Monday, 6 September 2010


Moscow and the surrounding area has been experiencing a very hot summer. Locals tell us that it’s usually about 25 degrees centigrade but this year it’s been in the high 30’s all summer. A lady in the train told us “they even have to go to work in their shorts”, which she seemed to find rather funny. Some areas haven’t had rain since April, this is climate change in action. Moscow was predicted heavy rainfall for the day we were there, it didn’t materialise unfortunately and just rained for about 15 minutes. The previous time it rained in Moscow was 5 days before but only for 20 minutes. There have been raging forest fires surrounding Moscow and the news was reporting a horrid looking smog in Moscow before we got there. One hour of standing outside would be equivalent to smoking two packets of cigarettes. Luckily the smog disappeared and we didn’t need to stay in the station all day or don face masks. A few days after we left the smog engulfed Moscow again and we consider ourselves very lucky to have missed it.

We got woken up an hour before the train got to Moscow and a man from sub-Moscow offered me advice on which park to visit as I was queuing for the toilet. Moscow was confusing to start with, as most cities seem to be when you first get there. We managed to locate the station for trains to Eastern Russia and Asia and put our bags in the left luggage room. Figuring out what places are called is Russian is tricky, with our guidebook in English and everything in Cyrillic. Buying tickets for the Metro wasn’t too tricky but we did get off one stop too early.

Not having many plans for Moscow we started the day as we meant to go on and sat down in a park in front of the Bolshoi Ballet. A lady was cleaning the park with foul smelling water and her sidekick was meant to be mopping it up but needed a lot of reminding. We kept moving benches to avoid her. Some little old ladies with sun hats sat next to us and swung their legs into the air in the hope that they could stay seated while the area around them was hosed down. It was very funny but it didn’t help their cause and they had to move anyway.

We were then ready to tackle Moscow’s tourist sights head on. Saw the red square, St.Basil’s Cathedral (which was really rather nice), didn’t see the embalmed Lenin (because it’s closed on Fridays), saw the outside of the Kremlin (that was good enough for us), wandered across the river, saw some onion domed churches, bucketloads of Russian opulence and a lot of traffic. Crossing the road in Moscow is pretty much asking for trouble. One road had loads of lanes and the pedestrian crossing light did not have the inclination to turn green. People waited and waited, but the policeman standing nearby was not interested in our plight and just stood nearby waiving posh cars into the Kremlin. In the end we just had to make a mad dash for it. In most of the parks the grass was being watered to stop it turning yellow like the grass on the roadsides. The starlings were loving it and drinking from the puddles that were forming on the paths. Children were also enjoying the water by wading through and doing backflips into the fountains.

We were then faced with a mission of finding a shop to buy something to eat. This was almost impossible, we walked around for ages and there just weren’t any food shops. We did however find the chief hangout of the Oligarchs, streets full of shops with stuff too expensive for anyone in their right mind to buy. In the rich people’s shopping centre with palm trees and fountains we did buy a croissant each, which managed to keep us going until we did eventually find a small shop.

As evening drew in we entertained ourselves by staring in amazement at the sheer amount of traffic pouring past the road at the bottom of the Red Square. Boredom upon us we decided to count cars, black versus silver, yellow versus red, until a Russian decided to come and talk to us. Alex, an aspiring Russian actor had just finished an audition for what we are led to believe was a TV advert modelling clothes. His English wasn’t great, but it was better than most. Although when we wanted to know if Cyrillic was always written in capital letters he kept saying Moscow.

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