I rose early the next morning, surprised to actually feel refreshed; this was the earliest of Muscovite mornings I had encountered: my mobile read eight am, and that had to be the most surprising, causing my mind to viciously wander as I quickly dressed and headed out the door to breakfast.
After my family had eaten, the meal far more enjoyable than the one the night previously, my mother ushered us out the hotel, and I began to wonder at the beauty of the world. My spirits were high, flying like the brown birds that hovered above. After a moment of gazing at the birds overhead, I saw, as they bobbed in and out of focus, that they were falcons, gently swooping over the crests of the clouds, the breeze battering against their dainty wings. The beautiful birds squawked to each other as they flew far over out heads, grand. In that second, I knew that I would be okay for the day, for my spirits were balloons, and they also began to soar as I gazed at the wonders of Moscow. I would not hang low in blusty old England.
“Come on, Agnetha,” my mother called, already metres ahead of me, Benny at her heels. It was typical of her to walk on without noticing that little me had stopped to observe the world around us. My mother could be rather cataclysmic, missing all the good parts of life as she spun around in excitement and vehemence.
“Coming…” I almost sang the word, frighteningly close to reverting to my sprite-like childhood self. I had that temper back then too, but I was also the type to jump about and say whatever came first into my mind. I had been very stupid then, not intelligently or mentally, but I had been worse emotionally; it was not a phase of my life that I was willing to repeat.
I hurried up to the rest of my family, and stomped along in the ankle-height snow. I was chilly under my thick, woollen stuffing; clapping my gloves together gave simple warmth, but now it was simply becoming too cold, and too stifling, even for more snow to fall. My breath caught as mist in my throat, the taste bitter as it steamed onto my tongue.
Today was certainly not a day for wasting time in one spot or another. I wouldn’t have said that today was particularly a day for outdoor sightseeing, but, although the day was brisk, I was ready for it.
We began to make our way, walking- though, thankfully, we were still tightly insulated in our warm clothes- in a winding route through the city, getting deeper and deeper into the heart of Moscow City, via the picturesque streets and the old Muscovite images of an ancient tradition preserved.
I felt like we had been walking for a fair amount of time, though too long, in my opinion, when we finally wandered up beside a large ornamental block of white marble, decorated with an engraved string of petals. Having been walking with my hands shoved into my pockets, I hadn’t noticed the structure until my mother swung into a stop right in front of it. The arch itself was an entrance, leading down to another lane and shots of green vista beyond.
“Here we are!” my mother announced.
I look to where she was gesturing, her hands outstretched towards the monument.
“Is that an archway?” said my brother.
“This,” continued my mother, “is the Sokolnicheskaya Gate.”
Sock-ol’-nish-ess-cay-ah, I tried pronouncing in my head.
“Did you know that ‘sokol’ is the Russian word for falcon? That’s because its creator, the king-
“Tsar,” I reminded her. I may not have been very good at History, but I did know the difference between a king and a tsar ruler.
“-the Tsar was a great fan of hunting. He hunted in the parks near here, so I’ve been told. I’ve also read that it is near an important stop on the Moscow Metro.”
“Hmm,” my brother and I said automatically. We were both thinking the same things.
“Now, let’s make our way to the Sokolniki Park. I’m sure you two will enjoy a wander around for a bit.”
We were wandering around, in case she hadn’t already realised. My brother shot me a look, and I was surprised to see the maturity of his ‘don’t say a word’ face. He was wanting this to work as much as mother was.
Well… I muttered to myself, observing the grandeur of the Sokolnicheskaya Gate-arch as we travelled through it, being led ever further down the path, towards, hopefully, better company.