Building appearances can be deceiving. The cheery one behind me, on Lubyanka Square, is the former headquarters of the KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti), the committee for state security of the former USSR.
From 1954 to 1991 the KGB gathered intelligence regarding other nations, conducted counterintelligence, maintained the secret police, KGB military corps and border guards, suppressed internal resistance, and conducted electronic espionage. They also enforced Soviet morals and promoted Soviet ideology with propaganda.
In the 1930's a prison was built underground. It was in this location that the KGB tortured and killed hundreds of thousands of people.
Currently Russian intelligence services work out of this building.
I walked from Kitay Gorod to Arbatskaya, enjoying the beautiful architecture and wondering what stories these buildings have stored in their walls.
This is one of my favorite narratives, maybe it could even be considered a Greek tragedy (I would say it could be considered a Russian tragedy but I think that would be too tragic for this particular story which is more ironic than anything else): In 1895 the tea merchant Sergey Perlov got wind that an official representative of the Chinese emperor would be visiting so he had his entire tea house redesigned with a vision of the Orient. When the Chinese representative came To Russia he went to Perlov's nephew's shop, who was also a tea merchant, by mistake.
Within Arbatskaya is the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, a church destroyed by Stalin in 1931, rebuilt in 1997. It cost 200,000,000$ (US) to rebuild (funded from the state budget).
In 1833 Christ the Saviour was the tallest building in Moscow.
How cool that Russia has spent so many rubles rebuilding the rubble that Stalin left in his wake.
From Christ the Saviour I walked to Old Arbat (partially because it is featured in the book I was reading while there, The Secret History of Moscow- a fictional story about a world underneath Moscow).
Orthodox churches such as these are not even shown on maps, there are too many I suppose.
Old Arbat was converted into a pedestrian street in 1985. There are museums, shops, cafes, and street art.
Famous Russians, such as authors Andrei Bely and Alexander Pushkin, lived here in the 1800s.
From Old Arbat I took the metro back to Tretyakovskaya with hopes of ending my day at the Tretyakov, the world's largest collection of Russian art.
Although one could argue that the entire city of Moscow is the world's largest collection of Russian art.
I am obsessed with the Moscow metro.
The Tretyakov had a long line that was not calling my name so I decided to put it off another day.
But before heading back to Kitay Gorod I took a picture of the french fries on the McDonald's menu, and used it to order. McDonald's is not a place that I would ever stop at for a snack but different rules apply when you are in Russia, hungry because you are avoiding restaurants because you don't want to accidentally order veal. Plus I ate potatoes, a Russian favorite.