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SUMMER AHEAD OF TIME - April-May 2000

April-May, 2000

    Spring of year 2000 plays its girlish tricks, two weeks of summer warmth absolutely unnatural for April are replaced with biting north wind that tries to blow off flowers and leaves, to teach them not to trust early promises. The weather right now is perhaps not the best one for long walks in the city, so let us enjoy digital memories of recent days, of Moscow in Y2K. Actually it is the right time to look back and to compare Moscow of 2000 to, say, Moscow of 1995, the year when this project was launched. In the course of short five years so much has changed on the Web, it is fun now to recall what I had to use to publish my pages then and what first rare visitors had to use for a browser. In a city, changes occur at a slower pace (fortunately!) than on the Net, but still quite a few things happen. Let us look this time mostly at the relatively new landmarks, at some of the details that together present the image of Moscow entering new millennium. At Moscow in the spring when everything looks fresh and bright and neat. Well, almost everything.

And no politics this time. We have elected President who will become the second President of Russia in a few days (and who does not care about international versiion of his Russian Web page). We have a government that - surprisingly - works. We have certain hopes - and some have their fears, of course. But the topic of this story has nothing to do with them.


Model of Moscow City Business Area
   Moscow Mayor, Mr. Luzhkov (his site is in Russian only), had a very ambitious plans for construction work in Moscow. Before financial crisis hit us in August 1998, many of his dreams had materialized, and each one of them was controversial enough to spark hot discussions about how well new objects fit traditional Moscow environment. A bit later we will look at some of the items, now we are watching his dream that is still in the process of coming true, and the process is slow. This glowing model in the picture demonstrates Moscow City Business Center, a new downtown area packed with skyscrapers. So far all this area covered with glowing buildings in the model is in real world a flat wasteland with some minor construction activities. The only part of the model that already exits in concrete, steel, and glass is the entrance, the bridge that you at the bottom of the photo with a tower looking small in comparison to giant structures across the river... Well, the tower does look small in the model, but on the bank of Moskva river it sits very impressively. You can see them in the row of pictures below
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.
Bagration Bridge and its tower High-tech background for a cozy riverbank Upper deck of Bagration Bridge Some prefer to sit under the bridge...
  

Interior of the bridge
   The bridge itself is not just an overpass, it is a complicated multilevel structure with interior resembling a modern airport (actually, any international or domestic Moscow airport looks very old and low-tech compared to this bridge). I mean it, look at the picture on the right and tell me how much it looks like a bridge across a narrow enough river! From the level with shops and running pathways you can go upstairs to the open deck - to enjoy views, to breath a fresh wind, to remind yourself that you are just crossing a river, not going to fly anywhere.

   If you started from already urban and populated riverbank (that means, from Kutuzovski prospect), crossing the Bagration Bridge (yes, this is the name, and the bridge got it after the hero of the Patriotic War of 1812) brings you to the area that looks almost deserted by comparison. It won't be long before construction activities will destroy these strange remnants of rural Moscow, small grassy patches below stone wall of embankment, quiet silence of a countryside. In the meantime you can take a few nice photos - with Moscow future in the background and its village past in the foreground, with the girls sitting on the new steps - while traditionally eclectic Moscow reflects in the water behind them.

More than a boat, a restaurant!
Cozy cafe in the area of my childhood
   And the last suggestion before we move on. The other end of the bridge (not the tower) is a useful place. First, the model that has opened this story sits right there, and second, there is an excellent restaurant with fabulous meat dishes of Brazilian cuisine. Speaking of restaurants - this is another example of how fast Moscow changes - and in what direction. More and more restaurants, bars, pubs, cafes, clubs keep opening in the city all the time. Some are best for quiet business talks, other are famous for their music, most of them offer really fine food - and often at very decent prices. Two photos on the left show examples, a boat that is a restaurant - one can rent it and enjoy best views of Moscow all through the party with numerous friends. The other picture shows a small cozy cafe recently built in the old bedroom community. Actually it sits across the street from the school that I was attending 30+ years ago, and I feel some envy, looks like the right place to relax after (or instead) classes. We missed that opportunity.

Traditional view, fresh colors of year 2000
All architectural styles mixed together, Moscow cocktail
A new bridge - will it save us from traffic jams?
   A few more sights of river and bridges. They offer views very traditional - but still new because of the restoration work. Restoration of Kremlin has been under way for years and is still in progress in some places. But many churches, towers, and most of the walls are done and now look fresh and colorful on a sunny day. Shining gilded domes on slender white bell-towers are best to watch from the river - or from the bridges across it.

   In other places views are less traditional and instead present a wild mixture of styles from different times. Behind the Metro bridge one can see typical Stalin architecture of pseudo-classic style and modern marine design, glass tower that was a symbol of "new Moscow" in Brezhnev times and that now is occupied with Mayor Office and headquarters of powerful private corporations.

   The photo at the bottom on the right shows another construction site, the one where a new bridge is being built instead of the old one moved last year to become an entrance to Gorky Park. This modern one is supposed to be wide and carry heavy traffic - new bridges are part of the plan to re-route city traffic and somehow save the city from horrible traffic jams that now are killing Moscow life in the daytime.

Couple on a bridge
Peter the Great
   And then of course there are two dramatic changes of Moskva river sights. Cathedral of Christ the Savior is completed. (Though experts still argue whether its rebuilding could be called a restoration. The looks are close, but not exactly repeating the original building, the technology and materials are mostly new and have nothing to do with the destroyed prototype.) Anyway, the Cathedral again has become a noticeable detail of city landscape, easily seen from far away. And it presents a perfect background for making portraits on the bridge...

   A huge monument of Peter the Great was a target of many criticisms, it became a good style for Moscow intellectuals to express deep resentment towards the monument and its creator. But tourists like the thing and - just do not tell anyone - I also think it's a funny piece of metal protruding from a river surface and presenting an excellent background for many photos. Like this one featuring a Russian flag on a river boat, clean as it can be only on the first day of the new season.

New generation gets closer to Lenin Do you believe it is mid-April? Slender beauty

   

   I like it when monuments are functional and can be used for something more practical than just watching them. Monuments to Lenin, for example, in my opinion are worse than whatever they build now. Still, even monuments to this communist idol can be used properly when students start frolicking in the spring sunshine. I took that picture a few days before April 22, Lenin's birthday. Perhaps it was the best present, invitation to join a party of merry teenagers who do not care about revolutions but are ready to share their happiness with strangers, even if they are made of granite.

   A huge memorial complex at Poklonnaya Gora is particularly popular when the air gets hot. Fountains to cool down in, lawns to lay on, entertainments to choose from... I could not believe it was April when saw kids jumping there in the water... Well, but the air was hot! And besides refreshing sounds of water the Memorial offers beautiful sights... Yes, this - also built in the last ten years - place is the part of new Moscow that I really like.

Riverside Towers Business Center
What century is now?
The city also got quite a few modern office buildings. Some are ugly, some elegant - sometimes they combine strangely with older Moscow landmarks. Riverside Towers office center has a beautiful monastery in the background, but it makes sense to cross the river and study closely the old beauty… with nothing hanging above it. The situation actually is very typical for Moscow - restored and looking great old architecture has new and loud neighbors - the new buildings that are more pompous than elegant in most cases. Or maybe it just takes more time to get used to them - and for our kids they will be as natural part of Moscow as metro stations are for us - though they have nothing to do with historical Moscow.

Chistye Prudy Metro Station Road show April morning at the Boulevards
    

Boulevards on Sunday
   Speaking of elegance - Moscow has this charming ability to remain elegant in unexpected details. Bright orange uniform of street workers and the gadgets they use to draw crossing marks make these guys look like dancers of a modern show, and the hounds on the morning boulevard remind of the noble hunting traditions - right in the middle of rush hour traffic. Boulevard Ring, by the way, has also been repaired and extensively taken care of - so now it is even better than before place for lazy walks on a weekend. Alleys are decorated with rows of new trees while older ones produce enough shadow...

Country Club Moscow - Cottages Country Club - a creek Golf course is ready and waiting
   Of course new times offer new levels of luxury for those who can afford them. Some Muscovites and many expatriates living in Moscow spend their days off not on crowded boulevards and even not at their dachas - they rent a cottage in Moscow Country Club and play golf there. A nice place not too far from city limits - but well guarded so that no unwanted guest can get in. Emerald lawns and golf courses, well trained service people, and even a small creek winding across the area. Tamed and civilized Russia for those who want it that way.

For them, a loaf of bread is fun Playground Nautilus Shopping Center
    

Computer show with  very real decorations
For other ten million dwellers, Moscow offers more standard novelties. A corner protecting homeless from biting winds and offering a shelter where they can drink a stolen can of beer and eat some charity breakfast… A colorful playground in the park... A new shopping center with strange architecture and even stranger prices... Or even a real military personnel carrier at the computer show (the company that sells games where you can drive that sort of vehicle made it a part of exposition).

Moscow lives on, keeps having fun and generously sharing this fun with all its residents and visitors. Do you want to join this crowd for a while?


Andrey - asebrant@online.ru

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