Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Postcard from Moscow

Imagine an archetypal day in Moscow. (Ok, those of you who have actually been to Moscow need to recuse yourselves).

At least in our American imaginations, it might look something like this: Gray and misty. Crowds of people pushed and prodded, worn down from years of toil, weather, and totalitarian rule. Tall, colorless Soviet-bloc architecture as far as the eye can see, old sheets and trousers swaying from laundry lines strung from all those identical windows.

Now. Turn those assumptions on their head. Sure, Moscow had its moments of gray. And true enough, the air can get a bit clogged with smoke and vehicle exhaust. Cars rule the streets here, and city officials are considering 10-lane roads to accommodate the traffic.

But turn off any of those thoroughfares and you'll find an instant refuge from the chaos. You're among the friendliest people, the greenest gardens, the most eclectic architecture, and the most spirited public art you've encountered in any city before.

From the flower beds and gold-domed cathedrals of the Kremlin, to the placid boulevards of Chistiye Prudi, to the commuter hum of the Moscow Metro, to the vast green spaces (dotted with old military tanks) of Victory Park, this place is "City" writ large. And we took in all of it we could on foot, which is the best way, to my thinking, to experience an urban polyglot like Moscow.

I left a piece of my heart in Moscow, mainly with the people we met who call it home. Shy, red-headed Natalia. Sweet, simple Lev. Agreeable Pasha, who smiled at the world. Beautiful Nastya, with her contagious laugh and knack for storytelling on overnight trains. Fetching Anna, in her crisp white shirts and impeccable English. And of course Natasha, who went beyond interpreter to become both tour guide and caretaker to four American shutterbugs, who occasionally had to pinch ourselves when we realized, Here we are.


Rosemary said...

I'm one of the guilty, Christy--when you ask me to "imagine an archetypal day in Moscow," I immediately think of the opening lines of a personal narrative written by a Russian student I had in freshman comp years ago, who'd recently emigrated to the U. S.: "It was frosty winter day in Moscow, something ten-twelve years ago." Alas, when I think of Moscow, that's what pops into my head (much like "Boise" for you guys).

But your beautiful sunny photos go a long way to dispelling that image.

Christy said...

These photos don't begin to do justice to the (sometimes tucked away) majesty of the city, particularly our last night there, with one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen. A thunderstorm had rolled through about six hours earlier, clearing away the smog but leaving a dusky purple wash in the sky. Just amazing.

tracy said...

I love these posts--beautifully written and photographed!

And how lucky to be in a foreign city and get to know locals--it makes the whole experience deeper, doesn't it? I've toured many a pretty city but gotten to know no one, and that's no way to travel. Maybe that's why I never find Rome as charming as other people do?