Vast and astonishing Moscow

Walking along the Moscow streets early in the winter mornings feels like a blade slicing across your throat, sharply taking your breath away. On Côte d’Azur, I would enjoy a cup of coffee sitting at the balcony of a rented flat while listening to every gentle sound drifting up from the perfectly calm sea. For Russians things are different.

In Moscow, people share their morning coffee in minutes, poised for their next move. Everyone is restless. Those who live in suburbs but work downtown are always in a hurry, rushing to jobs they are always late for. As well as workers who mostly skip any morning serenity, and tourists who blend into the pattern and spirit of the city around them – a curse they inherit the minute they cross passport control at the giant Moscow airport. It would be an unmitigated disaster to waste time on long morning chats, knowing that getting across town takes two hours if not more.

It is hard to understand sometimes how it is that people seem to relate easier to the cultures of the west rather than to the beauties of the eastern countries, especially to this one. As a Slav, I know that my culture was heavily influenced by all things Russian, and the roots of those influences are now visible in our customs and religion. It may be that in seeking something different, I never appreciated Moscow.

Speaking no Russian, speaking English in public places made me feel like an alien. While I’m sure many Russians understood my questions, they refused to answer.  The historical sites were a different matter, though; there, the welcome was warm and open hearted – this time local patrons offered a hot cup of tea or even a bed if I needed it.

Moscow is vast and astonishing. While I had seen other huge cities – like Chicago — Moscow seems even bigger, particularly as its architecture spread over the entire landscape. Everywhere we looked, at least one miracle attracted our attention. While playing monopoly with his angels, it seemed God had created these wonders of architecture throwing each of them to the different part of the city.

Unlike the old town, the new part included buildings that do not witness much of anything, not their prideful past or inner beauty. Only a rotten spirit of new age consumerism often tells its story in English. It is a pity that Russians themselves do not seem to understand the path they have taken. The self-interest that poisons the air is almost impossible to miss.

– Bojana Simeunovic

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