Moscow is a great city full of rich culture and architectural masterpieces like Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Kremlin or Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, but this article is not about all these, but about some facts I would really like to share and which are maybe not that ordinary in other cities.
Moscow was our third trip with Maria where we did couchsurfing. We were hosted by a great and experienced Russian couchsurfer Arina. For our first night, Arina took us to a typical Russian disco. In the entrance I was checked for guns and asked if I carry a knife and after that we were allowed to enter. I was expecting some drunk people or people drinking lot of Vodka, but amazingly I was wrong. I found out that Russian men temp to be a bit shy, since there were lots of guys dancing alone. I spent quite some time observing what was going on the dance floor and there were lot of boys just standing around alone and waiting for someone to start to dance with. In the middle there were girls dancing in the groups waiting for the guys to come closer. It was a typical elementary school dance scenario. I was really surprised that not that many people were drinking hard alcohol, mostly some beers or cocktails. Neither had I seen too many youngsters under 18 like we are used to seeing in discos and bars here in Slovakia drinking. Overall I felt really secure and comfortable in a great bar with young people dancing and having fun.
While talking about alcohol don’t expect to get drunk in Moscow for your lunch money. I saw lots of Czech and Slovak beers in the supermarket where the price would start from 3, 50 Euro up to almost 5 Euro for a beer which normally costs in Slovakia about 60 cents. The cheapest beer would be around 2 Euro and the cheapest drinkable wine around 6-7 Euro. Being disappointed about that, I was hoping that Russian Vodka would take my breath away with its price, but was the same price like back home. Well, so if you don’t buy cheap alcohol in supermarket, don’t expect to buy it any cheaper in the bars. A beer would normally cost us between 4 – 5 Euros, which for me was a tear dropping price. I was looking for a typical Russian bar, which at least in my mind would be full of older people drinking local Vodka and playing cards or something like that. I would probably found something like that, but maybe out of Moscow, who knows. Instead of that we found lot of cool new bars with style of 21th century. In one of them I was offered a homemade Vodka which I couldn’t reject. That Vodka was definitely the best and the most delicious Vodka I have ever tried. I didn’t even have to chase it with beer, which btw for those Russians seemed very strange drinking Vodka and beer, it was really tasty and smooth so beer was no needed. Too bad it wasn’t possible to buy.
Another story is finding a Russian restaurant. I guess it doesn’t exist. We asked a lot of people for some typical Russian restaurant in Moscow, but nobody would tell us anything else than just My-My self-service restaurant or those really fancy ones on the main squares for some rich people. We didn’t eat there so I can’t tell, but instead of that we ate twice in a Georgian restaurant, which seem to be very popular among Muscovites. We found a really good one, called Mizandari cafe, where we tried some of their typical meals like khachapuri a boat shaped bread filled with cheese and egg on the top and chinkali, Georgian dumplings usually filled out with meat. But to stay on course with Russian food, eventually Dmitriy and Arina took us to try some Russian salty pancakes which in my case were filled with salmon and sour cream and it was just so delicious that I wanted to eat that all the time.
One of the biggest surprises for me was a ski lift and ski jump on a small hill near Lomonosov University where you could go for a ski if you are tired of a typical metropolitan hurry. That is one of those things you don’t really see in many cities. Road and stop lights between ski lift and Lomonosov University are probably well known for drag racing. If you are a petrol head you would love it there. Being there just for a few seconds and I have already seen at least two drag races between very powerful cars racing from stop light to stop light. There were also boys driving around and showing off how loud is their exhaust which I didn’t really mind since I love that sound of V8 engines which are very common in Moscow. The thing I didn’t really like is their driving habits. Walking on a sidewalk close to the road was pretty scary for me since some of those wide streets were like a racing circuit. All those Mercedes-Benz AMG’s and BMW M’s you know mostly from motor shows or internet drive nuts in the streets of Moscow. My last fact about cars in Moscow was a negative one because all of them were so dirty. I understand that it was snowing day before and that the streets of Moscow are not exactly the cleanest ones, but looking at all those black S-klasse 63 AMGs was a head spinning experience.
In Moscow a limousine plays a big role especially during weekends. Muscovites use it to hang out and get to the club or party and for weddings, which we saw at least 5, all using a long Hummer limousine. I have been told it is a tradition to come to Luzhkov Bridge and hang there a lock meaning long lasting relationship. On the bridge there are iron trees holding all the locks and when the tree is fully covered by locks they replace it with new one and put the old one in the line full of similar trees by the river. I was really impressed how many trees like that were there and all those countless locks from which maybe half is already divorced. Some main streets, for example the most touristy one called Arbat was full of people- commercials like I call it. I have seen this many years ago in the USA and now here in Moscow (some big cities as well). It is basically a person holding a sign, logo or an arrow pointing to a restaurant which you should visit etc…On the faces of those people you could clearly see they are very ‘satisfied’ with their job. Except for that on Arbat Street you can see many street artists, random old people dancing very strange dance just to get some money from tourists, people in animal costumes or big, fat but cute rabbits waiting for some pocket-money for their owners. No need to mention is one of the most expensive streets to buy souvenirs.
Early on I mentioned all the cars being so dirty. It doesn’t not apply to city itself. Almost all the building are in a very good shape with no graffiti, parks were clean and there was not that much trash flying around. I must say though that there was a lot of construction going on which would case some mess as well as some noise and mud. Basically where ever you go, every few hundred meters you will see a building, road or park under construction.
My last fact would be about people. We were lucky enough to meet easygoing, friendly and open-minded couchsurfers Arina and Dmitriy, but except for that, people in Moscow seemed to be a bit cold, not smiling and all being in a hurry. I understand it because it is a huge city full of people rushing to work or home, but if somebody accidentally hits you in Metro, at least they could say sorry. People were mostly looking down minding their own business and not interacting with outside world. A character of people living there is a little bit similar to all those ex-communist countries and definitely has something to do with weather as well since the sun in not shinning there as much as for example in Spain, where people are more friendly and open. This is just my opinion and I must repeat that people we had met personally were very friendly and nice to hang out with.