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FROM GOLD TO GRAY, Moscow in October 2000

Moscow, October-November 2000

    October in Moscow is the month when colors drift from daylight into evening darkness. It begins with wild colors of Russian Indian summer , golden leaves in the parks, red and yellow ribbons winding along the Moskva river. The air is getting hazy and the low sun makes the hovering dampness glow. The distances become visible and almost tangible: the objects afar are bluish and disappear in the light.

A fall view from Vorobievy Hills
New Arbat night lights

   October ends when the branches are bare and dark under unending drizzles, when gold decorations rot away into smelly heaps of dead leaves, and the city becomes almost black and white under gray overcast skies in the daytime - a few dark remaining colors remind of the past seasons of sun. But in the early twilight that covers the city even before the office hours end, new neon colors bloom. October is the month when life hides indoors.

   Fortunately, October'2000 was not very eventful, no explosions or mass murders, no floods or maniacs unleashed - poor journalists were crying in despair and praying for a new war or al least a serial killer. They were hungry, our modern vampires, tortured by the lack of fresh hot human blood. All was in vain. It was a peaceful enough and very beautiful month in Moscow, and weekend wanderings through the city always ended with all SmartMedia memory cards of my camera full of fall images. Some of them are here for you to look at.

As always in my stories here, you can zoom in on any picture. Just click on an image and a larger and better quality photo will open. Many of the photos are worth looking at in postcard size.

View from my balcony in the middle of October Golden parks of Moscow Oaks and birches Moose Island in October

Vorobievy Hills from the river
Overlooking Moscow from Vorobievy Hills
Gorky Park

It starts in the morning at home, you walk out of a warm kitchen onto the balcony - and the sun makes the trees below glow like neon signs - though they usually do not use these colors in street decorations. When you later walk through the park, you keep looking up: the leaves and the needles of larches look great against the blue background.

Matreshka nested dolls also enjoy the sun

Favorite place of the visitors to Moscow, an area at the high bank of Moskva river behind Moscow State University overlooking Moscow, offers an absolutely gorgeous panorama. Also, it traditionally has piles of souvenirs, street vendors take advantage of hordes of tourists. But honestly, the views are so much better than the painted dolls!

In the first week of October the river-boats still are available for the rides along Moskva river - and I closed the warm season on the same deck where I had opened it in April. Shivering in the cold wind that carried the small of rotten leaves, I took pictures the favorite views, Gorky Park and Krymski Bridge, the dazzling water, the contours of the MSU softened by wet and slightly misty air.

Silver of cold river Hazy siluette of MSU Alone by the river


Leaving glory of the fall behind...
Former mill dam at Klyazma river

The fall is even more beautiful out of the city. October this year offered so nice and comfortable weather that - unlike previous years - I did a few biking trips on weekends, in and around Moscow. The fall forests and the empty fields were slowly rolling over the rearview mirror, alleys in the parks were full of misty glow. Of course now instead of shorts and a T-shirt I had to wear a few layers of nylon weatherproof outfit, but the pleasure was worth it.

Small rivers were frolicking at the rapids (not natural ones, those are very rare near Moscow, but at the places of former dams, now destroyed). Such places more than ever remind of New England with its creeks jumping down the granite ladders. I could not help remembering Wildcat Falls north of Nashua, NH while sitting on the bank of Klyazma river 20 miles east of Moscow, Russia.

Golden trees, silver water Pale and transparent fall decorations October alleys in Sokolniki Quiet Moscow corners


When I was saying that in October colors drift into twilight, I meant it quite literally. The beautiful leaves die and fall, overcast skies block the sunshine, and the city slowly but surely becomes darker in the daytime. Not so in the evening! Rush hours now stretch well into darkness, and glowing rivers of traffic add their light to neon glow.

Garden Ring, rush hour is over Club signs and billboards illuminate the streets River and bridges


WW II Memorial Museum at night
Indoor lights may be strange and spectacular...
Lights and lighting

Downtown Moscow became much more spectacular for the new season; signs, windows, and billboards make the central streets look like an amusement park. By the way, some indoors lights may also be impressive, I like the one shown in the photo...

Now, more than two years after financial crisis of 1998, living standards in Moscow practically returned to those existing prior to crisis. In other words, unlike most other Russian cities, Moscow again offers hundreds of clubs, dozens of restaurants, endless casinos - and all these places again make profits because according to different estimates 15% of Muscovites are wealthy people. By wealthy researchers mean those who have income of more than $3,000 a month per capita in the family. With this money one can spend long nights pleasantly. Fifteen percent amount to more than a million people for Moscow population. So what we see in night Moscow, is the city offer to a million of its top lucky dwellers.

New British Embassy Graffiti cover more and more walls Moscow archaelogical museum under Manezhnaya Square

In the night it is difficult to tell what season is around. At least, until we see Christmas themes all over the city, but it will take another month. In the daytime, the season is evident. And - yes, I know I repeat myself! - beautiful. October plays with colors and lighting like a professional artist in a solemn mood. Reflections add motion to city landscapes, but in the fall ever changing patterns of leaves on the sidewalks make the whole city shiver in the cold wind.

Art of city landscapes Last sunbathing of the year Used to be a house, before the fire Autumn carpets of Moscow


New (and only) Moscow freeway, the 3rd Ring
New Moscow belt road junction
A monument to a road, the Third Ring

There were not many gray views in the story - November will bring enough of that to fill up the next story. Now it was much more pleasant to recall the gold. But since I announced gray in the title, I'd better show something of that color. Asphalt and concrete of the new roads, for example.

Moscow is suffering because of its old narrow streets and radial structure of an old city built before any cars were invented. The number of cars has doubled over a few recent years - and made the traffic a daily nightmare. Attempts to build any shortcuts or modern freeways in the center of the city were blocked by activists fighting for protection of historical monuments - and there is no way to build a new motorway in the center of Moscow without damaging some historical property.

Transient glory
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the time machine

Finally, Moscow Major gave up and decided to built a new circular road that would pass through mostly former industrial zones and partly through bedroom communities where construction works can be less delicate than in the downtown. Moscow Major Mr. Luzhkov likes to show off, and this time he built not just a road - but also monuments honoring this road! Also quite a few fountains at the junctions and lawns that nobody will ever see - except for helicopter pilots, but they are rare in Moscow.

Still, the Third Ring is a blessing to unhappy Moscow motorists. Some routes became not just shorter, but really faster. Good news of the season. The bad news is that Moscow Major announced serious cuts in his ambitious construction plans. Now nobody knows when the Third Rind will be completed. Okay, let us wait...

Andrey - asebrant@online.ru

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