By the end of winter, the weather all of a sudden decided to remind us how beautiful the season was supposed to be in Russia. Frequent heavy snowfalls were keeping Moscow decorated with dazzling white furs becoming heartbreakingly blue in the evenings. The street lamps were wearing tidy hats, and even hissing of tires on fresh snow was somehow soothing. And the linen was smelling fresh not because of the modern detergent, but because it was hung to dry out there in the snowfall - or after the snowfall - when the air still keeps the thin fragrance of drifting snowflakes.
Snow always changes the mood. When everything around looks like a Christmas postcard, you feel like visiting a fairy-land even if it's been a long time since you stopped reading fairy tales.
Approaching spring was bringing more colors and contrasts to our lives. Bright sun combined with cold air blasts from the North was growing huge icicles out of melting snow on the roofs. Skies were getting really blue rather than winter pale, and the days, noticeably longer. We were looking forward for the equinox.
And, as always in my stories here, you can zoom in on any picture. Just click an image, and a larger and better quality photo will open. Many of the photos are worth looking at in postcard size.
Half a year into the crisis, we are already used to uncertainty, the most persistent feeling of Russian life after August 17, 1998. Accumulated uncertainty slowly rots into uneasiness and hidden hatred. Millions of people are waiting for something or someone to show them who is to blame for all that shit and misery around. (Not that before August of last year the life here was stable and predictable for everyone. Still, some people in their business and private life were trying to do some planning. Some were even sincerely believing in their plans. Now it does not seem to make any sense.)
Snowfalls change sculptures and architecture, blur backgrounds and offer strange sights of someone digging under Lenin's Tomb - and then next day all the snow ends up in the river...
In the parks, people enjoy Maslenitsa, the last day before the Lent begins, - the festivity of greeting the coming spring that survived from ancient pagan times and was reluctantly allowed by the Orthodox Church to live on. Amusement parks are also full on weekends, and balloons are sold even in the snowstorm.
Snow also serves as perfect sunshine reflector, so good for first tanning of the season. Parks look like beaches even if the dresses do not remind of bathing-suits. They spell spring and sun anyway.
Snow plays tricks with motorists - sometimes in the morning it is impossible to find the cars parked by Moscow houses. Walking in the streets and boulevards becomes an adventure in the snow kingdom... But those who are truly adventurous - go to the rivers for last winter fishing experience on already thin and vanishing ice!
In GUM, the largest department store in the city (essentially a really big mall now), first tulips decorate the fountain. Though they are just the pieces of plastic, this flower ring in the middle of GUM whispers that the spring is already here... even if hiding for the time being.
Snacks, ice-cream, and soft (or not so soft) drinks are sold well, crisis or no crisis. Small stands with hot-dogs, ice-cream cones and cola and juice cans and packs - both local and international brands, from Coca-Cola to genuine Russian kvas, fill the sidewalks. March plays practical jokes with them, and umbrellas that are supposed to protect from the heat of summer sun have to keep the snow away from the products - and salespersons.
But there is always hope. Hopefully, this church will eventually be renovated... and will become another beautiful piece of architecture for spectators like me - and a spiritual home for those who need it.
The old house lost in the maze of small streets and lanes around Arbat will, perhaps, keep its facade (if it finds the right investor) - but behind it there will be modern luxurious apartments. Better not to think who will be wealthy enough to buy or rent them.
So... We are leaving the beauty of snow behind. The spring is on us, and March makes crazy not only hares and cats. Some people, mostly politicians, are affected too. They want to form a federal state with Milosevich, increase taxes so that they are higher than any possible profits, and piss on the windows behind which the Jews live. March makes them not only insane, but also talkative and they without fear, shame or shyness share their dreams with us all on TV.
Excited people sit in front of their TV sets and enjoy the show. The city looks deserted and clean at the time - like on the top photo on the right. Brooms and shovels are waiting for their masters by the sculptures on Manezhnaya Square, cars are left in the snow in the middle of bedroom communities at Moscow outskirts...
Only long-haul truck drivers are not entirely happy in Moscow in these days of March insanity. On a small rally they are demanding more hospitality from Moscow authorities and less attention from city police. Lots of policemen were watching and listening - following the orders. Perhaps it was looking like a kindergarten to them, bracing themselves for all the battles of election years...
In short, life is happily going on in Moscow. Occasionally stumbling over a new steep rise of rouble exchange rate, but still limping on - or hopping on - depending on road conditions.
We are alive - life is fun. In Russia, in particular, if you are trained well enough to have this fun without risking too much. Moscow is great even without Hungry Duck. If our beloved city will not choke on its own greatness, in two months I will tell you more...
Andrey - firstname.lastname@example.org
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