Moscow 2

My first morning in Moscow and I was interested in what the Russians ate for breakfast at the hotel dining room. It was the usual eggs and bread, the standard northern European cold meats and, unusually, vegetables and rice. It seems their breakfasts are somewhat more balanced in terms of the major food groups than the shock of the carbohydrate we rely on. Not a piece of bacon in sight. But there were cakes.

One of the side effects of under employment and cheap labour is that you get a lot of people just hanging about with very little to do. A bit like teenagers at a shopping mall. And likewise it seems somehow threatening. But I am sure it is not (or I hope not). Everywhere you have police and army just being there. At first I thought maybe this to be a hangover from the soviet era, but you never know, the russians may find it kind of reassuring. Perhaps as the population keeps decreasing they will start using CCT cameras as they do in London.

The Russsians could do well to export men as bouncers in night clubs as every restaurant seems to have at least one badly suited big guy standing around, shuffling from boredom. At one cheap restaurant I gave them a few hundred roubles having had a good meal and a couple of Pivas(beers). I went to walk out without the change so as to leave a tip. The suited heavy gestured to me in a kindly manner to wait for my change. So they aren't as mean as they look.

Trying to speak English with Russians is hard as they seem to think the best way to do it is to keep their mouths shut and talk through clenched teeth. One girl at the hotel desk spoke perfect English that was totally inaudible simply because of this.

I eventually found Moscow's ethnic diversity at the Izmailovo Market near the hotel. This was an amazing place. Like Footscray Market writ large. Full of clothes that one would never wear in Europe or Australia. Colourful may be a nice way to describe it.

The labyrinthine Izmailovo Market

You have to walk down the lanes using only periferal vision only because to show even a glimpse of interest excites the stall holder to pester you. "machina,! Machina" Which I think means "What would you like?" I had to resort to the rapid solve-all reply "Ya tourist" and smile, which is not something you see in public here but is your most effective way of dealing with many situations.

I also balanced this experience by going to GUM. A bit of posh off the Red Square.

Entrance to Red Square

The square has lines marked for the parades to follow. It is (significantly?) bounded by the Kremlin, the church and the Gum shopping centre.

I did the "one stop at a time" tour of the underground. As the trains come every few minutes you never have to wait long at the station. So you can get off to have a look and then jump back on the next train. Also each time you get back on the train you get another cross section of moscovites to observe. As you only pay 22 rubles for a ticket you can see every station on the network on this one ticket as it remains valid up until you resurface.

Well I made it back to the airport. I have become quite a dab hand negotiating the metro. I am at the internet cafe waiting to leave for Siberia. The secret to my ability to type is that the keyboards have two letters on each key. Press Alt-Shift and волшебство - magic.

I spent the day walking. I figure it pays to exhaust yourself on your last day so you can sleep on the plane.
But has this visit meant anything? Will it add to my life experience other than being able to put another pin on the map?

It has been the first country I have been in where I had no idea how to speak the language. Mostly the Russians have been patient and sometimes amused. However when I asked about a box at the post office the lady there took a step back, crossed her arms and simply shook here head saying нет with a look of absolute horror. And this was at the hotel! But the real test is to come as in Siberia where apparently an English speaker is about as common as a tiger.

Most russians are fairly rugged looking. Whether from diet or perhaps they have a fatty layer on their face to protect from the cold. But every so often you see these women who are tall and thin. They are stunning. They walk along elevated by 3" high stilleto heels which gives them a literal hauteur. Either somehow the Russian gene pool throws out these freaks or they are the result of some secret soviet breeding plan. They certainly stand out and there are no middle aged versions.

You have to like the russians. They are matter of fact. They don't waist time with stupid "Have a nice day" type rhetoric that's for sure. Always serious. But every now and then a smile sneaks out and you know it is genuine.

One thing I like about Moscow is that they have words on their buildings. This has always been something I like to see in achitecture. And the Russians do justice to the cyrillic typefaces of which they use very inventively. Before leaving London I saw an exhibition of Rodchenko and Popova which prepared me for this. And every moment of the day I thank myself for having the forethought to learn how to read it.

Anyway I am about to experience the notorious domestic russian air surface so - пока.

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