By all standards, Russia is a star country in her own right. In terms of landmass, she covers one-eighth of the world’s inhabited land area, standing as the largest country in the world. So spanning is Russia that she currently runs on nine different time zones! Apart from this, she is the ninth most populous country in the world; and, lest you think hers is a new light that is soon to fade out, Russia’s spread is historically rooted as she is recognized for having housed the third largest empire that the world has ever seen. Amidst the footprint of revolutionary politics, strategic warfare and technological innovation, she has made her way to historical relevance from where she now commands her present day influence.
From sending the first humans into space to ranking as one of the largest mineral and energy reserves in the world, Russia is indeed a present day global landmark. According to Wikipedia, “the Russian economy ranks as the twelfth largest, by nominal GDP and sixth largest, by purchasing power parity in 2015.” Alas, with all the hard facts pointing towards Russia’s socio-economic prowess and political pedigree, it is somewhat easy to completely dissociate her from the soft beauty of nature. As much as this Eurasian sovereign is to be feared and admired in seamless proportion, there is an untold tale of candour lurking in the wild terrains of her surrounding nature.
Imagine a room made entirely of gemstones and precious metal… Opulence is the word you’re searching for. It’ll be quite a task to imagine the former Soviet Union state at the height of monarchical expressions; a time of artistic grace that gave birth to what once reigned as the eighth wonder of the world, the “Amber Room”. The Amber Room is described as a ‘chamber decorated in amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors.’
Originally constructed in the 18th Century, when Russia was Prussia, the world became a wonder short when the room became another “artifact” lost in the World War II. Such was the value that a reconstruction was made between 1979 and 2003 and a replica room now rests in the sprawling estate of St Catherine Palace and Parks, near Saint Petersburg, a place where history meets tourism.
Of all things created, man seems to have the highest tendency to stray. However, nature, in the manner of a gracious nurturer, somehow fills the gaps we leave in the otherwise ordered universe. Such is the way in the bay of Ussuri Beach, not far from the naval port of Vladivostok in Eastern Russia, where an old dumping ground for old glass and broken porcelain is turned to a stunning vision of naked art.
Situated on the country’s Pacific Coastline, old vodka, and beer, and wine, and vodka bottles have been worn smooth by the ocean’s foamy waves to aid the sun in making an image of bejeweled splendour. Who would have thought? From Russia’s power pillars, multiple reflections of nature rise to comfort humanity. Here at the bank of Soviet Rivers, sometime during the 2018 World Cup, a stranger would sit amidst the waters that wash away sharp edges and simply feel alive.
It has oftentimes been described as the Central Park of Moscow, a place from whence stems several major roads that connect the highway. The Red Square is more than a city square. Rather, their historical footprints lead to a deeper, culturally symbolic identity. For one, it is the structural dividing entity between the Site of the Kremlin and the historical district of Kitay-gorod. Note that Kremlin is the former residence of past tsars and now houses the president of Russia.
Naturally, one would think that the plaza got its name from the burnt brick hue of its structure. But, this is not so. Rather, it is an inherited appellation from a larger area that was named “beautiful”, another meaning to the same word. In present day Moscow, Red Square serves as the hometown of the 16th century building that once housed St. Basil’s Cathedral, but is now a church museum.
For hundreds of decades, from 1732 to 1917, the Russian monarchy was housed in the Winter Palace. However, as millennial civilisation hurried into view, it evolved first into near destruction and then, the State Hermitage Museum of Art and Culture which now stands regal in Saint Petersburg. In the natural Russian way, par size, the museum is recognised as the second largest in the world.
No thanks to Hollywood, a stereotypical image of Russia permeates urban consciousness: snow filled and dotted with large human frames with skin so taut that it shines. Nevertheless, any account of Russia would be incomplete without a mention of her majestic heights and their chilly powder spectacle, home to a slumbering volcano. Europe’s highest mountain, Mount Elbrus, is located in Southern Russia, close to her Georgian borderline.
Mount Elbrus is a spectacle to behold with its white bulk cradled by visions of blue and green that come from surrounding skies and landscape. Unlike Bing Crosby, visitors to these parts need not wait till December or be lost in sleep to catch a sight of White Christmas. All the way up to the tip of the “tenth most prominent peak in the world”, the only visible path is snow- or cable car.