The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Sunday, May 28, 2017

I've really enjoyed Moscow

My riding companion, Djin Sital, and I rode from St. Petersburg to Moscow through some of the worst traffic I've ever encountered. The roads were chock-a-bloc full of lorries going 45 miles an hour, all supervised by police who had portable cameras installed a quarter mile before their "gotcha sucker" checkpoints. It must have been rush hour, although it was only about 2:30 pm, when we got to Russia. I heard from one source that there are 14.5 million people in Moscow, and from another source that there are 20 million people. Whichever number is right, that is a lot of humanity jammed into something like an estimated 9 million cars, each car wanting to drive right in front of us.

To add to the city traffic, there is a lot of construction going on. There are two reasons for this, or so I am told: First, they are getting ready to host the World Cup Games and are expecting tons of visitors; and secondly, it snowed here two weeks ago, and is expected to snow again in just 4 months, so they have a short working season.

I have to report though, that Moscow is far from the bleak, drab city of unhappy folks I had heard it was. Instead, it is super clean and very dynamic.

Everyone is hard at work, including the ladies who are willing to do somethings people in America won't: to take a broom and a dust pan and sweep sidewalks and gutters for minimum wage.

One of the first things Djin and I wanted to do was visit Red Square.

At one end of Red Square is the famous St. Basil Cathedral.

Basil was a homeless person way back during the time of Tzar Ivan the Terrible. He wandered around naked, even in winter, but was well respected, even by that cruel Tzar, because he could tell the future and perform miracles. No pictures of him, of course, but here is a icon of him from inside the Cathedral.

They buried Basil and started building churches over him. I think there are nine churches inside St. Basil Cathedral. With that many churches inside, you can imagine that they are little things, and that the Cathedral is a cut-up affair.

They say that when a Tzar did something bad he had to build a church. There must have been a lot of bad guys back then, because Moscow is a city absolutely teaming with churches.

Another famous landmark on Red Square is the Kremlin. The word "Kremlin" simply means fortress, and just about every city in Russia worth being on the map has one. The one in Russia is by far the largest and most famous.

Directly across Red Square from the Kremlin is the GUM (rhymes with loom) department store.

Back in the Communist Era, the GUM store was turned into a state run store that was infamous for never having anything on the shelves. Today, it is a mall with a bunch of upscale shops like Gucci and Armani and so forth.

I think Moscow has a bunch of trendy malls. I happened into one near the train station when I stopped in to sample their food court for lunch. I am not very good at posting videos, but I am going to try this one. You may have to turn your monitor sideways. It shows all the activity in, around, and over a central restaurant.

I have very much enjoyed my time at Moscow -- touring the Vatican, visiting Gorky Park, riding around on the metro and buses. I also had some fun trying to take night pictures at Red Square.

But all good things eventually come to an end, so this morning, early on a drizzly Sunday, Djin and I got on our bikes and headed East toward Mongolia. After and hour we were out of Moscow (finally -- whew, what a big city). The longer we rode, the colder it got, and soon we could see our ow breaths. After a time, Djin signaled me over and told me he had decided he wanted to head toward the warm climate of Turkey, and from there circle back to Holland. I think the traffic and the temperature were both big factors in his decision. Also, he knew he was going to have to get his bike back to Holland someway, and although his original plan was to ship it back on the Trans Siberian Train, more research had convinced him that option was simply going to be prohibitively expensive. He had been talking about doing this split-off toward the south for several days, so today's decision was no great surprise. We will follow each other's ride on FaceBook, and I wish him a safe journey home.

By early afternoon the drizzle stopped, but I have to say my heated clothing felt great. And by 6:30 I was crossing the Volga River. Only a month or so to go before I reach Vladivostok. Gads, what a vast country.