Did you get all that? In other words, WE WENT TO ST. BASILS!!! To be fair, our trip also included Red Square which for most Russian adoptive families means one thing: you are ALMOST done!! Aside from those who adopt specifically from Moscow, or get to hire a courier to complete the VISA appointment @ the US Embassy, like most families who adopt from Vladivostok - this is typically one of the last steps in your journey and a huge monumental moment.
When we arrived in Moscow on Wednesday night, we were told that the doctor would arrive early to the hotel to complete Alex's medical clearance. This is a step along the way to getting his immigrant VISA -- to show the US that he won't be bringing any huge communicable diseases along with him. The doctor was younger, spoke really good english and was very nice. Marina told us later that he is "famous baby doctor and plastic surgeon" in Moscow. Good to know. He knocked on our door promptly at 6:30am. We had to wake Alex up - as he was still completely zonked from a) not napping much on Wednesday, b) another huge change - leaving St. Pete's and going to Moscow and c) staying up WAY to late on Wednesday night. The doctor was off after about 15 minutes and Marina arrived to take our documents to the Embassy.
We arranged with Marina for her to take us "sightseeing" around town. Our priorities were, of course, Red Square and Arbat street. I had heard that Red Square was within walking distance from the hotel, but not knowing how Alex's attitude would hold up I thought the car driven option MIGHT be better. I am SO glad we had Marina with us! She's lived in Moscow all her life and knows all the little tiny details about every statue, every building and every monument. So, not only did we get to see the beauty and magic that is Red Square, the Kremlin, Lenin's Tomb and St. Basils, but she filled us in on all the specifics.
At the entrance (gates) Red Square there is a (literal) square in the brick tiles. This is considered the central square of Moscow and all of Russia. Marina said that all the roads in Russia (including, she pointed out, even those all the way in Vladivostok) originate RIGHT here. It is customary to stand in the middle of this specific square, make a wish and throw a coin over your shoulder. I feel compelled to note: don't expect your coin back, there are people who will stand here all day and scamper after your thrown coin. EVEN, when you attempt to scamper after it yourself. Sara and I debated standing here for awhile too and trying to raise some college funds for our kids, however, we figured that St. Basil's was probably going to be worth leaving the coins to someone else.
Making a wish...
Someone taking Sara's coin...
Clock at the top of the Kremlin...
After you leave the little Square, you walk through the Iberian Gate to enter Red Square itself. Maybe it was the build up to seeing Red Square, maybe it was being away from home and missing Tatiana, maybe it was the joy of knowing that it's almost time to bring my son home... whichever, but I'll totally admit that as we walked in and I saw a glimpse of St. Basil's Cathedral down at the opposite end, I started to tear up. Thankfully, Sara was there with a giant, jubilant smile on her face and a "CAN YOU BELIEVE WE'RE REALLY HERE"?? to help me snap out of it, otherwise I would have been a blubbering mess. Crazy Amierikana!
Because Monday is "Victory Day" in Russia (refer back to my post a couple days ago for the details, as I am much too lazy and behind in these postings to go back and link it myself!), the buildings around the Square are all decked out in the most elaborate decorations you can imagine. Flags, banners and huge draperies are hanging everywhere. It's really nice to see, but at the same time there were a couple downfalls to this... some of the things we would have liked to have seen are blocked - like Lenin's Tomb. You can barely see it through the decorations and platform set up for the big parade on Monday.
Red Square today is made up of a bunch of buildings: the Kremlin, St Basil's Cathedral, the GUM shopping mall (think really high end stores in a super old, beautiful building), a historical Museum, Lenin's Tomb, the Kazan Cathedral, and the Iberian Gate. We didn't go into the Kremlin as the tour is approximately 3 hours long and as Marina says "very boring for the babies". The whole Square is amazing. Fantastic. Awe-inspring. And every other adjective that you can imagine to describe beauty!
We slowly crossed the square, taking in all it's glory, and, in the process, 600 pictures. Give or take. St. Basil's was dead ahead and it was more beautiful than I can ever imagine. The only thing I can compare it to, is seeing a picture of something beautiful for so long. So very long -- all your life. Never imagining that you might actually get to see it in person and then doing just that. We took the obligatory photo with me and Alex (and Sara and Alex, and Alex alone and all 3 of us) in front of the Cathedral and then strolled around to admire it's beauty. From every angle! It's really the only way to do it...
St. Basil's Cathedral
Onion domes... so beautiful
Mama & Alex
Sara at St. Basils
We headed back toward the car via a secondary route through the GUM mall. Marina and I enjoyed a fancy flavored soda: think flavored syrups + soda water and Sara grabbed a fancy water (since we were in a fancy mall, that's what you got: fancy soda water). It was good but it would have been 50% better with ICE! So Amerikanka of me... I know.
Souvenir shop at GUM
When Marina finally peeled us out of Red Square, we headed over to Arbat Street. I have heard so much about Arbat from other adoptive families, so it was one of those things that we were able to check off our mental "to do" list. We hit some souvenir shops for some token gifts (Sara scored a MAJOR find for her husband, Steven -- but I can't tell you what it is, in case he reads this... hehe, sorry Steven! Just know it's beyond cool and you will LOVE it). And finally, we had to have a snack in the Arbat Street McDonald's. Just to say we did. I can't even convey how packed McDonald's is. I get annoyed at home if there are 2 cars ahead of me in the drive through. Patience isn't always my virtue!
McDonald's - Arbat Street
We finally got back to the hotel for some down time and some rest but wandered out again early that evening to check out the neighborhood around the hotel. We walked and talked and suddenly found ourselves -- about 2 blocks from Red Square again! Ok, so it IS really close! The main road (Tverskaya) was closed for a parade rehearsal. According to some nice professional photographers (possibly media), the rehearsal is everything BUT the airplanes. We were really hoping to see it, but nothing was happening. It's a good thing we didn't because we were told this AM that it didn't go down until about 3 hours after we left! We're planning on heading back out later tonight (it's now Friday, mid day) just to take in the beauty of Red Square one more time! It's so close and besides, what else do we have to do?
I am ALMOST caught up! Later I'll post about this morning's trip to the Embassy... and our afternoon adventures! Paka!