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Winter festivities in Russia’s Red Square

Here’s a look back at New Year’s Eve in Red Square from Andy. Hard to believe it was only a month ago!

Fireworks in Red Square

For New Year’s Eve 2010 I had the wonderful opportunity to be in Red Square, Moscow. An extraordinary city with so much to offer the avid traveller. I had spent several days being shown around this iconic city of the Cold War. The Kremlin is a mish-mash of drab Communist architecture and older buildings and churches dating back hundreds of years. Red Square with the recognisable St Basils Church at one end is another of those iconic Russian images, Lenin’s Mausoleum is situated in the square and he still resides there to this day, albeit in a rather waxy looking state due to his embalming. It is a surreal moment to wander by this figure of Russian history as he lies in his glass case in a darkened room. Viewing time is limited, guards stand at every corner glaring at the would be visitor and if you linger too long you will be moved on with a stern word and a clicking device the guards use to warn you that Lenin has tired of your gaze.

On the 31st of December 2010 my group and I, all travelling on The Big Chill tour with On the Go Tours. It begins in St Petersburg, travels through the quaint and lovely countryside town of Novgorod and ends in Moscow, all very convenient so as to be present for a New Year celebration like none other I have experienced before. During the day we toured The Kremlin, the day was freezing and I was underdressed for the occasion. It was the chill wind that truly sucked the warmth from you. Once the tour was over we had time to dash back to the hotel to slip on a few more layers of clothes in preparation for being in the outdoors to ring in the New Year. Weather reports had been noted and it was rumoured to be a rather cool minus 20 degrees that evening. The coldest weather that I was to experience in Russia and the coldest weather I have ever experienced in my life.

Back at the hotel I prepared myself for the worst. Four pairs of socks (my shoes would barely fit over my snug and fattened feet), six layers of undershirts, two pairs of thermals, wind jacket with woollen lining, gloves, beanie and that all important piece of Russian fashion the big furry hat with flappy ears. All the group had purchased such hats as we wanted some good photos of our celebrations with us all decked out in the proper garb. In the end we were thankful for these silly purchases as they fend of the cold with remarkable ease, so much so my head was too hot at times.

St. Catherine's Palace

After a lovely dinner at a local restaurant and we’d removed all our layers – which can turn into quite a spectacle when you see just how many clothes between us all we were wearing -it was off to Red Square. Layers all back on and into the snow we went.

The celebrations were set to take place in a cordoned off area at the end of Red Square, St Basil’s was the backdrop. A massive stage was erected in front and the whole Russian Army had come out for the show. Security was colossal; we had to pass through six security checks on the way in.

Once in, hundreds of stern soldiers glared at the crowd in that Russian way. Soon the music started, all Russian pop and folk music, and we had great fun. There was even a visit from Santa Claus. We danced the night away, having befriended a great Russian family there for the celebrations. We were taught how to Russian dance, all kicking of legs and bouncing up and down on your knees, rather dangerous with all the snow and ice around but the vodka had given us courage and we had a fine old time.

At the stroke of midnight the fireworks went up, lighting up St Basil’s with a magnificent glow. Everyone was in high spirits by now and more dancing and whooping ensued. This was one of the greatest New Year’s I had ever experienced; the Russians really know how to put on a show! The Russians themselves can seem quite standoffish and aloof at times but tonight with their belly’s full of the local brew they were anything but. Everyone hugged and kissed and 2011 was upon us.

Dosvadanya for now Russia.

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