24.10.2005 - 26.10.2005 6 °C
Welcome to Moscow!
I am standing in a line to buy tickets to get into the Kremlin. At least, that's what I think the line is for. At present, I have been standing as the 12th person in this line for 10 minutes and no one has been served at all. The window says they sell Kremlin tickets, but I don't see anyone selling the tickets. I look at my watch, already 3:15 in the afternoon. I have a decision to make, do I stay or do I go?
Changing of the guard at the Kremlin
I only have 29 hours in Moscow. If you consider that I will sleep for 8, spend 2 hours getting to my hotel and checking in, will spend another two checking out and catching my train and an additional hour to stock up on supplies, that only leave me 16 hours to experience Moscow.
And here I am standing in a line that has already taken 10 minutes of my time. Even if the first person in line got served now, at that rate it would be 2 hours before I got into the Kremlin. This is seriously eating into my time.
This is exactly the kind of thing that people warned me about. Well, not the only thing. People warned me about all sorts of things coming to Russia and Asia. There are muggers, people with HIV, Chechen rebels, and bird flu. Occasionally, there is a chicken in Chechnya with a slight cough threatening people with a dirty needle, demanding they hand over their money.
But those who travel didn't warn me about these things, because they know that I would probably not be deterred, and already know about them already. What they said to me that the whole idea of crossing two continents in two weeks was "too quick."
There is, though, a joy in this "quick hit" type of travel. Today I wandered out of my hotel without my guide book, without my map, without my phrase book, without a clue. The day up to now has been a roller coaster ride of wrong metro lines, walking down dead ends and stumbling and pointing in stores. But it has also been an amazing day of discovery, of small little parks and beautiful old buildings. Of culinary adventures started with a point, a smile and a shrug. Of laughing out loud at a T.G.I. Friday's franchise in Moscow which changed its sign into Cyrillic. It is a day of going completely with the flow, of just taking in as much as I can as it passes me by, and I pass it by.
Lenin mural in Moscow subway
If you spend longer in a place, you need to commit more to it. You need to start to put it in some context, and try and understand it. Otherwise the wandering aimlessly just becomes tiring. But if you are only spending a day, all you need to do is be open and willing to let it wash over you and hope that some of it soaks up like a sponge.
And so I leave the Kremlin, because there are still a lot of side streets to wander down, and other stores and shops and cafes to experience with only the faintest of understanding.
A quite park found thanks to my mapless wandering
Red Christmas lights reflect off the wet pavement of Moscow