Sunday, 8 July 2012

Thoughts on Moscow...

Before deciding to take the train from the UK to the Far East, I had no real desire to travel to Moscow, or Russia in general, it just wasn't on my list of places I particularly wanted to see. I'd unfairly imagined Russia to be a grey, drab place, smelling of damp old basements with everything draped in an unpalatable misery. I was also slightly paranoid of my personal security, wary of imagined threats that had seeped into my brain without any logic or reason. For proof of my paranoia, before I pulled into Moscow on the train, I managed to repack my rucksack so that my camera bag could be hidden inside, and not display it on the street. I had already tried this in Peterborough and thought it was not possible to rejig the jigsaw of packing, but paranoia made it possible. Cautiously stepping out into the Moscow midnight, my nervousness was immediately washed away, when instead of the grim looking gangsters or gypsy tricksters I had somehow conjured in my head, all I saw were Kindle reading and iPad swiping hipsters, smoothly moving through the night. I felt a little embarrassed and ashamed that I had judged a city before stepping foot in it, and I can honestly say I never once felt threatened or wary of anyone during my very enjoyable four day stay.

Moscow felt like a large European capital from a parallel universe. Modern glass towers, concrete high rises, old nationalist monuments, little crooked back streets, sleeping churches, a smart and efficient Metro, with lots of wifi and technology integrated into the city. It felt familiar but alien; alien because of the near unreadable cyrillic alphabet, and the inability for me to communicate verbally with almost everyone I came across. The Metro was fast, clean and cheap, and some of the stations were architecturally beautiful, more like grand theatres than Soviet built transport hubs.

A Moscow Metro station, complete with chandeliers. 
Russians rarely seem to smile, they can come across as dour and relentlessly stern. Fucking miserable some might say. I can't even recall once hearing laughter on the street. I don't think I received one smile or innocuous acknowledgement from a stranger on the street. On the few occasions where I made some conscious public gesture of politeness, such as holding a door open for someone, I was never even offered a glance in return. Perhaps years of communism where the individual was not really recognised has made the Russians this way, or perhaps it's something more ancient that has left them as cold as their winters. I am sure I am being pretty unfair to a nation who's individuals offered me hospitality and generosity; but there is something about the Russian psyche that definitely differs to that of western Europe.

I found that Moscow certainly competes with the other capitals of western Europe with the amount of wealth on public display. There were more iPads being read than newspapers on the Metro, and more Kindles than those physical, old fashioned books that people used to read. The wide avenues in the city centre, were a dangerous race track filled with Range Rovers, Italian sports cars and top of the range BMWs, all accelerating angrily towards a more prosperous Russia. I walked through districts filled with snooty shops of the elite of European fashion. I dared browse a Gucci store, and although not into labels, I was impressed with the quality of the items, having never really studied them in any detail before. For a second I was drawn to and tempted by a deep crimson jacket, but if I bought it I would have had to have returned home and not continue with my trip. I left and bought a Big Mac instead.

Aside from the financial wealth of some of Moscow's citizens, is the attractive wealth of many of it's female inhabitants. The throngs of beautiful women who decorate the city, their looks a stark contrast to the generally sombre demeanour cast about the place. So much so, they almost feel inappropriate, like dirty thoughts at a funeral, or perhaps they have evolved this way to offer a respite from the tiresome monotony of the collective show of public misery. The escalators in the Metro stations, were a fine and steady paced way of showcasing the city's queens. I thought it was a bit like the conveyor belt in the Generation Game, but instead of a washing machine and cuddly toy rolling by, it was finely sculpted tits and arse. And as they say on those occasions, "Well I came with nothing, and I'm going home with nothing, but I've had a great day out."


  1. loved the description of pretty women as dirty thoughts at a funeral...

  2. You paint such a lovely picture of my wife's homecountry! Sounds like you're havingvan eye-opening experience mate, and I'm loving the blog. Jem

    1. Hey Jem, happy birthday! It's around now, isn't it? I actually really enjoyed Russia, would definitely go back and see more, they just don't smile in public, and service, well it doesn't exist!