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Kisses brought the spring to Moscow

January - February 2002

    Moscow keeps changing fast... maybe even faster than ever. It is the fastest city in Russia - in many senses. There are many reasons for that, but money stands behind the fact, of course. The heritage of old Soviet over-centralization is still alive. Moscow is still the outstanding center of all Russian financial transactions, telecommunication traffic, goods distribution.

Russian flag above Russian White House, the seat of Russian Government

    Russia still is an extremely bureaucratic and therefore inevitably corrupted country. All the power of countless state bureaucrats and all the bribes each of them takes also are concentrated in Moscow.

    That's why Moscow is full of sparkling energy and happy consumers eager to spend their money... And we finally have recovered from the crisis of 1998. The first months of 2002 were a bit strange in terms of weather. Snowfalls and unusually warm thaws of January gave way to sunshine of February. The winter gave up early, and by Valentine Day (which is now well known and celebrated in Moscow) we were almost in spring...

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.

Tverskaya street in January Snow drifting past the windows of Detsky Mir Gray streets of winter Moscow Inside GUM in the wake of Christmas sales

Cleaning the streets after a snowfall
Souvenir stand in the GUM

   A few pictures of winter - as it is supposed to look in Moscow. Snow-covered Tverskaya street and snowflakes flying in front of Detsky Mir tall windows. The largest store offering toys and all other goods for kids is an attraction for young Muscovites as it has been for decades. Grayish streets under overcast skies are a typical winter view, and in January it all was like in a textbook. The crowds in the largest moll, GUM, were also as large as always.

Now yellow school buses are more and more frequent on Moscow streets Glass pyramids of cafes on Pushkinskaya Square In front of store windows with Christmas scenes...

Signs and reflections
Cleaning office windows
   And here come a few pictures of slushy streets of Moscow. Jumping temperature and snowfalls mixed with all the chemicals that street workers use to melt the ice result in a very strange and not necessarily nice coating of motorways and sidewalks. On the other hand, all these reflections add to the city looks...

   Unfortunately, the strange mix under the tires become the mist that fills the gorges of narrow downtown streets. And the windows get covered with very unpleasant and barely transparent layer of dirt that no rains or snowfalls can remove. On the left, you see the day in our office that became a holiday for us, the workers of our office block equipped with climbing gadgets and washing tools were cleaning the windows. Alas, it took only a week or so for the city dirt to get back. And the contract says that windows are cleaned once a quarter...

Most strange part of many new buidings is their roof - or something in its place... Old house in the foreground, tower of the 50s in the background - and something brand new in between New expensive apartment block in a traditional style Typical Moscow colors and shapes...

New British Embassy on the bank of Moskva river
Luxury apartments in the downtown - brand new
Architecture of the 70s - with new sattelite dish added
   Now it's time to fulfill the request of one of the readers of these my pages. (By the way, thanks a bunch to all of you who find the time to share your emotions and opinions with me. Your letters are really very, very special - and without them the project would hardly last all these seven years it has survived!). Anyway, about my promise... I was asked to post a few pictures of new buildings, those that made Moscow look different in recent years. Well, enjoy!

   Bright and sunny days of February are just perfect for taking pictures of buildings among trees. The branches are still bare and a transparent black lace is better than a green thick curtain... Actually, crisp and clear air is good even if there are no trees to block the view!

Renovation of old church Cleaning the last of winter dirt
   The city - and the people in it too - prepares itself for the bright and warm season. Moscow is getting more and more beautiful by the year, but each spring it takes additional efforts to look even better. Since this year the spring decided to come unusually early, all the preparations for the sunny days also start in February, not in April. Of course it is a bit crazy by our Russian standards, but I like the early spring, our winters are too long to my taste...

   But now it's time to tell a few words and show a few photos explaining the title of the story. Valentine's Day of February 14 was sunny in Moscow, and on that day thousands of Muscovites gathered on a new bridge across Moskva river to participate in a mass kissing event...

Kissing on the bridge, Valentine Day in Moscow

Bridge was full of funny characters A clown is a part of any good street show
   In one of my stories of 2000 I told about moving an old railroad bridge up the Moskva river to its new location where it was supposed to become a modern attraction for pedestrians. Now that old steel construction is all covered with glass and plated aluminum and is a favorite place for teenagers to hang out.

Kievsky Bridge, the newest walking bridge in Moscow
   The place was selected by Russian Chapter of Guinness Book of Records for a huge kissing event. Lots of people came here to break into more than a thousand pairs - and to kiss each other marking Valentine's Day.

   Clowns and cartoon characters were invited by organizers to entertain the participants - and those who kame to watch, to take pictures - if not to kiss... Kissing holiday was a holiday in the first place.

So many cameras were at the bridge to record almost every kiss
Newly married couples also came to the kissing event
Just one more Moscow kiss....
   Now please look at the photos of happy people, kissing and in love, - they are the real spirit of Moscow, and all the nice streets, buildings and monuments are only the background.

   The kissing action was named "2002 kisses", but I bet there were many more on the bridge - and would be later, after the end of record-setting events. Because Moscow is full of love and of people in love.

   Before the end of the story, let me show a few pictures not of Moscow... We Muscovites are mobile people, and beginning of the year took me to a few short business trips to different locations across Russia. So, a last glance from the bridge at Moscow panorama - and then, a few photos of other places.

A city view from Kievsky Bridge

Look at Volga in Nizhniy Novgorod
A beautiful church in Nizhny
-=Nizhny Novgorod=-
   ...It takes less than an hour to fly from Moscow to Nizhny Novgorod, a huge industrial city on the banks of Volga river ("Mom Volga" as Russians call the river). Almost 2 million people live in Nizhny with suburbs, and their life is quite intense. Some of them call Nizhny "Russian Detroit", because it is one of the centers of automobile industry of our country. Trucks with GAS logo can be found on any Russian road, and Gazel vans are the absolute hit on the market.

   But all this is just a formal introduction. Nizhny is worth visiting not because of its industry or science (also powerful here) - but simply as a beautiful place where nice people live.

Ancient walls of local Kremlin in Nizhny View from a high bank, Nizhny Novgorod Above Mom Volga...

Zimny Palace at night
Palace Bridge across Neva river

-=St. Petersburg=-
   And finally, two pictures of St. Petersburg. Nothing unusual, but I like the city and cannot miss the opportunity to post even two of them - if I had the time to take only them on that cold night...

   ...Well, time to say "See you later!" The 8th (!!!) year of this project has started, and I plan to keep the standard pace of approximately one story in two months. It's March now, and sun is shining again, first tens of Megabytes of photos are already on the disk of my home workstation. Life is going on, and this show must follow!

Watch for more stories of 2002!
Andrey - asebrant@online.ru

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