We are let off the train & our Moscow friend, Helen, is there to worry about the amount of luggage we have – though it’s only 25 – 30 kg each… She is a friend of one of our choir – a journalist, a singer & an English woman fluent in Russian language & culture. The Transiberian Guard was right to be wary of her!
My camera & my mouth are open as soon as we are off the train platform – beautiful architecture right there – where we pile our stuff into taxis & prepare to take subway trains to our hostel.
The subway is a grand gallery of Soviet Realist Art – arched ceilings complete with mosaics, chandeliers, patterned floors, relief features, sculpture – all depicting Soviet ideals, produce, industry & working people. Most memorable, there on the platform where trains pull in, lifesize bronze sculptures of a woman soldier, a rooster (worn where people have stroked it for luck) and a soldier with a dog (worn where people have stroked the dog for comfort). Our guide explains that the stroking is testament to lives of little joy during Soviet times. She says Stalin’s grand projects are built upon the bones of the Russian people.
Our rather cramped hostel is in the tourist part of Moscow, on the same street as the Anglican Cathedral where we give a concert of some of our religious repertoir. The Canon, Dr Simon Stephens, is very helpfull & tells us about the church volunteer program which aims to help some of the 40,000 homeless children in Moscow (yes, I got the 0’s correct – that many…) Winters are minus 20C & the snow can be 4 metres deep.
These few days in Moscow it’s midsummer, and 38C the day we walk the tourist sights. I get separated from the others but manage to comprehend the Russian street signs enough to read the English map & remember that north is the shady side of the street – sufficiently to navigate past The Kremlin, The Bolshoi Theatre, the breathtakingly ornate (Coptic) Christ the Saviour Cathedral to Gorky Park & back home.
In the cathedral there are a few moments of living fire as a ray of sunlight ignites the solid gold Cross.
In Gorky Park people are lying on the grass, playing in the sprinklers, playing the didgeridoo(!)… just like in Oz! … I do too, except for playing the didge‘.