Posted by: englishdubai | November 27, 2006

From Russia with Love

My first trip to Moscow was a certainly a mixed experience for myself. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that would be working in Russia if you had asked me maybe only six months ago – it is amazing how quickly circumstances can change.

Domodedovo airport is fairly modern and user friendly. I am assured that it is far nicer than Sheremetyevo to the north of the city. Either way I was glad that the local office had arranged a pick up and for the next 90 minutes I held on tight while the driver wended his way through the busy Moscow afternoon traffic. I was surprised that while the driving was quite fast road manners were polite and efficient. However I have spent the last three days queued in traffic all over Moscow and would say it rates above London but below Johannesburg. These three cities have traffic problems that Dubai has yet to dream of – however it is catching up fast.

While I did not get much opportunity to explore Moscow I did see plenty of architectural sites that were impressive by their sheer nobleness and Stalinist influences. For me this was typical of my impression of Moscow. Strong, proud and resolute. Sure the western influence is there – every street corner it seems is punctuated with neon and there are some of the largest billboards I have ever seen adorning city center streets. The one thing exactly like other large cities is that it is very expensive i.e. the hotel was $350 a night. It was odd to hear a local guy complain that Russian petrol prices were the same as in the US.

There were two things I found a little difficult initially. The weather although mild for Moscow for this time of year was grey, cold and wet – exactly like London! It almost immediately gave me the blues as I think I suffer from a mild form of SAD. The other is the language – nearly all the taxi drivers I met spoke next to no English. I would speak to them in slow, clear and loud English, they in turn would respond to me in slow, clear and loud Russian….it made me smile. I think I will be compiling a bluffer’s guide to Russian in the near future. However its usefulness in Dubai is probably only limited to a couple of venues.

Overall I had an interesting time in Moscow taking in the scenery and culture. I am keen on my next visit to make some time to see the Kremlin and Pushkin Square – though I will need to bring some more sensible shoes and full cold weather gear. I also felt a lot safer here than in Johannesburg but I was warned on a number of times to have my wits about me – making sure I avoided Sushi restaurants on this trip.


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