Moscow Round 2: One Month In…
Moscow is incomparable to the point of being almost indescribable. I often find myself making conflicting statements when trying to justify my, apparently, inexplicable decision to return to the city. Life here is characterised by juxtapositions which are taken as given by city’s inhabitants. It is not uncommon to see women with perfect manicures and red-soled heels, stopping along the road to buy fruit and veg from elderly ladies, with wizened faces and missing teeth telling of harder times.
Similarly, people seem to always have something to complain about- be it the economy or omnipresent ailments- whilst simultaneously always having something to celebrate. Muscovites, and Russians in general, enjoy a multitude of festivals and commemorative days, marked with traditional ceremonies and shrouded in superstitions that are as old as Russia herself. I still find it difficult to reconcile the hard and unsmiling faces on the metro with the people who will spend a good ten minutes on a heartfelt toast in your honour.
Whilst the past is very much still alive, embodied by the historic buildings and the beautifully ornate metro stations which tell of an ambivalent history, Moscow is far from being a stagnant. The Moscow I experienced three years ago is definitely not the Moscow of today. Thanks to a focus on urban planning and development, the city feels a lot more accessible. Alongside the immortalised figures and heroes of the Soviet past, are modern cafes and restaurant offering gastronomic experiences beyond the standard soups and salads. In parks adorned with symbols of Communism, exalting the worker and the importance of labour, people cycle and lounge on huge beanbags- Moscow is most definitely a city of paradoxes..
“Moscow isn’t ‘real’ Russia” is a common accusation made against the Russian capital- usually by people not from the city. However when you consider that it covers 17,098,242 square kilometres, what would qualify an area to be ‘real’ Russia is unclear. Nevertheless, I’ve already found myself unwittingly drawn into this competition between regions, championing Moscow’s superiority. Don’t get me started on the Moscow vs. St Petersburg argument…
Lola, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz Moscow.
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