One question I have been asked many times during the week in Moscow was - "why did you not come earlier?". And looking back at the last 15 years of foolishly avoiding Russia I must say - I really do not know. In either case - I am very glad to have finally corrected the mistake.
Having grown up at the outskirts of the city and having left Moscow as a child I did not remember much of the central part. It's beautiful. And it's interesting. I spent a couple of days and a couple of nights strolling along giant 14 lane wide avenues, quiet alleys and shady boulevards. The city is alive and full of people and feels much cleaner and safer than I had anticipated. The rumours about the gridlocks and the traffic madness, however, appeared to be painfully true. The underground is busy, but having travelled on the London Tube for years I found it quite pleasant for a change. One of the amazing things that struck me is that almost everything is open 24/7. This is something that people in the so-called civilised Europe, and especially in the giant village called Australia can and should learn from Russia. I was having coffee in a normal coffee house similar to those you can find on most high streets; around midnight I started wondering when they were going to ask me to leave. But time passed and somewhere around 5am I realised with all confidence: they weren't. And this was not an exception. You can eat, drink, go out, order things, shop for anything you want, all 24/7. Very nice.
Another exceptional thing that is certainly worth mentioning is the abundance of beautiful women and the style and elegance they demonstrate when choosing their outfits. I mean, don't get me wrong, there are beautiful women everywhere, but you could not compare that to "everywhere". The sea, the boundless ocean of beautiful, well dressed girls stirs up waves that grab you and won't let you escape, that you don't want to escape. And most of these ladies are friendly and happy to chat with you. I have heard of all this before, but it was a very pleasant surprise to find that all the rumours were true. Uhhmmm!
I visited to the suburb where I grew up and it was delightful to see my grandma. I have not seen her for as long as I have not been to Russia and catching up with her was one of the most important reasons for the trip. In opposite to the city centre, I remembered the area well from when I was a kid. I had a lot of fun during a nostalgic walk through the streets and the park where I used to play as a child. It was also great to catch up with an old school friend of my; thank you, Vova, for taking the time to meet up. Besides nostalgia, the main impression of my childhood suburb was that it appeared to be so small. Of course it was not entirely unexpected, things always appear bigger to children and 15 years is a long time to grow, but I had underestimated the strength of that effect. Most distances appeared to be 3 or 4 times smaller than I remembered: the distance between the street and the house, between the Moscow ring road and the house, between the neighbouring houses, between the school and the park. Also the flat where I grew up appeared much smaller from the inside than I remembered, although not quite four-fold.
I completed all the city centre tourist walks either by myself or with relatives, and I am grateful to my friend Jon's mates for taking me out and showing some of the city's great nightlife. I am also particularly grateful to my childhood friend Kostya for taking a lot of time to catch up and for showing me the city by car. It was really god fun, thank you! I am also grateful to Katy, her husband Sergey and her sister Anna for the good times. It was good to see the girls after so many years and I was pleased to meet Sergey.
And once I have started with the acknowledgements, I want to primarily and most importantly thank my aunt Luba and my cousin Vera for letting me stay with them, for tolerating my late night returns and for taking so much time to show me the city and just to catch up. I love you and I am looking forward to seeing you again as soon as possible!
Overall, I was amazed by the trip. I appreciate that the city may not be as nice in February or so, as it was during the last days of Indian summer which I was lucky to catch. I also understand that I did not really deal with the difficult and frustrating routine of life in Russia. But I regret that I did not come earlier and I am looking forward to many, many more future visits. And I was thinking - maybe, just maybe, it would be a good idea to spend a year or two actually living in Moscow. Just a thought for now, but who knows..