Red Sauce over Moscow
(Sorry for another fast-food themed post - my last on this trip, I hope)
The first evening left time for little more than a quick jaunt over to Red Square before dark. I wanted to see if the Kremlin had been Disney-ified yet or not. The folks selling matryoshka dolls and other trinkets were at the Kremlin walls but had not breached the perimeter. Red square looked much as it had before, although now crowded with ice-cream cone eating lollygags and (religious?) fanatics screaming through bullhorns it had lost some of its solemnity. Lenin still lies in his tomb, the body of amazing 'peasant-under-glace' apparently immune to the passage of time. My wife will be glad to know they still deny access to anyone with a camera.
With darkness closing in fast, I hurried over to the eternal flame, memorial to the soldiers who died in the Great Patriotic War (aka WW II to us in the west), a moving, human-scaled remembrance, much more effective than the bloated, at once kitschy and sterile monstrosity of the Museum of the Great Patriotic War and Victory Park I was to visit the following day. As the light had failed utterly, I turned to head back to the hotel, whereupon I noticed a structure that had not drawn my attention earlier in my rush to get to the center of the old 'Evil Empire'. The low-slung building seemed to be the top level of some larger underground structure that looked suspiciously like a shopping mall. The businesses visible at street level were (of course) McDonald's, with its royalist sidekick the Burger King tagging along just around the corner, and then another nod to the patriarchy, Sushi King, which I think is a local place, and finally, the ultimate kick in the throat to any dreams of socialist utopia - Sbarro.
Now I have nothing against Sbarro, except that it is terrible. McDonald's, and to a slightly lesser extent, Burger King, one expects to see just about anywhere, especially places where the symbols of rabid consumerism and brand fetishism carry the extra weight of irony. When someday the golden arches rise above the Vatican, it will surprise me not a bit. After all, when one captures Iwo Jima, goes to the moon, or accomplishes some similar feat, it is right and proper to plant the flag, just as it might be expected that, having vanquished another foe, a gladiator would plant a heel squarely on the chest of his fallen victim while raising a fist in triumph. But after having only moments before turned away from the solemn war memorial, I couldn't help but think, 27 million dead, for Sbarro? That's difficult to swallow, no matter how you slice it.