About Me

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I'm a 30 something who loves to travel.  I have a full time job and enjoy writing (or blogging) about my travels.  I've traveled through several countries in Europe as well as Russia and Egypt.  I also enjoy domestic travel in the United States, including Disney.  My long term travel goal is to do a round the world trip.  

Friday, April 30, 2010

Novgorod to Moscow

Day 23: Novgorod to Moscow: Past Klin where Tchaikovsky lived, then a short drive to Moscow where we enjoy a first glance at the city sights, including Red Square. (Breakfast and Dinner included)

Hotel: Hotel Izamailovo Beta Block
Breakfast: 7:00 Bags to the bus/depart: 7:30

I'll start with a brief history of Communism in Russia...
Although Moscow's history is much more diverse then simply Communism, the remains of Communism are much more prevalent then they were in St. Petersburg. Moscow is first mentioned in historical chronicles in 1147, it's been burned down several times and been at the center of many battles. But I think the more modern history of Moscow is more interesting so I'll stick to that.

After the Bolsheviks took power they moved the Capital back to Moscow, in fear that the Germans would try to take St. Petersburg if it were the Capital. In an effort to maintain power the Bolsheviks and Lenin imprisoned and killed opponents, the same as had been going on in Tsarist Russia, just at a higher level then the Tsars. Several attempts were made on Lenin's life, resulting in Red Terror - tens of thousands were executed or put into labor camps. Meanwhile the continuing civil war caused widespread famine and death in Russia. Both the red army, led by Trotsky, and the white army (Tsarist with the support of the US, British, French and Japanese) ravished the countryside of Russia. Lenin and some Bolsheviks broke off from the Socialists and started the Russian Communist Party. After the war, Lenin tried to rebuild industry and agriculture in Russia, as well as fighting Anti-Semitism. In January of 1924 Lenin died, but not before criticizing Stalin and saying he is too harsh and should be removed from his post.

After Lenin's death there was a struggle for power between Stalin and Trotsky, eventually Stalin took power, the party chose him because they thought he was the lesser of two evils. Trotsky and his supporters were exiled; eventually, Trotsky would be assassinated by Stalin. Stalin went on to ban the Russian Orthodox Church, and executed the Priests. His vision for Russia was to take the peasant society and make it an industrial world power, which he did. He took away the farms and property of 4/5ths of the population in order to achieve his goal - if they refused - Stalin sent the secret police in. Those in violation were sent to Gulag Camps, by the 1930's there were 10 Million people in forced labor. Stalin ordered the deaths of 90% of the 17th Congress, because he did not trust them. Paranoia and hysteria reigned supreme - 1 and a half million people were killed within a 2 year period in Stalin's effort to eliminate dissenters - this was known as the Great Terror. Those who were sent to Gulag Camps didn't fair any better, they did back breaking work and the death rate was close to 100% in some of these camps. Throughout all of this Stalin was revered as the father of Russia and loved by all, YEA for propaganda.

In 1939 Stalin signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler. This made Hitler's attack on Russia even more successful, Stalin didn't expect it and dropped the ball on the response. In World War II over 8 and a half million Russian soldiers and 20 million civilians were killed in the war. At the Yalta Conference Stalin demanded control of conquered German areas in the East, the Allies agreed.

After the bombing on Hiroshima, Stalin studied the effects of the Atomic Bomb: Hitler's invasion of Russia was 4 times worse - Russia would be able to survive an initial strike by the US - a little scary if you ask me. In March of 1953 Stalin suffered a stroke and died 3 days later. I have heard that they knew what was going on (stroke) when he was dying, but refused to help him, waiting for him to die.

Nikita Kruschev took over power after Stalin and started the De-Stalinization of Russia, which allowed more liberalism in Russia and the Eastern Bloc. The Russian economy grew faster then many Western economies. But he also encouraged the building of the Berlin Wall and persecuted the Russian Orthodox Church. He deployed missiles to Cuba, causing the Cuban Missile Crisis. After that Kruschev was ousted.

Leonid Brezhnev took power in 1964. I like to think of him as the leader of Russia when the Soviet Hockey Team lost to the USA Hockey Team in the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid. But he did other things, like sending his military into Afghanistan. It is also believed that he ordered the failed assassination of Pope John Paul the II in 1981.

In 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of Russia. Under his leadership the economy failed and there were severe shortages of food. Gorbachev worked with Ronald Reagan (who promised to win the arms race) to bring an end to the Cold War. He relaxed control over the Soviet Caucuses and eventually brought an end to Communism in Russia, along with allowing the unification of Germany. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.
And so it was time to drive to Moscow...

We left a few minutes late this morning because Tony had accidentally taken a towel from his room and the hotel wanted it back. Our first stop this morning at 10:30 was interesting... It's almost like a rest stop, well more like a gas station with a shop inside and a restaurant next door. They had animals in cages (like a bear and a fox in a cage, along with other animals), it was a bit weird as they obviously were sedated, either that or they have all lost their will to live. I used a really crappy bathroom, but it was better then the free one. Maggy said the free bathroom was the dodgiest bathroom she had ever seen in her life, and she has been to Egypt so it's saying something. (That was what I had originally written and in all my life this was the second worst bathroom, the worst was in Belarus. The bathrooms in Egypt weren't that bad.)

After that stop we played a game with a matryoska doll of Russian leaders that Maggy had and then she gave us some more history on Russia. At 2:30 we had a stop at McDonalds, I tried to order my cheeseburger with only ketchup (I was afraid of what else they might put on it), I thought we sorted it out, but I ended up with extra ketchup and everything else (mustard, pickle, and onion). It could have been worse; I think, they originally thought I didn't want any ketchup. After lunch we drove to Tchaikovsky's House, on the way we passed a public bus that was missing a tire, it was just riding on the wheel, and no one seem fazed.

We arrived in Moscow at 6:15, picked up Galina, our Moscow guide, and Maggy gave our passports to someone else to go get our Belarus Visas. Galina talked to us a bit about Moscow and Russia on the way to Red Square for our group photo. On the way over to Red Square I saw a kid walking around with a stuffed mouse, what? Who would want a stuffed mouse? And no, it wasn't Mickey. Don't kids want giraffes like me? So we walked into Red Square where the Red Army has marched countless times. We were quickly lined up for our picture, we took a couple and of course I was squinting in the one they picked, owell, but St. Basil's is in the background. In Red Square they were cleaning up from the concert the night before, the one that Tania and I had watched on TV, I guess it was live.

After our photo Galina took us on a city tour, she showed us the KGB and a bunch of other stuff, I think my brain was getting overloaded at this point. She explained to us about the double headed eagle that Russia uses. I explained before that it came from the Byzantine Empire, and was taken by Tsarist Russia. Under the Tsars the two heads represented the church and the Royal Family working together. When communism fell they needed a symbol, so they took the double headed eagle again, now it represents the government and something else, but the running joke is that the other thing is the mafia.

When we got back to the hotel the girl who had taken our passports wasn't back yet, she was stuck in traffic, and so the hotel would not let us check in. Around now the trip was getting to me, I was tired and it had been a long day, I even commented to Kate that I was ready to kill someone, no one in particular, just that I was on the edge. I had been one of the last to get into the hotel and I heard Maggy announce that we couldn't get our rooms yet and that we were going to leave our bags in the lobby (with someone watching them) and the rest of us would eat. Everyone was bunched up in the middle so I was waiting till they cleared out to put my bag in the middle with the others. Renae asked if I was going to dinner, I said I was just waiting for everyone to move (I think I sounded a bit short with her). Right after Fraser came over and told me I had to put my bag in the middle... Well I lost it... I yelled something about how I could see what was going on, Fraser tried to explain himself, but I just yelled at him more. I hear he mumbled something about me being a bitch, he's not the first, wont be the last even though I really am a nice girl. Once I put my bag down I went up to dinner with the few people who were around to witness my outburst.

After dinner several people went to do internet in one of the other buildings in the complex, our hotel is part of a multiple building complex that was used for the 1980 Moscow Olympics (the ones the US didn't attend) so the hotel was nice, though the rooms were out of date, but the elevators rocked! While waiting I waited on line at the reception desk to find out about the internet in our lobby, eventually I found out they were only open 9am to 7pm - when we would be out of the hotel, naturally. Anyway the girl with the passports got to the hotel at 9:15 and I was in my room by 10:00. I did a little laundry in the room, since Moscow is the only city in Russia with "safe" water (I still only used bottled water for drinking and brushing teeth). When Tania got in she wanted to go use the internet so I went with her and spent 50 minutes updating everyone as to what I was up to. I had planned on doing something with Kate and Andrew, but I felt bad that the family hadn't heard from me in a while. I finally got to bed at 12:45.