Moscow is cold, cold, cold! A biting wind comes straight out of Siberia and cuts straight through one. I queued in vain for three quarters of an hour for the Pushkin Museum this afternoon but a Picasso exhibition had just opened and the queue went right around the block. By the time I left I was frlozen solid and was probably only half way there, so that was a pity. But I spent the morning looking at the wonderful Russian icons in another museum and had a walk through a snow covered wood of silver birches which was lovely.
I have finally got to grips with the exchange rate and have realised just how expensive things are here. Yesterday I paid 2 pounds for a single scoop of very ordinary ice cream. I have also had the sterling that I brought with me in order to exchange, refused by the bank, which was a first. An indication perhaps of the state of the UK economy.
I've become intimately aquainted with the sub-terranean world of the Moscow metro and it is very, very impressive! Clean, spacious. no adverts, graffiti, chewing gum, instead wonderful decor - marble and chandeliers - usually espousing Bolshevik ideals (rather ironically, in view of the obvious prosperity of Russia today, compared with then). The names of the stations, however, are written in Russian (using the Cyrillic alphabet), so that has to be decoded and the direction in which the train is travelling has to be guessd at (one has a 50% chance of being right) but, so far, this system has involved extensive travels! I do ask when I am totally lost and people are very helpful even if it is in Russian.
I have also walked the length and breadth of central Moscow (so it seems). I have visited all the main sights, churches and museums, except for the Kremlin which is where I shall go tomorrow. I am being taken to the station for the train to Irkutsk tomorrow evening at 7.30. So this could be my last night of comfort and privacy for some time - who knows what awaits me on the train!! I am being very spoilt at the moment - a big double bed and my own entrance lobby, better make the most of it!
There is not much beauty in modern Moscow. The Stalinist architecture appears very brutal and designed to emphasise the importance of concrete and the unimportance of people, which can be alienating and intimidating. One feels like an ant in a monstrous maze! I think that the tendency now is to hark back to the days of the Czar as being a time to be proud of, rather than the events of the last centuary. That is my impression...