Moscow in Autumn

Short deployment to Moscow stopped me from re-exploring the city. Last time it was the haze of burning woods, this time rainy and cold weather of Moscow’s early Autumn. I am not sure what was worse, the atmosphere or my inclination to bitching, using both the picture drawn is simple: I do not like this place.

My grumblings start again with the oligarch-style hotel Metropol. This luxury is superficial as it manifests mostly by overpriced service and fancy glitter decors. When it comes to basics disappointment pops up: despite my room was twice bigger than last time, for 150 euro I would expect much more than old furniture, barely cleaned carpet and cheap plastic toilet accessories. Add to it complementary single bottle of mineral water for couple days staying, virtually no food stores, only fast foods in nearest “okhotny ryad” mall being the only place in walking distance; the feeling turns into anger.

Even though I missed my flight and barely slept in the night commuting to Moscow alternate way, it should have nothing to do with my impressions. Virtually true, unless your hotel does not charge you for that day and skips it from the company’s invoice, pushing me to 2-weeks pointless struggle for invoice correction with phone calls and dozen escalation emails to simply be ignored. My lesson learned is to stay away from this place unless you badly want to be 5 minutes walking away from the Red Square.

Next “super expensive” area of this bizarre city is the fashion as I already noticed it 2 years ago. The business center looks like a catwalk full of yuppies in all ages. Spending fortune on every day supplies I stayed away from shopping centers which would seriously impact my financial status quo, except for GUM at the Red Square, one of the biggest super luxury stores; that was only due to its outstanding architecture I could not miss while hanging around the city center.

My frustration got more fuel with massive traffic jams extending my work experience unnecessarily by two more hours – first hour waiting for a taxi and second hour getting back to hotel just a few kilometers away. Second day I ordered taxi and hour before finishing work, third day I got my climax though; waiting for taxi two hours in total I got cryptic information from receptionist that taxi refused to come. My WTF remained unanswered as receptionist of international company barely speaks English. I managed to find a Metro station nearby and with my brushed up skills in reading cirillic and speaking a bit Russian I managed to get back in less than half hour door-to-door; if I new first day that townsmen prefer spending evening in their cars showing off, I would use Metro as a matter of choice as it is faster, cheaper, clean, and not crowded at all.

Metro in contrast gave me a positive experience as a time travel machine; most stations remember fathers of revolution, you can feel their presence looking at walls and ceilings rich in heroes and ideas from the previous epoch, the soviet communism system. Surprisingly cars are neat and resemble 90’s and some stations look even futuristic. People in subway also represent majority of Moscow: working class, tired people in regular suites, no peacocks from catwalk. Sadly that reminds me that there is barely middle class, usually you see some reach people and masses below average. The same for cars and buildings, either luxury or misery, especially in suburbs on the way to airport.

Communication is best using Russian, not because it is formal language but knowledge of spoken English is virtual. In business center it was quite easy to use common speech in urban areas however, on my way to customer it was general difficulty as literally no-one understood English. Thanks to my brushed up skills in emergency (thanks to translate.google.com) I managed to find a way. I understood passers-by unable to speak unwelcome imperial way to interact, it was disappointing though the same happened in small business park plenty of IT companies, where every single person I accosted replied (or refused?) “no English“. Weird, another French men syndrome?

Trying to “skate the world” I took my boots with me as usual. Day by day however there were showers exactly at my spare time. And despite first days of October, when the astronomical summer has ended, Moscow got the temperatures floating a little above zero. First time the city got dried was on my way back to airport. OK, it does not count to the overall note, though from the conspiracy perspective chances are Putin-ruled government may use military techniques to provoke rains :]

Having no way to express myself (show off if you will) I decided to visit Kremlin. Next to 18 century exhibit items and hundred years old orthodox cathedrals, I found that place also very unfriendly to visitors. I assumed that paying admittance fee and walking in crowd willing to see these fraction of Europe history, the guards keeping an eye on government related part of Kremlin will be more polite and helpful. Well, no, that was another exhibit of power – stick to the sidewalks on your narrow route through the Kremlin or you will be ordered to do so. My explanation that photography needs better scene and framing (just walking 5 meters away from pavement) resulted in dynamic argue with policeman. That way visiting Kremlin is a way to see only middle part of it, like a 1/5 of the area; forget about going closer to any of towers or walls. F*ck’em all. Happily I was sentenced to only one week exile 😛

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