Moscow: Overview

So I left Moscow for the next leg of my travels about two weeks ago, and everyone had been asking how Moscow had been. After futilely explaining for the umpteenth time, I decided to write up a short three-minute overview, and here it is:

Moscow as a city exceeded my expectations—friends and family told me that it is a dangerous city, full of unhelpful people–who glared at you as if you just slaughtered their pet. Russians were a little on the reticent side and totally devoid of smiles; if you smile, they think you are either insane or mocking them. On the other hand, I found the ‘dangers’ of Moscow a little bit overhyped. I survived three months there braving the overcrowded metro everyday without anything being stolen which is a better track record than my stays in London and New York. I didn’t see any drive-bys, purse-snatchings or hate-crimes (that doesn’t mean they don’t happen), and graffiti—a veritable indicator of unbridled youth if there ever was one—was minimal.

The city has a lot of sights—you turn a corner and there is always a plaque or a statue commemorating some figure from Russian history that no one remembers. Even Moscovites walked nonchalantly by these statues, blissfully unaware of who was being honored there or Cato the Elder’s quote, “When I am dead, I would rather have people ask why I have no monument than why I have one”.

Moscow weather is a little bit underwhelming—I went there expecting a lot of snow, windy evenings and chilly weather, but severe winter set in only as I was leaving Moscow. We had about a month of superlong days and sunny weather until late September. It’s all global warming. On the other hand, as winter set in, roads became extremely slippery and dangerous. There were trucks that took care of snow, but their drivers were extremely lax (one of them tried to chase me down a street in his truck) but they were infinitely innocuous compared to typical Russian drivers, whose driving involved smoking, doing crossword puzzles (a national pastime apparently), berating their fellow drivers while veering dangerously close to them, and consistently ignoring the advice to change to snow tyres.

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