No country gives me the impression of being an empire quite like Russia does.
Moscow, where I recently traveled for the first time in many years, is the capital of an immense and powerful empire, the vital center of which is the Kremlin, as it has been for centuries. I had imagined that after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russians would have been rushing to learn foreign languages, eager to communicate with the outside world. Hardly anyone I encountered in Moscow spoke anything other than Russian, and I didn’t get the impression that they had any intention to do otherwise anytime soon. They are a people quite satisfied with themselves, and yet still profoundly touching; Russia moves me. The intense atmosphere was such that I could not stay long. In any event, as usual, I was fascinated by this unfathomable and romantic empire, endless and alluring.
Since my last visit, a dozen or so years ago, Moscow has changed dramatically. A veritable forest of ultramodern skyscrapers greet you at the gate of the city, reminiscent of Shanghai or some modern Middle Eastern capital.
The Novodevichy Monastery. After Peter the Great took power from his half sister Sophia, he locked her in the monastery and forced her to watch the execution of two of her lovers. Recently, a fire broke out in one of the towers.