This page is a part of my Moscow Life project, collection of illustrated stories from Moscow available online since 1995. I keep adding new ones now and then, please check complete list of all 50+ articles accumulated over 9 years of project existence - or the most recent story.


It's just another day... in Moscow

February - March 1998

    It has been a long time since I last updated these pages - and that time was unusual and a bit strange. I have been traveling far from Moscow, but not to the places that should be described on these pages. Enjoying leaves changing colors in New England - and later skiing there, driving across the US all the way from New Hampshire to California was not a typical experience of your average Muscovite. Of course afterwards I told stories on the Net about the Grand Canyon at night under full moon and the smells of Lubbock in dense fog... but those stories are much more interesting to Russians than Americans - so they are published in Russian. If by any chance you can read Russian and want to check my travelogue - here it is.

...When starting this project more than three years ago (wow, the time passes a bit faster than I'd like it to...), I was promising to show you the life as we see it - not sensational and not for the tourists. I'm not writing for Exile, a Moscow weekly published by expats for expats coming to Moscow to f*** their brains (or whatever they keep under the hair) out and to see Moscow as a combination of gangsters, whores, and cheap booze. It's sad, but some of them sincerely believe that it takes two bottles of vodka to become an insider. They're drunken wrong...

So... Let's get back on the track of my first promise, let's once again go out into the streets of Moscow with no other purpose but looking around...

I came back to Moscow from soaking wet Redwood City in the middle of January. El Nino by that time was almost an obscene word in California, but meteorologists on the Weather Channel (and the similar site) kept saying that this curse would not affect Europe. Looks like they definitely missed something. January is supposed to be the most sunny and frosty winter month in Russia, with sparkling snow and refreshingly cold air. Not in 1998, alas. The sky was overcast and the weather was wet rather than cold most of the time. Still kids in the parks were enjoying playgrounds, and these new bright plastic constructions among birch-trees were adding merry colors to the black-and-white graphics of Russian winter.

Four months all the way across the world from home made my favorite game much more easy to play. I like to stroll Moscow as a stranger, to take everything for a new experience, to look at familiar places as though I see them for the first time. With memories of Grand Canyon fresher than those of Moscow Metro, the game became easier!

I invite you to join me in this aimless walk around Moscow... Let us look at the city at the time when the spring breaks down the winter stiff stillness. Nothing highly educational - let us just walk and observe. Moscow is new even to me now, and every detail matters. Let us start!

You can zoom in on picture in this story - like in others on these pages - just click on it! You will get a postcard-size image with better colors.
A bus stop A tram A bus stop min the morning
Selling flowers in Moscow winter
Mobil bakery kiosk
And we start a weekday like most of the Muscovites do. A day begins for most of us in a bedroom community, among the endless clusters of apartment blocks that fill up all the outskirts of the city. The morning starts at a bus, or tram, or trolleybus stop - we depend on public transportation, over 90% of Muscovites use it to get to work and back home. A bus stop is a local focus for small street vendors. All round the year, even in the bitter cold of winter, small tent-like stands surround the stops - one you see in the row above on the right.

Closer to the downtown, tents are not allowed in the main streets, and here you buy cigarettes, bread, vodka, milk, or flowers from more respectably-looking kiosks. Though some of them still look funny. Like a personal glass cage for a florist you see in the photo on the left.
Roman twins in Moscow metro
Pushkinskaya Station entrance

Most of the Muscovites live far from where they work and commuting takes a long distance. Surface transportation is mostly used not all the way to the destination, but simply takes you to the nearest metro station. Moscow Metro is a unique world of underground wonders, a very popular excursion object among visitors to our city. But we are too much used to it and mostly don't care rushing past and below all those pieces of art. But sometimes even tough Muscovites stop to look at strange sculptures - like the two ceramic boys sitting on Roman Station that you see in the picture. Yes, recently some Moscow stations have been renovated, and what once was looking like a faceless entrance to a regular underpass now looks like a museum stairway.

Speaking of the underground (literally) attractions. The Metro has finally lost its monopoly on this market. At last it makes perfect sense to tour the mall under Manezhnaya. A huge project of Moscow Mayor is successfully over. The mall is not just open - it's operational and full of life and trade.  

World clock and a light dome Museum of archaeology Toilets in the streets
On the surface one can enjoy several of its glass domes that are supposed to add some day light to the mall. But in fact all the shops, cafes, and corridors are lit by electricity. Still domes look impressive (and one of them is a huge world clock!) - unlike a modest entrance in the corner of Manezhnaya Square. It looks almost like stairs to a public restrooms - but actually leads to a gorgeous museum of Moscow archaeology - do not miss it when you come to our city! Speaking of toilets - yes, they finally became available on Moscow streets. Small plastic cabins made their way to the downtown. Next to every cabin there is a babushka, a city employee, who takes the fee for using the facility. When a babushka leaves her workplace she puts a heavy lock on the door of each cabin. Fighting the fire The day after

...This February was marked with a huge fire in the very center of the city, two hundred meters from infamous former KGB headquarters at Lubyanka. The building of Marine division of the Ministry of Transportation caught fire in the middle of the day, and the firemen when they arrived to the scene had to rescue several hundred people prior to starting fight with the fire itself. Finally, it took more than 24 hours to extinguish all the flames. I took the picture you see on the left 24 hours after the beginning of the fire, and there still is some smoke drifting out of the windows, and the firemen still were pumping water inside... That water and the night frost made the building look like a cave with huge ice stalactites shown in the photo on the right.

...It takes a weekend to really enjoy the contrasts of Moscow, to absorb quietly its life. Busy weekdays are too much full of rush.
School students take ski lessons Izmailovo Park in the winter Winter weekend fun
Boulevards in the winter On a Saturday morning one can at last lazily walk on the boulevards - or ski there or in the park. Muscovites like skiing and other winter sports. Every short slope becomes a place where the kids enjoy their sledges. Perhaps, there are more skiers in February on park trails than bikers on the same paths in June.

Bells in Andronnikov Monastery On a weekend it makes sense also to visit traditional - but necessarily well-known - tourist attractions. Andronnikov Monastery is one of such places. Fortunately, it's not crowded. Winter light paints its white walls in tender shades of pink and yellow, bare branches of old trees do not block the view, and the snow offers its perfect bluish background for the simple beauty of ancient churches.

Monastery walls If souvenir hunting is a somewhat more pressing issue for you than a study of Russian architecture, Izmailovo with its Vernisage may be of more interest to you than any museum. You will find on this art flea market exactly what you expect - and often more. Traditional fur hats and icons, painted wooden spoons, "matreshka" nested dolls... but sometimes with not very traditional images on them - look at the Beatles matreshka set in picture below!

Inside Andronnikov Monastery Souvenirs at the Vernisage Beatles matreshka
Which other wonders does Moscow offer to a visitor? Well, depends on how observant that visitor is. Below are a few more photos that illustrate the idea.  

Snow-plow street dance New car security approach Baltika beer advertizing
... A winter dance on Moscow streets. These snow-plow trucks always clean the streets in teams, and their work may look like a ballet. Or an urban folk dance of the 1990-s... ...A car in Moscow is often more of a curse than of a blessing. Traffic jams are bad, but even parking at home, near an apartment block where you live, may be unsafe. Every day many cars get stolen and very few are found by the police. The owner of the car in the picture has found a special way to protect his property. ...Advertising, ah, advertising! You stand on Rushkin Square, look around, and what do you observe? A huge McDonalds, a TGI Fridays, ads of electrical appliances' manufacturers from all over the world. But in the middle - a huge rotating copy of the bottle of the excellent beer brewed in St. Petersburg, BALTICA. And this is right, beer should be in the very center of things.
Some night life or social events would be a nice dessert for a weekend. 

Bolshoi Theater Chekhov Casino View from my balcony
Bolshoi theater is newly painted and looks gorgeous even from the outside (it has always been gorgeous inside!), casinos often take the names of famous poets and writers. (The one in the middle photo above is called Chekhov Casino). ...Or, maybe, it was too much already, and you may simply sit by the window and look at how the setting sun plays with shifting colors of buildings and skies... Be my guest...

Andrey -

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