I decided to make a separate entry for the Kremlin, because it really is a city unto itself. The feeling of history you get as you walk through the gates under the Kutafya Tower, then across the Trinity bridge and within the Kremlin walls is difficult to describe. I had to keep reminding myself where I was--this was the seat of power of America's arch-enemy for some forty-five years. I was walking across the stones where premiers and tsars had tread. Photographs seemed a trite form of keepsake, but I couldn't trust my memory to properly record each view, each brick, each cupola of the monolithic cathedrals.
Our first visit to the Kremlin didn't actually work out. We arrived on a Wednesday, and posted signs stated that the Kremlin was closed for the day. So instead our small group headed over to the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. A few days later, we tried again. This time, it was myself and my friend Vita. Keep in mind that both Vita and I are new in Moscow. We walk right up to the gate and are informed that we first have to buy a ticket. So we go down to the ticket windows and see that there's several options. There are two separate tickets available--one for the Armory (which houses the treasures of the tsars), and one for all the cathedrals. You can also buy a pass which allows you to take pictures, and costs about a dollar.
On the topic of ticket prices, it's about a dollar for Russians, and a little over seven dollars for foreigners. As Vita and I discuss the pros and cons of discriminatory ticket prices, we decide to just get two Russian tickets to the cathedrals (since tickets to the Armory were sold out and were being pawned by scalpers for $20 or more), plus a photo pass. After standing in line we stride towards the gate and I am instantly labeled as a foreigner. I start speaking Russian asking what the problem is, and he says show me some documentation or go by another ticket.
So it was back to the line. In the meantime, Vita sells the extra Russian ticket (at cost) to a lady, leaving her with a ticket and a photo pass for us. Then it was through the turnstiles, through the metal detectors, and into the Kremlin. Even though the weather was turning against us as the sun began its descent, walking into the Kremlin was pure elation. We took several pictures of each other against different backgrounds, and finally made our way to the first cathedral. The Uspenskiy Sabor, or Assumption Cathedral as it is commonly called (I later found out that the more correct name is the Cathedral of the Dormition) was my favorite of all the churches in the Kremlin.
My wonder and awe however was interrupted at the entrance to the cathedral when we discovered a problem with Vita's ticket. The ticket vendor gave her two photo passes and one ticket, which Vita ended up selling away. Since they are the same price and look virtually identical (except for the small squares on the side of the ticket that grant access to each of the cathedrals) Vita didn't notice. But the woman at the entrance would take no explanations and I was left alone to marvel at the broad frescoes and ornate icons within. Every time I viewed an icon during my trip, I was reminded that icon painting was one of the parents of lacquer art. Could the ancestors of some of the present-day miniaturists in Palekh have painted these symbols of worship in this cathedral? I had to believe it was possible.
Vita and I ended up using the same ticket to visit the Kremlin cathedrals; some places we were able to both go in where the ticket monitors were not so insistent. The cold Moscow wind began to chill our bones, and having gulped in as much of the Kremlin as possible, we made our way back through the gates and down into the warmth of the Metro. It was as I was thinking about how much things had changed in the last 10 years that I was able to visit Moscow with such ease and behold these astounding sights when the metro doors shut on me, and I was forced to pry my way into the car. It seems that Moscow is not without a sense of humor.
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