The next morning saw me awake even as the sun was announcing its arrival, making the sky blush in pleasant confusion. I had an excellent view of the romance-drama unfolding rather publicly, from the window of our room on the twenty-first floor. Perfect beginning to what was going to be an awesome day. I was sure of it.
The previous day, on our way from the airport, the tour manager Prerna had reminded us of the three P’s the touring company – Thomas Cook, India, not the one floundering and in the news a lot lately – considered important for every traveler to keep in mind: Passport (keep it safe), Punctuality (don’t keep others waiting) and Patience (accept the unexpected with grace). But this particular tour, she said, had a fourth P unique to it. Could any of us guess what it was? Fifty-three brains tried, but none came up with the right P. The answer was ‘Prerana’. Of course. Duh.
A few words about the four P’s in relation to me: Passport, deposited with the hotel. Check. Patience, second nature, ha! Check. Punctuality, a way of life, haha! Check. That left only Prerana. And there she was, in the lobby, ready to lead us on the tour of discovery of Moscow. Having partaken of a gourmand‘s delight of a breakfast, we were eager and raring to go.
First stop was the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The sun was beating down on us harshly as we got off the bus and stood staring at the imposing structure. But what really impressed was the interior. No photography allowed inside, but I found a picture of the central dome on Wikipedia, in case any of you are interested.
The cathedral, which is the second tallest Orthodox Christain church, has had a very chequered existence. From the time in 1812 when Tsar Alexander proclaimed his intention to build a cathedral in honor of Christ the Savior for saving Russia from doom (Napolean Bonaparte had retreated from Moscow), to the time when anti-religious feelings ran high and it was dynamited to rubble in 1931 with Stalin in the saddle, the cathedral had seen tsars, plans, architects, artists and leaders change!
Once razed to the ground, the site was earmarked to build the Palace of Soviets, a symbol of socialism, with a proposed gigantic statue of Lenin on top, his hands outstretched to the sky. Really? Trading of one God for another! It seems, that never materialized due to shortage of funds, leaving a gaping hole of the foundation for years, till Khrushchev came along and had it transformed into the world’s largest open air swimming pool, the Moskva pool. See what I mean by chequered?
If this was the story, what exactly were we looking at?
Evidently, in 1990, the tides changed, and the Russian Orthodox church got the necessary permission from the government to rebuild the cathedral, and a million Muscovites happily contributed to building the present structure. You can read all the details on its Wiki page, you’ll love reading the details if you, like me, are fond of history.
I admit I knew next to nothing about the Russian Orthodox Church when I walked in. The fact that there were no pews inside the cathedral came as a surprise to me. I learnt that in the orthodox churches one prays standing. There were a few benches against the far walls, but they were for the old people and the invalids. I quickly made use of it for a few seconds to rest my tired feet. What? I AM old and practically an invalid. Remember the plantar fasciitis and the bad back and the osteoporosis and the… Oh never mind! I am just kidding. As if I’d let any of that stop me from gallivanting whenever, wherever I can, and snatch the nearest seat available for a few seconds respite. Win-win, I’d say.
Enough of blabbering. Now it is time for pictures to speak.
I shouldn’t bore my readers all in one day. Gotta spread it out and bore you all to the maximum I can. So, be back with more in the days to come. Be patient! 😀
© Shail Mohan 2019