3 things you love about Moscow
1. Summer in Moscow: Let’s face it, we do have a long and painful winter here. It starts in November and finishes in April and features such wonderful things as just 5 hours of daylight and temperatures that fall below -15C on average. So when summer comes it’s a true miracle. People eagerly stop the apartment hibernation and enjoy white nights, summer terraces, open-air concerts and everything else that warm weather has to offer in a bustling metropolis.
2. The rhythm of the city: Moscow’s constantly moving and changing. Sometimes for the worse, but most of the time – for the better. It’s never easy, but definitely never boring. New places and projects spring up here and there pushing the it-crowd into a constant rivalry for the “who’s been to that new cool place first” title.
3. The city’s history: It’s nearly 870 years (founded in 1147) transpire when you take a stroll in the heart of Moscow. And we love how the old blends with the new. There’s definitely an Asian feel to the city due to the mélange of different architectural styles and bright ads, but you also feel a very strong European presence. Moscow is unique in that sense: just as you start thinking it’s another northern European city, it goes all oriental bazaar on you and the illusion is gone.
3 things that drive you crazy about Moscow
1. Traffic: You think it’s bad where you live? Think again. Moscow is hell on a rush hour. Everything is congested – the roads are at a standstill, leaving drivers in jams that last for hours and hours and at the same time the metro is so full of people you can sometimes lift your feet off the ground and you won’t fall as you’d be squashed by fellow passengers. Summers are usually less painful with many people leaving the city for holidays. And the authorities are finally launching bicycle initiatives, but it’s still early days.
2. The size of the streets: Here we have to thank the Soviet Regime that took down hundreds of houses forever transforming the historical look of the city. This was done to create wide (very wide) avenues suitable to host military parades involving large military machinery like tanks. Think modern day North Korea. So now I’m left with an 18 (!!!) lane street to cross on my daily walk to work. No kidding. 18 lanes. Every day. Smack in the center of Moscow. Can you imagine how noisy and polluted it gets with all the traffic I mentioned earlier?
3. Pollution: It’s a big problem in the city. Moscow appears clean, with no garbage on the side walks or rubbish in the streets thanks to an efficient army of street cleaners, but recycling is still not a common practice in the city and the amount of cars doesn’t help at all. Jokes about double headed fish that live in Moskva river are a common thing again referring to how dirty it is.
A Moscow stereotype that’s true
People don’t smile at you. It’s just not part of the culture. Smiling at strangers is considered fake and even stupid in certain cases. Of course the service segment has been trained to smile like a westerner would, but they fail frequently. Don’t be offended and don’t be angry. When was the last time a Chinese waiter smiled at you? The food was still good, right?
A Moscow stereotype that’s sooooo wrong
It’s cold all year long. Moscow’s located in a flat area of the country so this means in summer, when the sun is high, it’s light nearly 24 hours a day. And hot. In recent years temperatures have been creeping up to +40C, but that’s still considered abnormally hot. Your average summer T is +30C which feels super hot when you’re surrounded by concrete.
The best thing about your neighbourhood
It’s human sized. I love Khamovniki and honestly think it’s the best neighborhood in town. It’s very middle class and calm, with parks, cafes, restaurants and galleries located in a comfortable walking distance. It’s also well connected with the rest of Moscow when it comes to public transport and car access (providing alternative routes in case of traffic jams elsewhere). Two of Moscow’s best hang-out areas are a 25 minute walk from where I live, I’m talking about the Red October and Gorky Park. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
Describe the view out your window
It’s a glorious mix of the old and new. I find my bedroom view slightly bizarre and captivating at the same time. I can see the park where I used to play as a child and behind it the austere soviet building housing the military academy. To it’s left – two huge candy striped chimneys blowing white steam that shapes itself into magical creatures and funny faces. And in the middle something that was never there when I was little – the futuristic skyscrapers of Moscow City, a one of a kind business district. At night the tall glass buildings turn into clocks, ad boards and random light patterns – I like to think that by seeing them out of my window I save money on a lava lamp.
Something you can’t live without daily, what/where?
I think the only two things I really need on a daily basis are water and air, but if we start thinking in weekly terms, than definitely yoga classes in my favorite studio – NYM, a 15 minute walk away from where I live. I also absolutely need to see water, so I plan my daily routes to go by the embankment of Moskva or Yauza rivers. The views calm me down and they are great running or biking routes too.
Book/movie/poem/song that captures the spirit of Moscow for you.
Master & Margarita by Bulgakov gives a great feel of a dusty summery Moscow.
If you were the boss of the Moscow tourism board what would the city slogan be?
That’s easy! “Moscow is My Oyster”, of course. We called our blog that because we think Moscow isn’t the easiest city to live in but once you actually crack it, the world is your oyster. It’s a great place to be.
And if you didn’t live here, where would you live?
I love New York and Katya loves Berlin. But I also adore smaller picture perfect places like Montreaux in Switzerland, or French Dijon, or Oxford in England etc. Maybe when I’m older I should consider moving there. For now my place is here in Moscow.
Anya and Katya live and work in Moscow and run a super cool city blog Moscow is My Oyster.