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When the day lasts only seven hours
January 1997

Tversakaya in the night Cold Moscow morning     Winter in Moscow is cold. Sometimes, really cold. There is absolutely no need to get out in the street, one glance from the window tells you how cold it is outside. Just look at the left. In 1995, I was telling you stories about early coming nights - and the nights are still nice in the downtown - as you see in the picture to the right. If you look at the close-up of that picture(just click on any small picture on the page to get the large image), you will better understand some concerns of city authorities about the language used for commercial advertising in Moscow. Yes, the decoration across the street reads Happy New Year in Russian, but the rest hardly needs any translation for an English-speaking visitor. But enough about nights! Now let's look at what happens in the streets during the short daytime.

Sun and shadows The sun does not climb too high in the sky in December and January, and the city is always full of deep bluish shadows, even at noon. Brightly shining snow, pale sky and ever-present dark-blue dusk in the shadows create a special an unique lighting... Of course, only so far as the snow is fresh, because in less than a day colorful dirt stains the white blanket. In winter, brownish and yellow snow betrays pollution level of Moscow air. In fact, it takes some luck and even more patience to observe these magic lighting conditions I'm talking about. Leningrad prospect Yes, they are beautiful, but the sky above Moscow is more often overcast than not in winter, and then everything turns gray. And even endless boards with flashy colorful commercial ads (another relatively new detail of Moscow streets and avenues) fail to make the city look joyful.

Corporate doors January is the month of long vacations. Many offices are closed from January 1 until January 14, and these two weeks are busy for shops and exhibitions. The huge doors of Transstroy Corp. are closed, the lonely car of some workaholic is the only sign of life. And the Christmas tree by the doors looks a bit forgotten. Celebrations are over, but the staff is not beck to work yet. Why two weeks? Please check my story of 1996 that tells about Russian tradition to celebrate Old New Year. Father Frost on duty Creative managers of big shops in the downtown hire the students to play Father Frost, our local version of Santa (or his granddaughter, Snow Maiden), who would attract passers by and persuade them to visit the sales. Dancing and joking all day when the temperature is well below 0 F is hardly much fun, but looks great.

In fact one should not be horrified by this practice. We Muscovites are a bit tougher than dwellers of southern lands, at least when it comes to withstanding real cold.
Ice Cream Lady Do you think street vendors selling ice-cream disappear when temperature drops below a certain low mark? Of course not. I took the picture of this Ice Cream Lady when it was below -10 F, and the only tell-tale of the weather cold even by Moscow standards was lady's fur hat. The flaps were down to cover the ears, that would not be the case for just 0 F.

Hot Dogs Coca-Cola Cafe Other street vendors and small street cafe also seem to not mind the weather. A hot dog stand and a Coca-Cola bus both looks a bit deserted, but are open nonetheless and places like those are frequent in the streets. I like it! That makes a city much cozier than just heavy traffic and rushing mobs on the sidewalks. Still, there is a special brand of street vendors who in winter enjoy indoor warmth of kiosks.
Roses behind the glass Not because these girls are not tough enough, but because the stuff they sell is. The sell flowers, and roses do not like deep freezing alive. As a result, large flower bazaars that in recent years make busy Moscow streets more fragrant and colorful, move into glass kiosks for the winter.

A new shining bank Streets of Moscow, illuminated with this strange light of winter, are beautiful and sometimes look unfamiliar even for me, despite the fact that I walk them for 40 years. Renovated buildings of rich companies and banks add another flavor of bright and clean walls and logos that are not yet covered with dust or rust due to Moscow air, and brass letters shine under the low sun as though a spotlight hits them.

Monumental ugliness I like different sights of Moscow, but there are some places that look really ugly. No doubt, one of the ugliest sites in Moscow is the new monument commemorating Peter The Great. The horrible statue is being erected on a personal island artificially built in the very picturesque part of Moskva river, not far from Kremlin. The mere size of the monument makes it a dominant feature of the cityscape and there is simply no way to avoid looking at it if you are on Krymsky Bridge or around. Well, I guess there are people who like the project. There absolutely must be, because someone had to tell Moscow Mayor how beautiful the monument is and that it's worth all these millions of dollars that the city now is paying for it...

Lubyanka St. Novopeschannaya St. Oh well... Better let's go elsewhere and look at the streets that keep traditional Moscow looks, where fir-trees are covered with snow and remind about Christmas, where snow looks like a dawn-filled pillow, where time slowly goes on and makes the spring closer.

It won't be long now until the wet smells of spring flood will start whispering that the time has come to visit the rivers and the woods. And then the new season of adventures will begin.

There are trails even in the city...

Andrey Sebrant -

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