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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.
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.
...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.
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.
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...
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?
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 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...
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...
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...
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.
...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!...
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