As the snow begins to fall and my fellow Muscovites prepare for the winter, I can only reflect on how wonderful last winter was in M O S C O W.
Jess and I were living together in our cosy little apartment and it was always a pleasure to come home after a long day’s work and cuddle in front of the telly. Although the weather leaves a lot to be desired in a city where the average temperature in winter is 13°C – we made the most of the time we had together: Whether it be ice-skating, catching a movie at the Pioner Cinema, feasting on a delicious meal at the famous White Rabbit Restaurant & Bar, or watching the Nut Cracker at the Bolshoi Theatre, we made it count!
Jess and I thoroughly enjoyed ice-skating in Moscow; we tried to visit as many rinks as we could manage with our “busy” schedule. Ice-rinks are found in just about every park in town, are well priced, and most of all are beautifully decorated and well maintained. The world-renowned Gorky Park, now home to Europe’s largest ice-rink, was our most favourite one and is definitely a must in winter. The park has been transformed into a “skating Mecca”, where crowds gather day in and day out on a 150 000 square meters of pure ice for the ultimate skating experience. Skating enthusiasts, love-birds and amateurs alike can practice their skills on the ice, relax with a warm cup of Gluhwein, and skate hand in hand whilst enjoying the holiday cheer.
Another thing that you will instantly notice is that the amount of investment that goes into the public displays, live shows, parks and other recreational facilities is really exceptional – second to none. Wherever you go, there is always a monument dedicated to a poet, writer or other famous Russians, and although these are permanent they are much more enticing with a few feet of snow covering them. Then there is the annual Circle of Light Festival which takes place in various parts of the city, like the Bolshoi Theatre, and incorporates 2D and 3D graphics. These shows, which are projected onto the buildings, are created by Russian and international designers and artists all taking part in the ART VISION Videomapping Competition.
I think most people would agree that Russia is not famous for its cuisine. There are many other facets of Russian culture that stand out; however food is an integral part of any society and thus should not be left out! If you move to another country you’ll soon realise that you will not only have to adapt to your surroundings but also to the cuisine. In other words, when in Rome, do as the Romans do! Some countries are limited to what they can produce as well as the products they are able to import – the imposition of sanctions wont make it any easier. That being said, you wont always be able to whip up a lasagne if can’t get pasta sheets, you won’t be able to fry up a steak if you can’t find meat; if you do manage to get your hands on some, the quality might not be what you expect. I like to watch people while the shop; what ingredients they buy and the thought that goes into food. From my experience, soup (borsch, shchi, solyanka) is very popular, and some people will go as far as eating soup all year round (not you Charlie Bucket). Fish is also popular in Russia, whether its fresh (if you’re lucky), frozen (most likely), dried (eaten while drinking vodka), or used to make a salad (herring under a fur coat); there seems to be an endless supply of fish products in grocery stores and corner shops.
The climate, region and religion all contribute to how Russians eat, but the fall of the soviet union gave people a chance to experience western culture and you can definitely see it when you drive through the city. The city is full of burger joints, pizzerias, cafes and bars; the Russians soak it up and are very enthusiastic about the western influence (culturally not politically).
To summarize I will always remember the winter of 2014 – although I am quite happy to leave Moscow to join J in Cape Town in December to begin the next chapter of our lives!
Hope you don’t shaun Eastern Europe and give it a chance to amaze you! You might be quite surprised 😉