Chronicles from Moscow

The Red Square

Moscow… What a fucking city.

For a Contemporary History bachelor this is somewhat of an orgasm, the senses explode, it is too much to take it all in, mostly when you are straight awake for 30 hours. That adds up to the confusion and awe of being in one of the most world famous cities. But still what an incredible place!!

It is easy to forget that Moscow is the capital of Russia, of the East, it is the place of Tsars and Red Stars, never fully European, never fully Oriental, it is the samewhat middle ground that breeds a fascinating amalgama of a society.

My first reaction when I got on the train was very simple: what a bunch of pricks. I mean Russians don’t really like to do you favors and the less you disturb them, the better they are. They don’t care about you, actually they don’t care about anyone else besides themselves. People don’t hold the door for the one behind them, they never say “spassiva” when the waiter hands them the order, they drive like maniacs and I never saw one Russian eager to help another. But of course, this is also a generalization.

Still they are strangely helpful. They will help you if you ask them to, even if their faces show the opposite. They don’t expect a “Thank you!” and the fact that I am foreigner is as exciting as a some dove’s shit on the sidewalk. I am here for 15 hours and the waiter of this Dunk’n’Donuts Eastern rip off got me a table with a power plug, after I asked him if he could help me out, since I ran out of cellphone battery.

The funniest thing is that he did all that with the cold stone face of a Red Guard marching in front of Lenin at the Red Square, just a few meters away from where we are. I understand their thing, they do help you out, just not the in the way that you expected. I mean, why would they care about smiles and nice words, that isn’t what you asked for, is it? This people, the Russians, are used to never ask for help and that’s why they see the rest of the world as a bunch of boy scouts pussies. I won’t argue them over that, — which only emphasizes their point.

So as you can see, it is really difficult to put my finger on Moscow: I love it and at the same time I kind hate it, because I know that I could never be able to live here, even if I could afford it. There is something about the people that turns me off, something about the “Russian way” that I deeply don’t go with… These are the people who were shaped in the cold, who had dictator after dictator, suffered with poverty and hunger and the threat of another devastating war never left the atmosphere, even today for what I see. But I care too much about others, I am shaped by the Sun and nice feelings, I like other people, I am too sensible for this abrasiveness. Does this make any sense?

But at the same time, for fuck’s sake… This is Moscow! This is the place that if you want to visit you still need to apply for a Visa that makes you feel that we are still in 1968 at the peak of the Cold War. This is the place where revolutions were born, Tsars killed, the Second World War finished (in a way, let’s say) and where the Cold War began (same thing…) Around these streets and squares are the stones that got in touch and personally knew Stalin, Lenin, Trotsky, Kroptkin, Dostoyevski, Kruschev and even Putin, like them or not, but seriously I feel like hugging the cobblestone of the street.

So much history and world changing events took place in here. The first time I saw the Red Square I dropped my jaw and had to look for it for a while. It is not huge, neither is grandiose, but again… It is the fucking Red Square, it is where the church with funny domes is located, St. Basil Cathedral, is where the Kremlin begins and is where you can still say “Hi!” to Lenin’s embalmed body, — it might be difficult to get a reply back, he is Russian after all.

But then outside of central Moscow, away from the Kremlin, the G.U.M. and Peter, the Great gigantic statue, on your way to the airport you find those all look-a-like residential neighborhoods. They all look terrible and at last, there in the suburbs, I feel the Easternness of Eastern Europe. I sense that a Western boy like me wouldn’t survive in those residential complexes for more than one day, if that much. The thought that this is where all the amateur Russian pornography comes from doesn’t leave my mind. Wasn’t I five minutes ago near the Kremlin?!

And then a bit further down the railways another residential complex appears, but this one is modern, concrete and glass, steel and modern architecture. A studio there is more expensive than your house, your entire family and your two kidneys. I wonder how many million of rubles a place in there costs…

I found profoundly strange this urban amazement: the imperial czarian style meets the glass and the Art Deco, then this is confronted with the ugly linearism of the communistic style of construction. This is not the way I imagine Moscow and it is exactly why it is such a special city.

But I am tired, so tired that I don’t even know if this is a dream or real life. I need to be awake for at least another 6 hours. That’s my limit, then I can sleep in the airplane as much as the 9 hour flight. But I am feeling surprisingly good: a bit tired, the legs are a little weak, but besides that I am good to go. (I might be delusional, which is highly dangerous in this situation, but I like to live on the limit and accept the consequences of a day discovering this amazing city that’s Moscow.)


Originally published at adventurousartist.com on April 8, 2016.

João Fernandes is a Portuguese writer, professional traveler and marketing strategist. He has been featured on Vice.com, ThoughtCatalog and EliteDaily. You can find out more about his writing and ineptitude to ride bikes on: www.adventurousartist.com