October'96 in Moscow
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Oh well, then let us do a study of shadows and shades. It's another possible way to look at Moscow. Last year, my dear guests of this site, we spent together a weekend in the city, shopping and hanging out. A good time to repeat the experience, but this year I'm in a leisure mood and it will show.
This year the month began with a very busy week when we were presenting GlasNet, our ISP, on a huge international exhibit, NETCOM'96, in Moscow. It was a great show and we were enjoying ourselves (hopefully, visitors were enjoying our booth too ;-) - there were lotteries, prizes, and other fun... My overall and formal dress of our lady receptionist were a nice combination) Still, when the week was over we found out that it took some of our internal resources...
How a normal Muscovite starts his or her weekend? This depends on who you think an average Muscovite is. She may be a dog owner and then inevitably the day begins with walking her favorite pet out in the solemn beauty of parks decorated with colorful spots, gifts of playful fall. Shuffling through piles of brown and yellow and purple leaves is a very soothing and peaceful experience. A good beginning of a weekend.
For some others, and those others are almost as numerous as happy pet owners, a Saturday morning starts with the inspection of local trash bins. Something to read or something to eat, or maybe even something to protect them from frosts of approaching winter. Many of those who recently became unemployed find it psychologically difficult to beg in the streets or to sell junk on the flea markets. They prefer to depend on the almost endless resources of the wastes of a big city.
Those are new shades of our life and they also keep getting deeper. For those who earn enough money to shop or who make money by selling, Saturday is a busy day. Most Muscovites now do their shopping not in traditional shops or brand new big expensive malls. Street markets of all sizes and types recently became the champions of retail sales race, they are the most visited and most active shopping areas.
Around almost every metro station (except for a few in the downtown) there are rows and rows of canvas tents, kiosks and shacks where one can buy virtually everything, from fresh popcorn to heavy fur coats. This is not exactly a flea market, all items here are brand new and imported. But do not trust the labels! All these fancy looking clothes are made in sweat-shops in China and Turkey... On the other hand, a choice of snacks and drinks is really good and kids are as happy about the food kiosks as their parents. And if you look carefully at the photo on the right, you'll see another sign of the times, rollerblades, the most popular toy of Moscow kids in the fall of 1996.
Farm markets are more traditional. Trucks and cars from villages around Moscow come to the city and supply us with potatoes, cabbages, carrots, apples and lots of other stuff. Prices are lower than in the shops and quality is much better. Here the style of the place remains as it has been for years... Only price tags, cabbage for 1,300 RUR per kilo and onions, 2,300 RUR per kilo, betray the year ($1=5,500 RUR). Everything else seems to be eternal and timeless on Moscow markets.
...One of the largest city markets of clothes and footwear occupies most of the building of a huge sports arena of the Central Army Sports Club on Leningradsky Prospect. Hundreds of thousands come here for shopping every weekend and practically nobody ever cares to look round the corner and find out what lies behind the building... And these devoted shoppers miss a lot. Behind the Central Army Sports Club, one of Moscow wonders is located.
This huge open and empty field in the very center of the city is one of the shadows cast by the military past of the capital of Soviet Empire. Khodynskoye Field for many decades has been a severely restricted area preserved for military training of elite troops before famous parades on Red Square. Also, it has been and still is the place where new Ilyushin aircrafts are tested and first go airborne. The filed is crossed by two runways and one of them starts right at the wide gates to the experimental works at Ilyushin's.
For many years the area has been classified and well guarded. I spent my boyhood nearby and then it was the only place where we could see real assault rifles every day, the soldiers patrolling the fence were carrying them. Now every policeman in the streets has a Kalashnikov, but the field is not guarded at all anymore. You can enter and enjoy the strange square mile of emptiness in the downtown of crowded Moscow. Moreover, you can enjoy a very strange exhibit.
Lots of military aviation pieces were brought here last year to form a collection displayed at the anniversary of victory in World War II. After the celebration was over, no money was left to move the stuff back to wherever it belonged. Instead, everything was left to rot in the field and to become the target of experiments by the kids from the houses around. Lucky youth! I can imagine how happy they are taking apart these real jet fighters without any interference from the adults.
But Khodynskoye Field is not the only strange place in central Moscow in October 1996. Strange event were taking place in the very heart of the downtown, on the Red Square. International Circus Festival for a week occupied the square, and the ancient stones of the pavement had to give space to hundreds of steel poles that were keeping the huge tents in good shape.
Wonders were happening both inside and out. Inside, wonderful teams from more than 10 countries were performing breathtaking tricks in front of public and jury. In the open, a number of palaces from assortment of countries and centuries were erected. The view of Lenin's Tomb in the background of medieval gothic cathedral is somewhat weird... But in a sense, interesting and funny.
October is the time of long evenings. The right time to enjoy the reflections of street lamps in the waters of Moskva river or Patriarch Pond. The right time to see shadows of monuments almost coming to live... Night Moscow is a special place.
My best wishes to you from the stones near a fence that surrounds the huge construction site right in the middle of Moscow... When else, if not on October night, you can relax on these slabs and not be disturbed by the hordes of tourists?
Oh well... There is another place where I spend most of the time and it looks abit more civilized than a dark night square. Just to give you an idea of my day life, here (on the right) I am, in the office.
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