strolled through Arbat Street, one of the oldest surviving streets of Moscow and one of its most popular shopping and entertainment areas. Both Old and New Arbat Street are loaded with trendy malls, bistros and restaurants. Thousands of workers from neighbouring countries, particularly from CIS Republics (former USSR) flock to Russia to earn a living, and we came across many such workers, mostly drivers, salespersons and restaurant staff.

One evening, we relished ‘le boeuf’ (beef) Stroganoff _ a signature dish invented towards the end of 19th century for the Duke of Stroganoff by his cook, who mixed together the best of Russian and French ways of stewing beef. Must confess, the beef preparation was one of the best I have had outside Bangladesh. n

Photos: Writer.



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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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