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Rocking Moscow Like A Hurricane

Cloud-seeding is the controversial process by which clouds in a certain area are scientifically manipulated to not rain for a specific period of time. I am fundamentally opposed to this potentially ecosystem-destroying process save for the sole exception of when I am in that region and am no longer being rained on constantly.

Moscow celebrated it's 856th birthday last weekend and in order to ensure the festivities ran smoothly, seeded the clouds above the city. Sure enough, the weekend was dry and pleasant, but has returned to its soggy ways since.

Assumption Cathedral, The Kremlin.

The birthday celebration was fantastic, with musicians and funfairs dotting the city centre, and the entire downtown region being pedestrianised. It seems that for 856 years the Russians have been celebrating Moscow's proud and violent history by indulging in widespread public karaoke. But with people from aged 10 to 100 drunk and dancing in the streets it was impossible not to get swept up in the moment and join in. (The dancing, not the singing, thankfully for the Russians!)

Literally millions of people milled around Red Square and the Kremlin throughout Saturday and Sunday, and Rob and I just ate and drank and wandered with crowds. A delicious odour constantly permeates the air here from tiny bakery stands that are on every street corner, offering a pastry dish that is conspicuously called "Sausage with Teste". After my Bosnian dining tribulations, I am, needless to say, hestitant.

Rob and I spent Saturday in the Kremlin which with the military presence there for the birthday celebrations, seemed like it could hardly be less imposing had it been in Stalin's era. Due to the fear of Chechen rebels, thousands of guards surrounded the Kremlin and nearby streets and we passed through six metal detectors just to get inside where hundreds more guards were present. The Kremlin was interesting with its history and standing amidst 5 cathedrals, all adorned with golden onion domes on top, but left me surprisingly empty, most likely due to its position next to St. Basil's cathedral, truly one of the world's most incredible buildings.

St. Basil's is the famous cathedral with the multi-coloured domes that look like candy, standing at the foot of Red Square. Of eight domes, all are differently coloured and ornamented and viewing the cathedral beings something new and amazing from each angle that it is viewed. All I want to do is sit down and sleep beside it for the next few days, to make me happy.

As is to be expected, much of the birthday celebrations has included vodka and excursions to see Moscow's famous nightlife. The cool weather, in combination with an average of less than 4 hours sleep a night, has left me with a fever that I am fighting through at the moment. I think it must be more the weather, though.

We spent the Saturday night in Red Square watching a concert by Germany's surrealistically resilient heavy metal band, the Scorpions. The band played directly in front of St. Basil's, singing rock songs about freedom, as fireworks went off, spangles of light criss-crossing the sky and illuminating the night behind one of the world's most singularly spectacular buildings. Watching the concert on a bitterly cold night, my left middle toe froze, which, perhaps a bit carried away in the moment, I felt certain was somehow perfectly symbolic of the fall of Communism.

Monument at the Cosmonaut Museum, Moscow.

After a night out on the town (using the vodka to warm us up, naturally), Rob and I woke up at around 3 pm, had some breakfast and went for a long walk with some Brits we met at the hostel. We visited Lenin's Tomb and then walked along the river. We followed the Moskva down past Gorky Park, which is now a massive fun fair. After getting thoroughly lost, we stopped for a bite to eat, ordering food we could neither pronounce nor identify. A slim middle-aged Russian man walked up to us and stared at our guide book. Curious to know where the cathedral on our book's cover was, I asked him, in Russian. He said nothing and walked away before turning around to give us the old Italian fuck you symbol. Minutes later he walked by again, carefully depositing a napkin at my side. I opened up a napkin to find a quick sketch of the word NATO beside a drawing of a middle finger. Beneath that, a hammer, sickle and the letters USSR. It seems that Moscow day stirs up passions, one way or the other.

Conversely, while finding it near impossible to make a Russian smile, we have met some very nice ones including a man who walked up to us and gave us an onion at 3 in the morning. Curious, but nice.

Speaking of food, ordering it is about the only thing we can manage in Russian at the moment. The language is completely different from English, so much so that even the rudiments of grammar remain an utter mystery. Russian also seems to have an excess of verbs, as well - when saying "to travel", the verb you use depends totally on which mode of transport you utilise. And in an incerdibly complex twist, the verb "to eat" can depend on whether you intend to eat some or all of the dish. And for me to answer that, it really depends on what Sausage With Teste is!