Of course it’s closed!

Moscow, Russia

With only a couple of days in the capital city, we woke up early this morning. I’d spent the last several weeks corresponding with the Savoy’s concierge, ensuring that our itinerary would allow us to see all that we wanted to see in the short period of time that we were here.

After breakfast, we went to the business center to meet Irina. “Marc, it is you!” she exclaimed. She pulled out a gigantic binder. “This is all of our correspondence!” Smiling, she happily confirmed our itinerary for the day — the State Museum would be open until 6 p.m., and it made sense to go to Red Square early to see Lenin and St. Basil’s before the evening’s New Years festivities were underway. “Thanks so much for your help,” we replied.

A short walk, some of which was thankfully in underground passages, brought us to Red Square. This rectangular stretch of cobblestone is the heart of Moscow and the heart of this country. Surrounded by stately buildings of the Kremlin, this was the backdrop for the infamous military parades of the Cold War.

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After taking in the Square, we stopped at the State Historical Museum, a soaring red building. We admired the architecture before walking around it twice in search of the entrance. Finally stumbling upon it, we learned that, in fact, the museum was closed. It was the same story at Lenin’s Tomb. “Nyet,” the guard sternly said. “No.” By the time we made it to iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral, with its gates firmly locked, we were beyond frustrated.

Scrambling to see something, we stopped at GUM. Bordering the northeastern side of the Square, this is the State Department Store that once symbolized the Soviet shopping experience: long lines and empty shelves. Since then, the 19th-cenutry façade has stayed the same but not much else. It is now representative of the new Russia, with fancy designer boutiques and absolutely outrageous prices.

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On our way home, we passed Kazan Cathedral, which was originally built in 1636. Three hundred years later, it was demolished to make room for the massive military equipment parading on the Square — a replica of the original has since been rebuilt and opened.

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Back at the Savoy, we decided to pay our friendly but clearly incompetent concierge a visit. We explained how all of the sights, including the State Historical Museum, that she had recommended were closed. “Of course it’s closed!” she excitedly replied. “This is a big holiday.” We stared at her blankly, nodded our heads in astonishment and made a beeline to the sauna to warm up and try to diagnose our complete disconnect with Irina.

Wasted day aside, we were excited for New Years Eve. We turned our dining room table into an impromptu bar stocked with various indecipherable vodkas and a couple of cigars.

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Passing through four security screenings, we arrived in Red Square just minutes to 12. Then, with not much fanfare, the clock struck midnight and fireworks illuminated the sky behind the psychedelic domes of St. Basil’s. In-person, it was a pretty amazing sight to witness.

In true Russian fashion, the party continued deep, deep into the night.

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