I mentioned that I had been away. Well, it was to Moscow – for four days in temperatures that went as low as minus 24 celsius on the day we returned (on the basis of which I report that minus 24 doesn’t actually feel much colder than minus 14, except that it manages to penetrate into every tiny cavity, from nostril to tear duct).
I had never been before, even though the husband has worked there quite a lot, and it was quite hard to imagine it in its Soviet days. We stayed very near Red Square (slightly undercut by a vast Christmas market and skating rink in the middle of it), and the area was full of Prada, Burberry, Jimmy Choo and other such upmarket bits of retail. It looked to me like a very quick transition had taken place from (the downsides of) communism to (the downsides of) post-capitalism,. But to be honest I didn’t explore other areas much.
The idea was to do some of the big “must-sees” – but only queuing to get in, if queuing was part of the experience. That meant no to the Kremlin, but yes to Lenin’s Tomb (queue about 40 mins). There’s no dawdling inside (you get about 6 mins inside the building for your 40 min wait), so it wasn’t easy to work out the motives that had brought all the other, almost exclusively Russian, visitors. I certainly wasn’t sure where the boundary lay between tourism, patriotism, nationalism, and a nostalgia for the old days.