By Flora Galley
Have you ever wanted to live through a bone-chilling, minus-20-degree winter? Spending a good few hours of your day in a dimly lit, yellow-grey metro carriage doesn’t sound like everyone’s idea of a good time. However, when each station is decorated with polished marble walls, chandeliers, tapestries and statues, you might enjoy the daily commute slightly more. Additionally, if you enjoy eating hearty carbs, Moscow is the perfect location for you! You can eat pancakes, dumplings and piroschki to your heart’s content. Even if you fear the ominous Russian winter, a trip to Moscow might still be for you! I mean, do you not want to meet the very people labelled spies and hackers by our lovely British media?
During a trip to the centre you can walk through cathedral square, eat world-famous ice cream in ‘GUM’ and be swept away by opera singing in the tower of Saint Basil’s. Not to forget, you are bare metres away from Putin, dreaming up his schemes in the Kremlin. There are countless galleries, museums and parks and entry is affordable. There are concessions for students and every third Sunday entry is free. During winter, huge parks are transformed into ice rinks where you can skate to music for hours and take occasional breaks to drink mulled wine or eat a shawarma. The popular ‘Beezniz lanch’ is a personal favourite of mine, a step up from the British meal deal. During the hours of Beezniz lanch, cafes and stolovayas (traditional canteens) serve discounted, hot food.
Moscow is not the horrifically cold, unfriendly, spy-filled, bear-infested, grey metropolis that you have heard about. Most of what we hear about Russia comes from our media and stereotyping. England and Russia are not on the best of terms, and their history is not a friendly one. This coupled with increased tension on the world stage and Russia’s enigma status creates the impression that Moscow is not a city to put at the top your bucket list.
However, the city is unique for this reason: despite embracing capitalism, Moscow’s strong culture means that the city preserves an authentic flavour of times gone by. The people are often misinterpreted too. Although I met a few drunk men who argued that the Skripal story was invented as anti-Russian propaganda by MI6, people did not show a deep hatred towards the UK. If anything, they were actively interested in the fact that we had chosen to travel there.
Aside from the unsmiling faces and fixed stares on the metro, people are kind, open, and have a (harsh) sense of humour. There is a sense of community, intimacy and directness. Living here is an opportunity to shed some of our internalised British awkwardness.