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Moscow, Europe, and back home

August - September 2001

    It's been a long time since I posted here the last story. Two months normally are not that long. But this year August was a month of vacation for me, the first and only relaxing time in the last three years. New sights and roads made the month a little bit longer... September brought us the horror of its 11th day. Time after that, packed with sad news and uneasy thoughts, was slow and heavy, with days reluctantly replacing each other.

    But life goes on, and the beauty around cannot, fortunately, be completely destroyed by even the most malignant terrorists. Moreover, it is sad to note, but over the last 5 years we in Moscow (and the entire Russia) became sort of used to terrorits' attacks. When visiting Europe, US, or even Ukraine the first thing one notes is the lack of police officers with machine guns at almost every corner. The sight is so familiar part of a city landscape in Russia that the lack of these armed men immediately puts you on alert... Now we can only pray and hope that US and its allies will be more fast and efficient in killing the bandits than we've been with Chechens.

Stokholm, Sweden Moscow, Russia - Ostankino tower

    But enough of that. Let's look around like we usually do on these pages. I have already mentioned the vacation - and sure here will be photos from a journey. It was not Russia, though - but it's interesting to mix up pictures of Moscow and Northern Europe on the same page. You will see for yourself below. So please read the titles and the text carefully - if you look at the right you'll see Moscow TV tower (still not restored completely after last year's fire) and the cathedral in Stockholm, not Moscow. I liked that view from the window of a hotel: one among many used on vacation. And it's interesting to compare how different are the cities in their methods of reaching the skies...

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.

Moose Island roads blocked after the storm Evening in Moscow park Ostankino pond and TV center

After August storm in Moscow

   ...The second half of summer-2001 brought to Moscow gusty winds that were looking like a real storm (though meteorologists who, as usual, failed to predict it and issue a warning said it was not a big deal). For the first time I could not enjoy all the roads in Moose Island that are nice for short biking rides on a weekend. This not-a-big-deal wind managed to fell thousands of trees (official numbers) and kill a few people. Even a week after the storm the roads were looking impressive.

Lighthouse at Kullen, Sweden

   But it was only one day. Other August nights were nice, quiet, and very warm this summer... All across Europe, in fact. Sitting on the banks of Ostankino pond (the middle photo above) was nice - but still too urban. Sitting under a lighthouse on the rocks facing waters of Kattegat, separating Denmark from Sweden was more relaxing (it's completely different type of quietness - when you watch a sea at sunset from empty cliffs) - but not a bit colder.

AT the banks of Moscow Obvodny Kanal Iron fences and bridges in downtown Moscow Sunset near Busum, Germany Orebro castle, Sweden

Egeskov castle, Denmark, sitting in the pond since 1554
Egeskov reflections - like form Andersen fairy tale
   Reflections emphasize the beauty - be it the beauty of city architecture, or sunset clouds above the sea. Both buildings sitting on the embankments in the middle of Moscow and old castles (of Egeskov in Denmark or Orebro in Sweden) are finely balanced with their shifting and slightly imperfect copies in the waters.

   With castles, of course, it's slightly different. There's an air of a fairy tale about them - even if they are perfectly functional until today and occupied by city authorities and restaurants - like in Orebro. But still there is ancient magic hiding in the walls, ghosts of the past hide in the cracks, and barely audible sound of clashing swords and tinkling glasses full of mead can be heard in the river whispers...

And anyway - to better understand Andersen's tailes one should come and see the places in Denmark - it really helps.

...Downtown Moscow is a bit different, the place is too noisy and smells too much of bad gasoline. Fairies prefer quieter places - I still feel a deepest pity for The Mermaid that became a major tourist attraction in Copenhagen - this must be an endless torture for her to sit in front of all these tourists. There will be no photos of a poor girl here...

Fountain in Sokolniki park, Moscow Rainbows in the park Chistye Prudy - Clear ponds on Moscow boulevards

Strange laundry on the banks of Moskva river
Holmsland Klit beaches in Denmark

   Joyful water of Moscow ponds and fountains made Moscow in the hot late summer a very comfortable place. Some use Moskva river for laundry, though it really takes being a homeless or a dirty tribe member to try using this water to clean your clothes. Well, I saw at least one such person... Passers-by were really impressed but who knows where the guy was from.

   After crowded Moscow beaches endless sands of Holmsland Klit are a miracle. The waves are as warm as Moskva river, but much more clean - and of course the gentle surf is never available on a small river. Empty and sunny long beaches - what can be more relaxing after a multimillion urban center?

Fixing a hole where the rain gets in - in Moscow
Tonder, a small town in Denmark
   The empty sand beaches of Holmsland Klit, 35 kilometers of dunes along Northern Sea coast of Denmark, remind of sand roads of Karelia - actually, small surprise, because they are both located at the north of Europe. But endless emptiness of Karelia wilderness is so different from comfortable and agricultural up the last square inch Denmark. Alas, Karelia lacks the sea, and though its lakes are countless and magic in their appearance, there is another magic in the surf, greenish salted water, and the wind that needs Atlantics to become that fresh and fast.

   Roofs in Northern Europe surprisingly are also strikingly different from Moscow ones. Here it's mostly painted (or zink-plated) iron - makes a visible difference from bright red tiles. Look at the left and see for yourself!

Moscow monument to Conquerors of Space Hammer and Sickle still dominate the city from Stalin's skyscrapers Orthodox Churches - round shapes and onions Cathedral in Paderborn, Germany

   Moscow points out to the sky with not only TV tower - though this is the most visible sign. There are also temple-like vysotki, there are churches with its high domes and tall bell-towers. But Gothic cathedrals (and entire Gothic architecture) thought sometimes remind of Moscow vysotki, but are a bit more proportional and look more human. And though they are much older, somehow Paderborn cathedrals look much lighter...

Little boy sitting in Stockholm
   On the other hand, cities are supposedly built for people (and not only fellow architects). And huge monuments, tons of terribly expensive titanium, like the one above, are in a sense less human and less convincing than a small piece of metal that has a soul. This little boy sits for decades in a small yard in Old Town of Stockholm, and people come to him, leave coins in hope to come again. He's human and memorable as one of us. Unprotected as we all - I wonder, how long would he survive in a Moscow yard? Unfortunately, I know the answer, and alas I do not like it.

Part of Moscow new Third Ring - a new attempt to diminish traffic jams Reconstruction of Krymski bridge at Sadovoe Ring in Moscow A highway in Denmark - a sample landscape

   Moscow roads are getting better. Of course it's next to impossible to get rid of every traffic jam in an old city where now more then 10 million people live, and which was initially built very densely. New freeways like the Third Ring do help a little. But of course rural pleasures of neat and virtually empty highways in Denmark are exactly what makes a vacation a pleasure...

Old traditional kayak in Vikings Ships Museum, Denmark A small town on  granite cliffs in Sweden It is interesting to touch this old and huge steering wheel of a fregate

   The North for me is associated with wilderness travels. For many years, summer was a time of rafting, hiking, or kayaking - and usually the places were located north of Moscow. Therefore a real kayak made of skins, not nylon - but of a very familiar shape! - reminded of travels... Small Swedish towns sitting on granite cliffs are so different from their Russian counterparts. But somehow fitting better in the familiar nature than dark and very poor, often abandoned villages of Russian North...

Cold September air is si transparent and good for observing city panorama Coca-Cola is very active with promo actions this year... Kids are always kids, only their toys keep changing with the new fashions

The right season to sell umbrellas in the streets Late flowerbeds of Sokolniki

   A few more photos of Moscow - nothing unusual this time. Kids on skateboards and flowerbeds under the trees where leaves have already started changing colors. The months ahead will be less colorful, October always is dirty and chilly in Moscow, not a spectacular time unless you spend it in warm clubs and homes of your friends.

   Street vendors soon will change their goods - instead of funny umbrellas they will sell warm hats and woolen scarves. Overcast skies will make the city grayish in the daytime, and only the lights of ads and billboards will make the nights bright.

Drinks and talks

   ...Time to say "see you next time", shut down the computer, and have a drink looking at the thermometer that shows small numbers around zero centigrade. First snowflakes, brittle ice on the puddles - just the right time for a few sips of good whisky - and thanks, no ice today!...

Andrey - asebrant@online.ru

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