Saturday, August 06, 2005

Back in the Russian Federation

In spite of the title, I'm actually back in Barcelona, after spendind the last week of July in Moscow. I had not been to Russia since 1993, and I was curious to see if it had changed, as I had been told.
The look of the city has certainly changed since my first visit in 1988, when everything was grey buildings and red flags. You can see a variety of colors now on the street. In that sense, it’s beginning to look like any European city, with the same ads and the same shops.
Anyway, the Red Square and the Kremlin are still impressive. They try to keep them in a good condition to lure the ever-increasing tourism. Now the inside of the churches, which in the Soviet era were mostly closed, are virtually tourist sights. And not far from the very center, stands one of the bigger temples, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.
That gigantic building is a new construction. The original was built in the 1800s to commemorate the victory over Napoleon. It stood there until Stalin decided to knock it down to replace it with a still larger building, the Palace of the Soviets. The project finally failed and they ended up building a big swimming pool, in which I myself had bathed during my first stay in Moscow. Now the swimming pool has become the cathedral once again, a huge temple visited by devotees and tourists alike. And it could well be a symbol of the new Moscow, with its charms and its excesses.


John said...

Hi Jose--

At least a swimming pool serves a socially useful function!

Although it does exclude those of us who can't swim, won't swim, or who don't believe in swimming ;0)

Jose said...

As far as I remember, the swimming pool was much more fun than the cathedral. And you could bathe there any time of the year.
I was there in winter, and I even could get out of the hot water and stand on the snow surrounding the pool (just for a few seconds), and then get back in the water. Definitely much more fun than visiting a cathedral.