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Spring in Russia not necessarily is confined within the calendar boundaries. We feel that it has come when March 8, the Ladies' Day arrives. We believe that it is gradually transforming into summer when May holidays call people to the dachas - or resorts, depending on the financial resources and attitudes. First decade of May is very much like a Christmas time: lots of businesses closed, people out of the city, merry celebrations of Labor Day (May 1) and Victory Day (May 9).
This story covers exactly this period of spring as a personal feeling - or you may call this "time around Easter" if you are religious enough to care about painted eggs. With all this global warming, March becomes not only the "spring of light" when it's still cold, but the blue sky and the shining sun betray the end of winter. It's getting warmer by the day, and in April we can already see the fresh grass on the lawns and flowerbeds show first and shy tulips.
We all - and the entire Moscow - wake up after the long period of dusk and cold. We warm ourselves up in every possible way. Let us watch how we do it.
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.
March 8, the day that the Communists tried to present as a political event (then officially it was called The International Women's Day and female workers were its heroes), was always perceived as a romantic holiday. St. Valentine was not known in the Soviet times, and March 8 provided an excellent excuse for the natural desire to make gifts, send flowers, and simply kiss nice girls and ladies in the spring.
Tradition of office parties arranged by the male population for female co-workers is still alive. In the photos on the left you see such a party - in the new office where there is not enough space and furniture after moving in so that computer monitor boxes serve as makeshift tables. But flowers, smiles, and wine are all real, sincere, and absolutely natural!
Moscow never suffers from the lack of interesting events. But spring energy makes them more frequent, enthusiastic and touching. This spring, almost 6 years after I first showed Katya's batiks to Moscow Life visitors (here is the first my story of 1995, and another one was added a year later), it's a pleasure to present here a few works from her new exhibit.
This time Katya presented not only her famous silk pictures, but a more traditional oil-and-canvas paintings too. The row below gives you three examples.
And if you want to contact Katya directly - please write to her e-mail: email@example.com
If you like this story and Katya's art, you may want to see the report of her new exhibit that happened in January 2004.
Katya's exhibit this time took place in the House of Journalists, but in Moscow not only exhibition halls and professional societies offer space (and walls) for such events. Small and wonderful exhibits become popular in small and cozy cafes and bars, and there are plenty of such places all over the city.
Tanya Sazanskaya, an excellent photographer and once the member of my team at GlasNet (when the company was not acquired yet), made an exposition of her photos of Paris in a nice place called "Coffee In!" The opening ceremony of the exposition attracted quite a few people from Journalistic and Internet communities, there were friendly speeches, songs in French, and lots of drinks all evening and the better part of night...
Walking in spring Moscow is fun. Fun to look at bare tree branches that cannot hide from you view a facade with painted bare branches and painted spring sky... Even more fun it is when you have no purpose and wander through the city with the only occupation: look around, take a picture, take a turn at the arbitrary corner - maybe this one - or maybe the one three blocks down the street…
People are dressed funny in this season. Some are inertial and still wear warm and even fur coats, other quickly switch to short sleeves and summer colors. Somehow, everyone feels comfortable. It is a very forgiving and relaxed time, and nobody cares.
This is also the time when summer objects are tested after winter break - fountains (all 150+ of them available in Moscow) are getting ready for May holidays, riverboats are being tested for the season (last year I posted here a story about first spring boat rides), cafes - including McDonalds - open their outdoor courts and the smell of coffee and sandwiches starts to fill the air in the streets.
It's also the beginning of a biking season - and not only biking. More and more muscle-driven vehicles on wheels of all sizes appear in the streets and in the parks. Bicycles and in-line skates, scooters (the fashion of 2001 in Moscow!) and skate-boards - all of a sudden they flood the sidewalks and alleys.
And that, of course, means that I also open my own biking season in my favorite place, the Moose Island. Time to get used to the saddle again - and get trained for longer summer rides (like the one I told you before in the story about A 107 road).
Artists definitely do like the seasons and the colors. Of course deeper in the forest there still some mud from the recently melted snow - and nicely tinkling steams. In a few weeks, foliage will become denser and green mist filling the woods will become a curtain. Now the Moose Island is pale and transparent, a rare view.
But let us get back to the city, in the park it's still a bit chilly, while the streets offer nice looks - even if sometimes interrupted by beggars, homeless, and drunks. They also are greeting the season - comfortable for them even more than for us sleeping in the warm apartments.
Over the last 10 years, homeless and beggars has become as traditional part of a city image as wedding processions in Manezhnaya Square or slender churches. Nobody pays much attention, though quite a few give them some money. Most of these generous people are visitors to the city, Muscovites know too well that these poor persons are mostly just slaves in a huge criminal business controlled by a few ethnic gangs. Money they collect are in fact much higher than an average salary in Moscow - but as in other business, big money go to the bosses, while hard-working unskilled losers get barely enough to buy cheap liquor.
Diversity is what makes Moscow so beautiful in these months. It's fun to look at Nescafe hot-air balloon flying above a monument to Karl Marks. It's interesting to know how much the founding father of communism would appreciate this background. Actually, at the evening when I took the picture, granite Karl had much better view in front of him. International Theater Olympics opening ceremony was taking place across the street from the monument. A huge stage was erected for just one night in the square in front of Maly Theater and lucky guests were enjoying the show staying between the flowerbeds next to the Bolshoi Theater.
Those who prefer shopping all year round, also increase their activities in spring. Both good old GUM and modern underground Okhotny Ryad malls are crowded and brightly decorated with season symbols - or goods. An Easter egg sits in the middle of GUM, advertising of dacha swimming pools hang from Okhotny Ryad elevators...
Next time the story will be a green one. The trees will be heavily dressed by the middle of May. Bike rides will offer more nice outdoor views. And definitely Moscow streets also demonstrate something new, spectacular, and bright.
Andrey - firstname.lastname@example.org
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