The Expatresse: Visiting Lenin’s Tomb
The Expatresse manages to visit the great leader's tomb despite the maze-like entrance and decides she likes the elegant building that houses a rather waxy Lenin.
My friend's parents are in town, and Monday we tried to visit Lenin's Tomb without first reading in any of our many guidebooks that Lenin's Tomb is never open on Mondays.
So we went again yesterday. I have walked by Lenin's Tomb many times, but I never really paid attention to how one visits it. I also knew that there are many dignitaries and famous people (not just Russians) buried against the Kremlin wall behind the mausoleum, but I couldn't figure out how one could get over there to see.
First, we walked up to the mausoleum, but it is surrounded by fencing, so clearly that wasn't how one gets in.
Then I saw, way down by the National Historical Museum, what looked like a security check point with metal detectors. Ah ha! This must be it.
We walked over there, but another row of barricades blocked us. A guard was stationed there, and he seemed to be letting some people through.
I asked, "Lenin?" Nope, he said. Go around the museum. Drat. This was what I suspected. I pointed at the people lined up to go into a door in the Historical Museum.
"Tickets?" I asked him. I thought Lenin was free. "No," he said. "For leaving bags."
I knew all cameras were strictly forbidden, and I had left mine behind so I wouldn't have to deal with this. If you want to see pictures, you have to use the internet.
So my friend's parents and I walked through the Resurrection Gate and Manezhnaya Ploshchad (ploshchad means square) around to the gate to the Alexandrovsky Sad (sad means garden) by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A big circle. Only there did I see a sign saying this was where one queues to see Lenin's Tomb.
While we were standing there, we got to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. It was shady and cool there, and the line moved along as they shepherded the visitors in groups through the security check. It was a pleasant enough place to wait.
We probably waited 30 minutes to get to the metal detectors. By now it was after noon, and, as the mausoleum closes at 1:00, I was a little concerned we might get rushed.
While I was standing in line, it also occurred to me that my phone has a camera feature. I didn't want to have to deal with checking it, so I stuck it in the bottom of my purse and covered it strategically with my wallet and keys. I was not about to risk trying to take pictures with it, so hopefully it could just stay there.
When I had to open my purse to show the security guard, no one noticed my phone. However, my friend’s Dad was not so lucky. All he had on him was his wallet and his phone (turned off). But no go: he had to check it.
So off he scampered as fast as he could to the line of people at the corner of the Historical Museum. Many of them were returning to collect their checked items, so it didn't really take him very long. And the security guards let him through the metal detectors again without waiting much either.
We were finally in along the Kremlin wall. We walked along and looked at the plaques set into the wall, looking for names we could recognised, me trying to sound out the Cyrillic.
Midway along the wall is the mausoleum, and guards posted there direct you to the building entrance and scold you if you try to sit on the low marble walls in the sunshine.
Inside it is quite dark. You go down, down, down into a dim, cool, marble-ness. After the bright sunlight of Red Square, the contrast is hard on the eyes, and there is no lighting on the many steps. I found myself groping along the walls, reaching tentatively with my toes, so as not to stumble or misjudge whether the steps continued or not.
All along the way are uniformed soldiers, but they don't offer any assistance. They are just there to keep you moving and reverential. A group of young school boys were just ahead of us, and they were shushed for being too rowdy and noisy (well, they were rowdy and noisy . . . and they were wall-sitters, too).
You finally enter an even darker and cooler room. And there lies Lenin, in an enclosed open glass casket, with light directed on his face and hands. You are routed along his right side, down to his feet, and up along his left side before being essentially shown the door. If you move very, very slowly, you might get to spend almost a minute there with him.
It is very hard to say how he looks. The contrast of the light on his body against the dark room, your eyes still struggling to adjust to the darkness of the building interior, and the fact that Lenin died in 1924 . . . he seemed small and rather waxy to me. But after 85 years, who wouldn't?
Whether you are a fan of Lenin or not, the building itself, inside and out, has an elegance to it. It is solid, with clean and pleasing lines. I like the design of it.
Then it is back out into the bright sunshine and along the wall to finish the tour of the Kremlin wall necropolis. I did find Yuri Gagarin's grave, but was unable to locate Jack Reed's.
If you want to visit Lenin's Tomb yourself, note that as I write this, it is open from 10:00 to 13:00 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. I think. I have seen different information about which days you can visit in different sources. Best to go with a flexible schedule. And no cameras. Admission is free, but checking items costs RUB 3.
Originally from Ohio, Amanda was bitten by the travel bug when she spent a summer as an exchange student in Australia. She followed The Spouse to Taiwan, South Florida, Buenos Aires, Bratislava (SK) and Russia before moving recently to Luxembourg.
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