St. Basil’s Cathedral/Red Square/Kremlin
I would be remiss if I did not include the compulsory culture stops one makes when in Moscow. That, and I’m an anthropology nerd and I enjoy stuff like this anyway, so it hardly feels like an obligatory chore. Admittedly, Russian history is not my thing. It’s not because I don’t find it interesting, but rather because my European history class touched on it only briefly (but long enough that I can guarantee you that my entire class remembers the myth of Catherine the Great dying while enjoying some “quality time” with a horse). No, the teacher of that class found it far more important to spend time recounting the tale of his son’s crowning achievement of drinking tequila with a worm in the bottle and he had the photos to prove it (this is how America runs its Advanced Placement courses, everybody).
Nevertheless, I was excited to see this stuff. We had visited on Friday evening for a photo session but decided to allot our Monday morning to further exploring the area before catching a train to Saint Petersburg.
As Monday was our last day in Moscow, this unfortunately meant the last morning waking up to this bucolic scene behind the Holiday Inn.
Through these gates, our adventure today begins in the Red Square.
The Red Square is located smack dab in the center of Moscow and has thus long been a hub of all sorts for the city. Many roads radiate outward from it like spokes on a wheel, which once made it a primary marketplace site. It’s situated next to the Kremlin and has been the stage of countless political and military events for centuries. You could even corroborate that Shakira’s hips, in fact, do not lie if you attended her concert there a few years back.
Lenin’s mausoleum is there, so if you’re into having pictures of yourself next to buildings with a dead guy in them like these women in the photo, you’re in luck.
I mean seriously, look at the girl sporting that super smug look. What is that supposed to mean? “‘Holla bitches, I’m standing in front of a dead dude’s tomb! Jealous?”
No, fool, because this is what drew me here the most.
I mean, really. Look at it. It’s like Sherwin Williams was having a blow out sale and the painters were all like “Let’s Lisa Frank the shit outta this building.”
Incidentally, St. Basil’s Cathedral has a bit to do with the naming of the square. Contrary to popular belief, “red” has nothing to do with communism in this case. The Russian words for “red” and “beautiful” are very similar. Now, I’m not sure why this rainbow colored building was considered beautiful given this country’s disturbing fascination with homophobia, but ignorance like that often breeds hypocrisy and double standards so…you know, I’ll just get angry that idiots like that actually exist in modern society if I ponder that matter any longer, so let’s move on.
It is beautiful. When I was a child and first saw a picture of it, I thought it was a castle.
A castle of fakers, some terrible dude named Ivan, completely licensed Anastasias, troublesome times, a dash of bestiality and with a clean toilet nowhere to be found, but a castle nonetheless.
So it’s actually a cathedral. Which I may not have realized until someone on this trip said, “We’re going to St. Basil’s Cathedral.”
“Sure,” I replied. “What’s that?”
“Um…that famous building at the end of the Red Square.”
“Oh wait, you mean the rainbow castle?”
Like I said, Russian history isn’t my specialty.
I later learned that the cathedral was built in the 1500s to commemorate Ivan the Terrible’s military conquests. Apparently he had this thing where he had to have a wooden memorial church built after every victory. Eventually he had a small nation state of wooden churches on his hands, so he decided to consolidate and order construction of a stone cathedral. Legend has it he blinded the architects after it was finished so they wouldn’t be able to replicate it anywhere else. Humble guy, he was.
The interior is equally modest.
The real name of the building is the Cathedral of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God. Saint Basil actually refers to Saint Vasily the Blessed, who was buried where the cathedral stands today. This is his reliquary. Protecting veils were not Saint Vasily’s thing. Instead, he preferred to walk the streets naked offering miracles. Where I come from, this would get someone arrested. In Russia, it confers sainthood and probably frostbite in areas where the verb “bite” generally has unfavorable associations.
Originally, the building consisted of eight churches surrounding a central ninth. Later, a tenth was built over Saint Vasily’s grave. The exterior visual effect was intended to allegorize Jerusalem.
The interior decoration rivals wallpaper from the 1960s.
Flower power, man.
Over the years there have been numerous restoration projects. One of the most recent efforts was to repaint the walls to look like bricks. Apparently masonry was as big a deal in Russia when this thing was built as it was for the third little pig and when certain locations prohibited exposing the brick face, the walls were simply painted to mimic brick.
This means those iconic colorful domes are as impressive inside as they are outside. This also explains why St. Basil’s has never been victim of a wolf assault.
Huffing and puffing ain’t gonna blow these flowers down, oh no. Not by the hair of their chinny chin…er, petals…uh…wait…ah! Not by the stamens in their petty-petty-petals!
Seriously, it was really awesome to visit what is, for me at least, the most recognizable building in Russia and to finally learn the significance behind it.
Of course, what lies behind these walls is pretty famous, too.
When I think of the Kremlin, I don’t think of government, at least not in the traditional sense. I do think of, politics, sure—if, of course, we’re talking the hijinks that result between apes and their crocodilian adversaries.
“Kremlin” means fortress. This looks pretty fortressey. Fortressey like King K. Rool’s Keep. I wonder if I’ll see the Flying Krock if I look up?
It’s located right next to the Moskva River. Those wishing to enjoy that scenic route can turn here.
Otherwise, pay attention so as not to miss the turn because there are only seven turning lanes.
I’ve already said that Russian history is not my strongest subject, so no, I knew next to nothing about this place.
Here is what I learned: There are lots of cathedrals.
Aw, hell. Alright, where is that Baron K. Roolstein? Are there any barrels nearby? Shit, I hope my hair long enough to pull a helicopter spin.
Also towers. Lots of towers. The souvenir map I have lists 41 places and 21 of them are towers. This is the part where I put in a comment about the relationship between phallic structures and inadequacies.
This is the Ivan the Great Bell Tower. Supposedly it marks the exact center of Moscow.
Immediately adjacent to that exact center was the first kremling we encountered, who was unreasonably adamant about visitors staying off this swath of pavement. Like, dude, we can see the façade of this building is totally fake. You don’t have to try and distract us from it. It looks silly enough already without you barking out orders. What was I saying about inadequacies again?
Uh huh. That’s what I thought. It wasn’t enough to have all those towers and cathedrals. You just had to throw the largest bell in the world in there, too, didn’t you? Apparently this bad boy has never been rung. It broke during the casting process, so it sits—complete with broken piece (which is on the opposite side from where this photo was taken and of which I have photos, except all of them have this one girl in them who WOULD NOT FREAKING STOP CLIMBING ALL OVER THE DAMN THING for a good ten minutes, so she will be forever immortalized in countless tourists’ photographs)—outside the bell tower.
At least those countless tourists and I have the satisfaction of knowing she will one day regret her fashion choices. We’ll see if that smug smile is there in ten years.
ExtenZe, I believe I’ve found a prime market for you.
We eventually sought escape from the crowds on a bench in the gardens on the grounds. It was nice to sit for a few minutes (my legs weren’t completely recovered from the previous two days’ excursions), admire the flowers and wonder to myself if the original Kremlin inhabitants imagined that one day, their grandiose governmental compound would be home to a Baskin Robbins cart.
Honestly, I wasn’t all that enthralled with this place. Maybe if we’d gone into some of the museums on the site, I would have felt more immersed in its history and thus found it more engaging, but there wasn’t time for that. To me, the Kremlin was just a bragging fest of bigness. Maybe I would have respected it more if the Russian government was proving it cared about protecting basic human rights. Sure, every country has the right to make laws. It’s just that when these are laws designed solely to oppress and hurt countless innocent people (in this case, the LGBT community), especially at a time when the country is about to receive unprecedented, effortless publicity come winter, I find it difficult to admire a place synonymous with such a government because it is a reflection of utterly profound ignorance and archaic, unfounded cowardice.