My brother- and sister-in-law are visiting from Germany, so we've been doing the tourist thing the last couple of days. Yesterday we hit up the Kremlin and Red Square, and saw two famous people - one expected, and the other, not so much.
The expected celebrity was Lenin, or at least his waxy corpse. I lived in Russia for two years in the 80s, was here for five days in 2006, and have been here a year now, and had not visited his mausoleum. Since my family was driven out of Russia by the Bolsheviks, I guess I have a bone to pick with him. But our guests wanted to go, so we left the girls with the nanny (I didn't particularly want them in the tomb), and were on our way.
The tomb is every bit as creepy as you might expect. You are not permitted inside with cameras or cell phones at all. It is dark and dank and silent. You descend down stairs that turn 90 degrees twice, and at every corner stands a uniformed military guard. They are also at every corner in the actual mausoleum. If you are talking while walking down the stairs, they shush you. If you lean on the banister to get a closer look at Lenin's body, as my husband did, they snap their fingers to get your attention and inform you that you are not behaving appropriately.
No pictures of the inside, of course, but here is the outside:
My brother-in-law asked why Lenin still lies, basically in state, on Red Square, seeing how the Soviet Union is dead. The answer I have heard from Russians is that the generations who revered him have not yet finished cycling through. I've been told that the elderly still revere him, the middle-aged are indifferent, and the younger generation regard him with distaste. Maybe in 20 years he'll be gone. I certainly won't be visiting him again. I still get goosebumps (the unpleasant kind) just thinking about it.
But before we saw Lenin, we checked out the Kremlin Armoury and the crown jewels. At the Armoury, as I was resting my legs and waiting for my group to return from the WC, a vaguely familiar-looking woman walked by me. Within a minute, it occurred to me that she looked just like Caroline Kennedy. Only she was just with a tour guide and a man, and I guess I figured she'd have a security detail.
Upon closer inspection, we determined that it really WAS Caroline Kennedy (and her husband, and a tour guide).
See for yourself:
How cool is that?