After sifting my thoughts about Russia through the mesh of:
– no knowledge of the Russian language
– only 9 days in a large urban city
– little opportunity to talk to locals
– no official interactions with police
I offer these random crumbs.
Russian data is dirt cheap compared to Canada. This comes as no surprise as we hear all the time that Canada has among the highest rates in the world. I paid 300 Rubles (about $7 Can.) for a 30 day, 4 GB SIMM card.
My receipt if you care to read the contract.
Russians love their subways. They see the underground stations as a canvas which must be decorated as an exquisite piece of artwork and maintained for generations. We never saw one touch of subway graffiti or one rat scurrying among the tracks or piece of garbage. (Sorry Toronto!!) This is with 8 million trips a day pouring through the bowels of the city. Every 60 – 62 seconds another train pulls into the station, people more or less orderly push into the cars and off they go.
Speaking of graffiti, Moscow must be one of the most under tagged cities in the world (well ..yes I do have a limited view to make such a statement) We did see graffiti on public spaces but it was unusual and often small scribbles in inconspicuous places. We asked Nicolai about this and he explained that it was illegal in Moscow. I thought to myself “Well no wonder it is not present. We should think of making a law like that in Saskatoon”. Of course we might need to talk about enforcement differences in the two jurisdictions as well.
The one exception occurred as we headed out on the Aeroexpress train to SVO airport where the taggers had been active.
Moscow’s centralized heating system held an interest for me. Ok, my engineer friends… “What’s the scoop on this idea.”
Fur is “King of the Collar and Coat” in Moscow. People wear their fur with great pride and it is seen as a status symbol as well as a practical way to keep warm.
Russian women in high heels can even navigate ice and slush and snow. How amazing.
Tattoos and carefully coiffed beards smoothed and stroked with beard oil have yet to hit the Moscow scene. Much like graffiti they were few and far between yet occasionally visible. Unlike graffiti I don’t think they are illegal.
People with disabilities must have one hell of a time getting around Moscow. While subways have excellent escalators there are no elevators and many of the escalators move you to subterranean levels suitable for mining operations. We did see one WC built specifically for wheelchairs in the “Garage Museum” a more recently constructed building. The ramps to move strollers and wheelchairs up and down the stairs forming under street bypasses leave one breathless as you watch someone navigate these steep slippery afterthoughts.
Moscow, while growing rapidly, does not express much human diversity. While we felt as if we could pass for a local with our white, albeit aging skin, there were extremely few examples of the diverse human skin colors one would see in major Canadian cities. I don’t believe I saw one head scarf, turban or other indication of diversity.
Security around Moscow seems to be taken very seriously. The streets are lined with fences, often rather imposing structures with razor wire guarding the top and a security gate manned by a guard sitting in a small kiosk. Often a small person sized gate is present and one can just walk through with a nod from the security officer. Subway patrols are abundant with their wands and official uniforms. The wands are apparently for checking backpacks and the like for bombs. Hmmm … a good idea I guess. The police presence at the Winter Cycling Parade was impressive yet not at all frightening.
Gridlock, supplied courtesy of every major manufacturer of luxury cars in the world, has descended upon the maze of Moscow streets. This is in spite of 8 million subway trips a day in a city of 17 – 20 million, depending on how far out you go. We were told that expensive cars, along with fur coats have become a huge status symbol as one would expect in our consumer world. Bicycle lanes and infrastructure are almost non-existent. Of course, through our single focus cycling monocular scope, we encountered lots of young people pushing for and expecting a change in the status of bicycles.