|St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square|
|Kremlin Adminstration Building|
While planning my trip, I’d been advised to register with the U.S. Department of State. I had already applied for and received my visa with the exact dates of my entry and departure. The State Department sent me pages of information, including these remarks: “Russian visa requirements are highly complex, and U.S. citizens must take care that they do not unintentionally violate entry and exit regulations. The Russian government maintains a restrictive and complicated visa regime for foreigners who visit, transit or reside in the Russian Federation. A U.S. citizen who does not comply with Russian visa laws can be subject to arrest, fines, and/or deportation. Russian authorities will not allow U.S. citizens to depart the country if their visa has expired. Travelers must wait until a new visa is approved, which may take up to 20 days. Please be sure to leave Russia before your visa expires!”
When planning a trip to a new city or country, I have certain expectations of what I’ll find. But I also look forward to surprises and to learning more of the history and culture of the place.
In Moscow, I was surprised at the prevalence of Russian Orthodox churches which have seen a surge in attendance in the past few years. Because the Russian people had been deprived of so much in previous years, their religion is an important part of their lives. In each church that we visited we saw men and women who had come to worship and to venerate the icons.
Red Square, without its marching soldiers and dictators in the reviewing stand, was not intimidating. I soon learned that the red building with the spire at one end of the Square was not the Kremlin, as I had presumed, but an historical museum.