Thursday, 8 October 2009

A short visit to Moscow...

and here are my impressions. The last visit, also of short duration took place some 12 years ago. Then, as a representative of a rich multinational,(5 star hotel) and now just a simple tourist (3 star hotel).
In 2009, Moscow must be the biggest employer of police forces and security guards.They are everywhere. Just the whole city is in uniform. Every store, every office building, sometimes whole streets are blocked by gates and security guards. On the one hand, it is reassuring to feel so protected, but who are they protecting?The people on the streets, or the store owners, offices? From whom is the danger? Political or run of the mill criminals?

I was pleasantly surprised at my ability to recall a long ago acquired, but almost never used Russian. At first I have struggled, but by the second day I got into it and became bolder in my conversations with total strangers. Anybody I have stopped for direction or information became an instant friend and guide. People under 25 generally knew a few words of English, but with the rest I had to manage with my Russian. Even the younger ones knew less English than I knew Russian , so we generally continued in Russian. Like all natives when addressed in their own tongue, they were delighted.

On one occasion I needed help in the labyrinths of the Moscow Metro, a massive system of transportation with many opportunities to get lost or get off "track". The young Russian lady may have been 20 or so, very pleasant and helpful. After a few attempts at English we agreed that my Russian was better. It so happened that my destination, after several changes on the subway system, was the same as hers. So we have travelled together for some 30 minutes, and chatted.The metro was noisy and too crowded for any meaningful conversation. But when we have arrived at our final station there was a huge downpour so we had to stay inside the station. Then we really got into talking. She was a second year university student,studying something like urban planning. Obviously, all her conscious life began after the demise of the Soviet union. Yet, I was so sorry to find that she had almost no clue about the past before her.She didn't know who Solzhenitsyn or Pasternak were, their significance, the years of the thaw and what it must have meant at least for her parents. But she knew all about current pop culture, American Idol and the rest.

It was a beautiful, but sad episode for me meeting this lovely, modern Russian girl, yet finding that the very recent and fateful past had not affected her at all.
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