Moscow. No place on the face of our planet could ever be like it. Truly, Moscow is an unforgettable city full of cultural, historical and architectural treasures. Red Square’s (which includes the Kremlin and St. Basil’s Cathedral) unique beauty is unrepeatable, and must be considered one of the world’s most magnificent sites. Then there is Christ the Savior Cathedral, Old Arbat street, Victory Square, Tretyakovsky Gallery, the Moscow State Historical Museum, the All-Russia Exposition Centre, Tverskaya Boulevard, and the list goes on and on. Moscow, a frenetic city of 11.5 million, sometimes seems overwhelming as one disappears into the hordes of people moving about the capital, and yet there are tranquil spaces, quiet haunts, that one may slip into and restore peace of mind.
One such place is Tsaritsino. Together with our Ulan-Ude diaspora of friends, we strolled the palaces, fountains, bridges and green spaces of Tsaritsino. Plans for construction of a summer palace for Tsarina Ekaterina the Great were layed in 1776, and construction got underway in 1786. Due to the political atmosphere and court intrigues, immediately upon her first visit to the construction site in 1795, Ekaterina somewhat mysteriously ordered the main palace torn down, and commanded a larger palace built-in its’ stead. She then abruptly died, and the site languished under the Moscow winters’ hard hand for almost one hundred years! In the 1880’s work began again, and again was forgotten. Open to the public during Soviet times, it was in a state of disrepair. Finally major restoration got underway in 2005, and in 2007 its gates opened again. After more than two hundred years, it was well worth the wait!
While we ambled about, an elderly woman approached me and said, “Do you know where the main entrance to the palace is? I was here 80 years ago and don’t recall where it is.” I, unsure I had heard her correctly, replied, “Did you say you were here 80 years ago?” She said, “Yes, when I was seven.” And that is how we fell in with an 87-year-old woman whom we invited to tea in a cafe on the palace grounds. She shared her impressions from her two prior visits, the other being 60 years ago, and administered anecdotes about her life in Moscow as a university instructor during the height of Soviet power. All the while we sipped our tea. Fascinating! And then, just as the sun began to wane, she said she hoped to beat the sunset home. We blessed Vera Semyonovna and her 87 years, and then she was gone like the wind.