The railroad is at the heart of history in Russia. It was the organized unions of the railroad that brought down a corrupt royal system. The railway workers were organized and had the leadership that was not afraid to wield its power.
The fact that the communists hijacked the revolution is another story.
The spark that brought change in Russia was injustice. People had finally had enough of the huge gap between those with power and money and those who had nothing. They were educated and had hope for a better way. Going to Russia though doesn’t make one a historian, but gives you the chance to see where history unfolded. The history here is long and complicated.
Walking though the heart of the Red Square in Moscow is an experience in itself. In my imagination are images of endless parades, uniformed soldiers all marching in step, large tanks and rocket launchers with hammer and sickle red flags as far as you can see flapping in the cold wind.
In the center of the Red Square, along the red wall of the Kremlin is Lenin’s tomb. Buried below ground, housed under glass is a waxing looking Lenin. Slowly I walk by. The room is empty except for the soldiers positioned at the four corners of the dark room. One of the soldiers makes an arm motion that tells me to keep moving along, why I don’t know; there was no one else there. I think to myself, he’s such a small looking guy for the large impact he has made on the world.
Back outside, the square is filled with people walking around, some look like tourists, others are locals making their way from one place to the next. Many women are dressed in heels and skirts. They glide across the icy stones with the confidence of walking barefoot on a warm sandy beach. I humbly give thanks for the long underwear covering my body.
I set off to explore a Russian experience, the banya; an old traditional Russian steam bath. Walking through the front door of the oldest banya and most luxurious bathhouse in Moscow, I’m not quite sure what I am getting myself in to. No one speaks English, they just point fingers and I somewhat guess what is supposed to happen next.
Striding into the main seating area and I glance up at the stained glass windows, shaped like old church windows that look like they belong in an old Gothic cathedral rather then a bath house. Large dark wooden booths taken on the image of overgrown church pews with hooks dotted across the top to hang your cloths. Soon a man comes to greet me as other attendants bring towels to wrap around my body.
Next the main shower room. Here grown toweled men waltz around the large open white marble space with felt hats that come to a point on top of there heads. They appear like gnomes on steroids. Standing in a corner, I watch for a couple of minutes trying to understand the routine. Once I think I have it, I set off for the steam room. Inside I see these same men thrashing themselves with leaf filled branches from Eucalyptus trees. This is supposed to enhance the cleansing process. I decide to pass on the branch thing, and let the steam work me over without the extra torture. After 10 minutes of intense heat, sweat is pouring off me like a river, my body decides it can take no more. Outside the steam room awaits the greatest test of courage, a wooden tub filled with icy cold water. Head and all, I plunge into the stinging cold clear water which gives a jolt to the entire system. Wanting to scream, I refrain, too much pride. I remind myself; I’m paying for this, and head back into the steam room for more. This process repeats itself several times for the next two hours. When I am done; I feel completely alive and clear; a perfect way to prepare for the long Trans-Siberian Train ride across Russia.