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Moscow, September 2000
The summer wears away, and so far there is no promise of good long Indian summer, the last smile of the season. The middle of September is the time when leaves begin to change colors, but now it all depends on how generous the weather will be. If cold and rains come and stay, green will soon turn into dirty brown, and instead of colorful tapestry decorating parks and woods we will get rotting carpet of dead leaves mixed with mud. But if we are lucky, fall foliage in the pale cool sun will bring us a few bright and beautiful days. We'll wait and see.
In the meantime, here are the photos of first color splashes of fall in the parks. Riding the bike there means listening to autumn sounds, hum of tires now and then changes to whistling rustle on dried leaves.
Fall is the time when the winds more than ever smell of melancholy and sorrow. It's just the right time to add some sad colors to my picture of Moscow. Starting this project, I announced that would like to show my own view which is seriously different from what mass media tells about Moscow. Thanks a lot to all the visitors of this site who sent me mail supporting this initiative. But the attempt to avoid typical distortions of mainstream media has its own hidden reefs. My picture may be a bit too bright (and not only due to my Olympus Camedia), while the life here has hardly become much better since Moscow Life pages were launched. So - welcome to Moscow in the fall'2000, with its joys and worries, with its hopes that are also subject to wear and tear.
I titled my August story here "Peaceful summer in Moscow", but the end of August made the words sound wrong. The month started with a blast in a crowded underpass - but we are getting used to that sort of terror, Moscow for years has been the capital of the country that is at war in Chechnya, and it shows. In fact, it takes a visit to Kiev to realize how much we've got used to the war... Musicians keep playing in other underground walkways, people use them without any trace of panic. Even the media dropped the topic after a few days. War zone means inevitable victims, nothing can be done about it. Get insane or get used...
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.
Later in August, Russian nuclear submarine, Kursk, sank in the North, and that resulted in national mourning. In the picture above you see the official flag of The President at half-mast above the Kremlin, a very rare view...
A bit later, Moscow TV tower went on fire that lasted more than 10 hours. This slender structure more than 1500 feet tall, normally a nice detail of city landscape, for one night became a spectacular disaster sight. Compare the two pictures above...
Cable or satellite TV is underdeveloped in Russia, so on that night (and the days that followed) millions of Moscow residents anyway had nothing better to watch, their TV receivers were dead.
All that accidents resulted in dramatic changes in Moscow Day of the City program, usually a bit pompous, but still merry city holiday celebrated on the first September weekend. Or maybe these unhappy events offered a good pretext for the city authorities who obviously have severe financial problems. Anyway, most of the festivities were cancelled. Even the bridge that was supposed to be moved a mile along the Moskva river on September 3, offering a unique engineering show, was secretly moved a few days earlier, under the orders of Moscow Mayor. The two photos give you an idea of how impressive that floating looked. Now the former railway bridge almost 100 years old is located in front of Radisson-Slavyanskaya hotel and eventually will connect the building with the other bank of the river. Have no idea, what for. But it will look great, no doubt.
Fall light and views make perfect reflections in the water. Ponds of Moscow offer nice and slightly rippled mirrors for the trees touched with shades of coming season. Sometimes they not just reflect - but contain strange objects, like this stolen and dismantled car (the left picture in the table above). Auto thieves in Moscow feel more and more confident by the day - because the police long since lost any interest in anything but collecting the bribes. Not only they will almost never find a thieve, but they won't bother with recovering a stolen item even if it is right in front of them. Corruption slowly but surely blocks every activity of official authorities - and now none of them will move a finger until paid some cash under the table.
Views of abandoned plants or trains on the railways slowly covering with sand and dirt and becoming invisible are perhaps the dreams of ecologist coming true. No production and no environmental contamination. The elements and the nature quietly dissolve the products of human efforts and digest them. Rails are already buried in the soil, the iron of the wheels will eventually turn to rust, the walls of once active plants and factories - now decaying - will fall and sink into advancing marshes; Greenpeace fanatics will be happy watching mosquitoes replacing all of us.
Trees start to grow on the empty and forgotten buildings even before the walls give up, they are more insistent and quiet than we city dwellers, state flags bleached by the sun and rains hang in front of the perfect background of buildings falling apart. The gangs of homeless beings and aggressive beggars (I would not call them all human) look peaceful when sleeping on a lawn in the sun - and are deadly dangerous in the dark. Night stinking animals, they do not already recognize any language except for that of hostility and brutal force, and their packs are getting more numerous month by month. Beware of their lairs in the city!
Away from the gangsters, state and city authorities of all levels, politicians and journalists corrupted by easy money, and hungry mobs corrupted by poverty (which is even worse than corruption by wealth) - quite a few of us keep living and enjoying the process.
The real colors of the fall look as clean as the artificial trees of the season around the fountain inside GUM, the largest Moscow mall. Even the flowerbeds have perfectly matching colors, their red and yellow whisper autumn as clearly as maples and mountain ash.
Kids have returned from the dachas to city playing grounds - and schools, college and university students fill not only campuses, but every park near them.
In fact, dacha life does not immediately stop when September comes. Of course, school and college students have to move from there; of course, fewer people spend their weekends in the country houses out of the city. But still many retired persons stay at the dachas until the real cold and first frost make living there too uncomfortable. September has its special attractions. Lots of us Russians like to "hunt" for mushrooms, and are skillful in that strange hunting. A forest near a dacha is the vegetable garden extension for the season, and the successful morning may bring enough catch to fill a few jars - which will be kept in Moscow waiting for the right occasion to be opened and to add perfect appetizers to a home dinner with friends.
Broshka, our cat, has just delivered three kittens and also lives at the dacha - until the kittens are a bit stronger so that they will survive a trip to Moscow. And - as in summer - dacha is still a good starting point for bike rides.
In the August story which is linked from the paragraph above I told about beautiful fields of summer. Now when the time of harvest has come it turns out that nobody cares. The land still belongs to the state and cannot be privatized. The machinery and equipment becomes the piles of rusted iron and the harvest dries and then rots away under fall rains. Landscapes are beautiful while the trails and roads keep winding through the woods, but when they come to what once was industrial areas or agricultural land, views become surrealistic. Some would make a great decoration for disaster movies.
But the season of suburban - or global - travels is over. Time to get back to the city. Time to get back to work. Sheremetievo, the main international airport of Moscow, is crowded with well tanned tourist returning from the comfortable places. The city welcomes them with ever increasing dose of advertising and gray overcast skies of September. We will try again to make the life brighter and better. We'll see how it works this year. So far we were not extremely successful.
Andrey - firstname.lastname@example.org
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