Scarier than the ghost ride at Gorky park funfair the previous day was descending into the Leader's mausoleum on Red Square. We descended into a penumbra down dark marble steps. At corners lurked motionless soldiers in those ludicrously large caps, who came into action as we approached, ushering us round corners and further into the gloom, chastising us if need be for talking too loudly. Then we ascend into a large airless toplit hall full of unearthly light, and lined in darkest marble, the gloom slashed by a red marble flash that streaks like lightning around the walls - more vivid admittedly in the postcard than in the fact. At the centre a huge catafalque on which lies Lenin, unearthly pale, in a black suit, one pale hand in a fist, the other open. Although later Joanna claimed she saw glass around the catafalque, I saw none, and was amazed at the 'presence' of this corpse and that it existed in the same space as me. I lingered too long, jaw dropped open, and was shooed along by the guards.......it was a relief to come out into the fresh air and the present tense. Opposite the mausoleum stands the palace that is the GUM department store, now full of western franchises and labels. Here you can shop till you drop on Versace and Hugo Boss inter al. We contented ourselves with a cappucino and marvelled at the shopping crowds. How Russia has moved on. Our fears , born of growing up in the Cold War, begin to melt. People are very friendly, and are no longer the ogres of our fancy. There are some stunning lookers too, with legs 6 foot long and slender as young birches.
Yesterday Joanna had her dark hair cropped short and bleached. She looks like Jean Seberg in A Bout de Souffle where she played the gangster's companion opposite Jean-Paul Belmondo. She was the prototype for many 'gamine' girls in the 60's. Neither David nor I quite have Belmondo's looks, but it gives us a frisson to accompany her down the boulevards. My own hirsute efforts are directed at growing my beard like the last Czar's - but perhaps that's not too auspicious. I read a few years ago that Seberg was found gassed in her own car on a Paris boulevard.
In Ekatarinburg we came across a lovely Photography Museum in a little wooden palace, that had been a photographers shop for over a century, as old pictures of the town attested. Piaf was playing to accompany the exhibition of Robert Doisneau and Cartier-Bresson, and more local photographers, and the charming lady on the desk spoke Polish; for a moment it felt as though the Urals had melted away and Europe was not so far away.
Tonight after the ballet we go further East to Krasnoyarsk, a 12 hour ride, our shortest yet.
We will be sorry to leave Novosibirsk, a great city that started out as a station by the Ob just over a century ago, in the middle of nowhere.