The last full day of our Journey for Jane, and a chance to explore Moscow.
We had directions to get to Red Square – just a few stops on the Metro line from where we were staying.
But it’s really difficult in the station to work out in which direction you’re even supposed to be going, when you can’t read Cyrillic script. We asked an official looking attendant, wearing a grey suit and red hat – rather we pointed at a name of the Metro station for Red Square which had been written down for us.
She barked in Russian at the two if us, and signalled that we should follow. We weren’t going to argue. She took us to a platform just as a train was arriving, and indicated that we should get on.
Craig did, and I hesitated.
That was my mistake.
Before I knew what was happening, she physically threw me on.
Manhandled, and embarrassed, the doors closed on my rucksack. As I forced myself in, the train sped off, but with neither the two of us knowing when to get off.
I later found out that what we had experienced would be considered good customer service in Moscow.
You should apparently expect to be barked at, but we had been indulged and pampered by being led to the train, and then helped to get on!
We did thankfully manage to find our way to Red Square.
It is everything I remembered from watching the TV news during the Soviet era, when snippets of the May Day ceremonies would be shown, with the troops marching, their heads turned to the right to face the old men looking on from the walls of the Kremlin, trucks trundling through burdened by the weight of intercontinental missiles and other military hardware, and the crowds cheering and waving flowers.
In fact it’s not really a square at all. It’s really just a very wide road, with the Kremlin on one side behind high castellated red walls, and buildings on the other, with St Basil’s Cathedral in a corner. But it is very imposing.
Quite what Lenin would have thought of two icons of western capitalist decadence, McDonald’s and Starbucks on the verges of the square, I have no idea.
We walked round the walls of the Kremlin, and we stopped to watch the ceremonial guards standing at the Eternal Flame of the tomb of the unknown soldier, which is just round from the square. The sentries stood unflinching. Every so often when a child scrambled on to the parapet wall enclosing the site, or a Japanese tourist went too close for a photo snap, another guard would blow a whistle and shoo them away.
We’d been invited to meet Angus Colvin at the British Higher School of Art and Design that afternoon, so we headed off there.
We walked there from Red Square. It took us a bit of time, but it was a chance to walk through different areas. The contrasts in neighbourhoods can be stark. The area immediately off Red Square is full of designer shops, the rich and successful bedecked in the most expensive clothes, or driving top of the range German and Italian sports cars. And then there are most other areas which can be fairly down at the heel, the buildings fairly tatty and in need of better maintenance. There are also the ring roads which run through the city centre, which need to be crossed. They have eight lanes, or should I say eight racing tracks. The speed at which people drive in this city is to be seen to be believed, but thankfully there are underpasses on these roads, which themselves are all quite bustling hives of activity, full of little shops in arcades which the locals all frequent.
We arrived at the art college.
There could not have been more of a contrast to what we had seen at the art college in St Petersburg a couple of days before.
There we had been shown round an imposing classical building providing students with training in techniques in producing and preserving traditional art and sculpture. Here in Moscow was a building full of modern spacious workshops for creative and media studies, brimming with modern technology. A couple of the students studying on the Product Design course explained to us a piece of equipment which they had designed which rocked whilst it turned, or was it turned whilst it rocked? It was all a bit beyond me, and whilst I didn’t really understand the engineering, I was impressed at their design, and the enthusiasm for what they had created.
I am so glad that we had been able to see in Russia the two ends of the spectrum in terms of the teaching of art and design.
That evening we met with Tim Simmons, the Course Director, and Clare Lopeman who leads the fashion degree programme. Thanks to Tim and Clare for taking the time to listen to us, and for giving us so much encouragement to push forward in our proposal for a student exchange with Russia, in Jane’s name.
And thanks also for being such good company, and telling us of their experiences of living in Moscow, and then for taking us on a little tour round back streets on the way to the Metro station.
At one point they led us up a close, up a couple of flights of stairs, and there behind a steel door was, no, not a speakeasy, but a little café. And on the counter of this café there were lots of old alarm clocks, and the reason for this is, that if you want to sit in the café with your laptop for an hour or so, then rather than having to buy yourself several cups of coffee, you buy yourself some time. It costs a few roubles a minute to stay, and the clock starts ticking. When your alarm clock goes off, then it’s time to go. Oh, and if you want a coffee or a piece of cake, then that’s free for the duration of your stay.
We got a marvellous insight into life in Moscow from Tim and Clare, and the two of them convinced me that Moscow would be a wonderful place to study.
And that was the end of our time in Moscow.
Tomorrow we would be heading home, slightly more quickly than it took us to get here. Flights home to Edinburgh, via Amsterdam, plus a taxi to the airport. I mention the taxi, simply because it was an experience that I will never forget, and the ride is worthy of a blog all of its own. Suffice to say, Jason Bourne careering through the streets of Moscow in the “Bourne Supremacy”, was more like “Driving Miss Daisy” when compared to our taxi driver.
And that too is the end of our Journey for Jane, at least in terms of the physical journey of travelling from Scotland to Russia, but it’s the beginning in so many other ways. We now have so many people to thank for the support which they have provided us with on the Journey for Jane, and we now have to start the planning for bringing our ideas to fruition.
So thank you for following our travel blogs. They’ve been fun to do, if a little sad at times, but we hope that you’ve found them informative, and you’ve been able to share with us some of the experiences we’ve had.
The intention now is for Craig and I to sit down with the University of Dundee and PETAL to discuss putting our plans into action, with the benefit of the fantastic donations which we have received so far. We’ll be keeping you up to date with how our plans are coming together, so please continue to follow us, and watch this space for developments in the next stage of our Journey for Jane, in memory of a very special person, Jane Kelly.