Day 15 – Walking tour and Tinder dating

Moscow, Russia

Okay, I know you just want to skip to the part about the Tinder dating but you gotta read about the first half of the day first!

And to be honest I’m gonna edit out most of that Tinder stuff anyway…

Anyway, on to the first half of the day…

I signed up for a free walking tour with Moscow Free Tour and arrived at the meeting point at 10:45am.

Getting around the subway is becoming easier and easier.  Yes, the station names and maps are all in Cyrillic but I have an app on my phone for the metro map with the stations in both Cyrillic and English.

I just basically take a moment to stare at the signs in the station and compare what’s on the sign with what’s on my phone app.

I’m even starting to figure out what some of the Cyrillic letters mean.

Anyway, back to the tour.

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There were about 20 of us on the tour and it took about 3 hours.

Marina, our tour guide, was excellent.  Her English was good so it was easy to understand the stories she was telling.  She also told the stories well and flowed from one location to the next.

This was the kind of walking tour I like, unlike the one I did yesterday in Kiev.

We actually were told so many stories about the history of Russia that I wish I had taken notes.  I almost want to go back on the tour again tomorrow just to hear it all again.

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Places we went included an area of construction where they’re building a park.  Wow, you say, a construction site – how thrilling!

Well, it’s the story behind it that’s kinda cool.

Apparently the Russian government is so wishy washy that they actually had built a whole shopping center only to tear it all down before it actually opened.  Then, they did the exact same thing with an office building.

Think about that for a moment.

They built two completely good buildings – finished and everything – and then proceeded to tear them down before they were ever opened.  In fact this area has now been under construction for 10 years.

These are the kind of stories I find fascinating on walking tours.

Next we learned some history about Romanov and Ivan the Terrible.

The Romanov history was alright but hearing about Ivan the Terrible – well, that’s something on it’s own.

The story kind of reminded me of Joffrey the boy king from Game of Thrones.

Ivan was made king at just age 3.  Now, of course, others were running things but then when he turned 15 he decided “screw this!  I’m gonna run things” or something to that effect.

He actually expanded the soviet empire but he also had alot of people killed along the way.  He also killed his son (accidentally apparently).

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And then he had St Basils Cathedral built.  The cathedral is the building with the domes in every tourist photo of Red Square out there.

He had it built because back then churches were built for everything.  If they won a war, one was built for a celebration.  If they lost, well, one was built for mourning the dead.

And the bigger the church, the more sins that would be absolved.

And Ivan had committed quite a few sins which is why he commanded this vast church be built.

The most interesting part of the story though is what happened after the construction was completed.

He met with the architects who had spent 20 years of their life putting this cathedral together.

He asked them if they would be able to build another just as grand.

The architects of course said “sure, absolutely, just tell us when and where and we will build it for you”

Well, that was not the answer Ivan wanted.  You see, he wanted this cathedral to stand out on its’ own.  He wanted this one to be the grandest cathedral ever built.

So, he had the two architects blinded so they couldn’t design another one.

Yup, he was terrible…

Now, the cathedral is actually just on the edge of the vast red square and as we arrived there we were suddenly inundated with tourists everywhere.

Damn tourists!

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Luckily it’s currently the shoulder season so I guess it could have been vastly worse.

Anyway, the whole red square area is awe-inspiring.

To think, just 25 years ago, this was the middle of the USSR, of the KGB and all that stuff we heard about as kids.

And now, it’s a big tourist attraction.

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We went inside Lenin’s Mausoleum to walk past his preserved body.  Guards were everywhere of course.  Just inside the little building there were 7 guards alone who’s job it was to keep the procession moving and make sure nobody took photos.

Interesting story about Lenin’s body is that during WWII it was actually transported to a safe place.  During the transport, one of his arms fell off and ever since it’s been replaced by an artificial one.  Poor guy!

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Next we went to see the tomb of the unknown soldier.  I’ve seen a few eternal flames now and what always strikes me is the guards who rigidly stand by it perfectly still.

This flame had two guards on either side of it plus one on a little hill away from it looking over them.

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They work in 1 hour shifts and do a ceremonial trade off every hour.  In that hour they can not move at all.  If their hat falls off that can’t react.

Marina was telling us that all Russian males must give one year compulsory service in the military and that this was one way to do that.

Our last stop was at a grotto further down the Kremlin wall.

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This grotto was actually caused by Napoleon when he tried to invade Russia.  He was holed up in the Kremlin and ultimately was unsuccessful with the invasion.

When he retreated back to France, as a defiant act he placed bombs throughout the Kremlin to destroy it.

He didn’t count on the rain though and ony one of those bombs worked – the location of the grotto.

The facade of the Kremlin has long been fixed but they used the bricks from the rubble to create the grotto as a way to always remember.

And that was the walking tour.

There was even more in there too but, damn, it’s hard to retain everything!  You’ll just have to come to Moscow yourself and take the tour!

Now, onto the other half of the day.

Good ol Tinder!

For those who don’t know what Tinder is – it’s an app on your phone that connects you with people in the area.

It’s pretty much just a “hookup” app although women will obviously deny this but we all know the truth.

So I did my swiping and matched up with quite a few girls and sent them all a “Canada boy meets Russian girl on Tinder…sounds like the beginning of a great story…” message.

A few replied back and one girl, Svetlana, agreed to meet up with me tonight for dinner.

At 8:00 she was done work and took the metro to the stop by my hostel.

After an awkward hello hug we walked down the busy street to a little Georgian restaurant a few blocks away.

Someone in the hostel had earlier told me to try Georgian food so I was pretty excited to be going here.  It was nice to finally be with someone who spoke the language and I wouldn’t get tripped up trying to communicate for food.

We had a type of cheese flatbread to start and then I had a lamb stew for dinner.  Not exactly awe-inspiring as this is food I’ve had back home but the company made up for it.

Oh, and a glass of Georgian wine.

And then, well, sorry, nothing to read here…

Later on, we said our goodbyes and I returned to my hostel.

So, if you’re wondering why this blog was a day late, well, now you know why.

All in all, a great day.

Tomorrow I actually tour the inside of the Kremlin so we’ll see how it looks from the inside…

USSR Trip 2015, Trip Journal

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