Monday, April 19, 2010

Clifton: Russia Trip-Day Six

Editor's Note: Engage Russia's newest team member, Michael Clifton, made his first trip to Russia earlier this month. Michael is a media producer living in Kiev, Ukraine. This summer Michael will start leading Engage Russia production trips while Marc Hooks is in the States meeting with churches and others who are interested in becoming Engage Russia partners. The following is posted fromMichael's personal blog

.Date: 2 April 2010

I’m almost tired just thinking about all we did this day. For me it started early. For Marc Hooks it started early (just a couple hours later).

We got up to meet someone for breakfast at … you can guess it … go ahead … yes, you were right, McDonald’s. That does remind me of the t-shirts for sale here with the face of Lenin and the “golden arches” just beside. I’m not sure he would have appreciated the irony of his face (the icon of Communism) being placed by McDonald’s (the icon of Capitalism), nor would he have enjoyed the idea of McD’s in locations all over Russia.

Anyway, our day was full of work, and Marc’s ankle this morning looked like a swollen rainbow. He was a real trooper and kept a supply of Tylenol nearby.

Cathedral of Christ our Savior

Continuing with the theme of Russian Orthodoxy, we visited the largest symbol in Moscow of the Russian Orthodox Church, The Cathedral of Christ our Savior. It’s large golden dome with four surrounding smaller golden domes can usually be spotted from any picture of the Moscow skyline near the center of town. It is the tallest cathedral in Eastern Orthodoxy. I had taken a picture of this cathedral on Monday and didn’t realize what it was.

Cross on top of Cathedral of Christ our Savior

We were requested to put away cameras, and turn off cell phones upon entry (and our bags were checked by security). The inside of this cathedral was even more amazing than the outside. There were mosaics, murals, and icons all over the place. It was both breathtaking and eerie. People were lighting candles, crossing themselves, and even placing their head on and kissing some of the icons.

Just under the main hall was another in the basement. And there was a museum that told the history of this cathedral wrapped in a series of hallways around that. The museum was most interesting (well if you had a good grasp of the Russian language). It told the story of the site. You can read more onWikipedia, and don’t even have to know Russian.

Moscow River with the Kremlin in background

We shot some of the segments for Engage Russia on the footbridge over the Moscva River. We departed from there and followed the river over to the Kremlin/Red Square area. One funny thing was watch as chucks of ice from the recently thawed river were floating downstream.

We walked around the back wall of the Kremlin to the backside of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square. Marc insisted that this was the best angle to get pictures of St. Basil’s rather than the front side facing Red Square. I have to admit that I think he was right. See:
OK, so I took a few pics of St. Basil's

We got some more segments of the various Engage Russia videos done along the way from St. Basil’s Cathedral, to Red Square, to the gates at the end of Red Square. We grabbed a lunch at, guess … McDonald’s. You must be psychic. This was the first time in a while that I had a Quarter Pounder with cheese (called a Royale w/cheese). Ok, so it was delicious!

Calling out the Changing of the Guard

We went out just in time to watch the guards change at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Three guys stand guard. One of them only moves when people begin crossing the barrier, and that is usually only placing a whistle to his lips to alert of the infraction. The other two stand motionless for the hour on either side of a flame and monument. On the hour, three guys come “goose-stepping” into the scene. Only the two guards are replaced and the leader takes the two replaced out of the scene the same way. I can’t imagine standing still for an hour and then be expected to throw my legs to shoulder height in a march back.

Pushkin's House on Arbat

We wrapped up all the work for Engage Russia and did a few more tourist-y things around town. Our next stop was Arbat Street. This is the art district of Moscow (some compare to Soho). There is a New Arbat and Old Arbat. The Old Arbat is a stream of shops on either side of a cobblestone walking area. There were musicians, painters and the occasional sign advertising for tatoos. Thousands of people crowded this street from end to end. There are even two Starbucks on this strand (and I naturally already wanted a Moscow city Starbucks mug). On this street is also the former home of famous Russian writer/poet Pushkin.

Lubyanka Metro Sign

We decided to go back to the apartment to get the tripods for some night photography, but somehow got turned around on the all-so-simple Moscow Metro system. When it was evident that we would not have the time to get the tripods and be back on Red Square for the “magical blue hour” just after sundown, we scrapped that plan and checked out the Lubyanka Metro station (site of the first explosion in Monday’s suicide bombings. People were standing around praying and weeping around a make-shift memorial with photos of victims, flowers, and candles. It was a powerful expression by everyone who walked by. For me, there was some closure to see that something like this did affect people. Monday’s events left me stunned, but it felt weird to see people act as if nothing had happened.

We got back to Red Square just as the lights started coming on for the monuments. We spent a couple hours there, before going to TGIFridays (hey, it wasn’t McDonald’s) for a late dinner. This was our last night in Moscow.

Pray for those who are still feeling loss from the tragic events on Monday. Nearly 40 were killed, and over 100 were injured (some, including Marc’s Russian language teacher’s husband, were critically injured). As people may be faced with the thought of death, ask God to place people into their lives with the Truth.

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