Thursday, 10 January 2013

A Moving Time in Moscow

During my travels I have not had full access to Blogger and have not been able to post or comment, so my greetings are belated.

The Metro train rattles through darkness and stops at stations gleaming rose and grey, white and amber, marble and polished granite, bronze and brass, mosaic and elaborate plasterwork.
I cannot read their names, I cannot even recognise their names when they are announced, but I can recognise some of them visually. They are all different, all differently striking.

This is underground Moscow on New Year's Eve and we are heading for Red Square. So are thousands of others, many of them young men in thickly padded black jackets and furry black hats - Asiatic young men who come from Tashkent and other Central Asian towns to work in Moscow for a few years, perhaps to earn enough to return home.
So many young men, so similarly dressed seem frightening to my English eyes. Is it a protest, a potential riot?
'No,' says my son. 'It's their one night off and they're going to enjoy it'.

New Year in Russia is all the Winterfests rolled into one. Santa is here, the Madonna and Child are here if you look carefully; so are Mickey Mouse and Tom and Jerry and look-alikes of Lenin and Stalin.
Father Frost is here, big-time, in blue and silver with stuck-on stars and a big white beard. His helper, the Snow Maiden is also here, generally explained as his grand-daughter, but we all know that rich older men bearing gifts may have their nubile female attendants.

We have to push our way through the crowds. Red Square is closed in preparation for this most significant of Russian nights. Big screens are erected. President Putin will speak to the people at midnight and then....then there will be fireworks!

The snow starts and grows heavier. It is late, but all the shops are open and busy and the illuminated Kremlin buildings glow and glitter golden against the slanting snow. We duck into a maze of side-streets where my Russian companions know of a charming little restaurant hosted by a resident cat and dog. The cat, who is much larger than the dog, wears a bow-tie in honour of the occasion. The dog, a chihuahua, trots about anxiously - the risk of being trodden on is high. I greet him in English. He acknowledges me politely and sits beside me in the alcove. The cat in the bow-tie ignores me.

We return home through emptying streets and flying snow. Shop keepers are trying to hasten the last customers out. The Metro rattles us back to the suburbs. Father Frost and his lady-friend must visit every child in Russia tonight.
In every main road and quite a few side ones the snowploughs wait in silent ranks, ten, fifteen at a time, their drivers chatting and smoking in groups, waiting for the call to action.
In the meantime the gritting lorries are out in force, spraying a corrosive mix that turns the snow to brown sludge. Night or day, ice or snow, Moscow keeps moving.

There is no time to be lost, for we need to be ready at ten o'clock to bid farewell to 2012, with all its joys and pains and tedious bits. We raise our glasses of champagne to what is past.
The food is ready; smoked salmon, a cold roast, slabs of white fat, black bread, pickled herring and salads, beetroot and vegetables in vinaigrette dressing.

Friends arrive bringing more delicacies. There are very special mushroom gathered deep in a forest in Belarus....Cossack mushrooms. There are gherkins and fruits and then there are chocolates made locally and bought fresh from the factory. There is vodka, of course.
We eat and drink. There are many toasts, to our families, our children especially. There are photos on mobile phones and a few tears. The vodka flows. Ah, the past has been good to us.....and

On the television a hush falls over the vast crowds in Red Square and President Putin speaks to the people.
He says what all great leaders say, 'Be good, work hard, be kind to your family, be proud of your glorious nation.' Then the great bell of the Spaski Tower in the Kremlin strikes midnight. The national anthem plays out over scenes of beautiful Moscow in the snow. It is dignified and proud and moving.

Then the fireworks start, great earth-shattering detonations of colour and fire exploding into the night.
They go on....................
all night.

Happy New Year to us all - everywhere.


marigold jam said...

Fascinating to hear how it's done in Moscow! I am sure you have many memories of your time away?

Relatively Retiring said...

Marigold: thank you, yes, and more to come. I was (of course), writing all the time, but access to Blogger was limited so that I couldn't post anything. So far I've managed two English Christmas celebrations, one Russian New Year and one Russian Orthodox Christmas, so I'm a bit partied-out!

Molly said...

Lovely! Thank you for letting us share in your Russian New Year celebration! I was just wondering what had become of you! Nice to see you back.....

pohanginapete said...

I felt as if I was there — and wish I could have been.

Don't worry about the cat ignoring you. I'm sure it was ignoring the bow tie, too ("What bow tie?")

Jenny Woolf said...

Your photo of the metro in Russia made me want to visit it all over again. Amazing.

The Elephant's Child said...

Brilliant photos - wonderful post. It sounded a truly magical time - though I am not certain I would appreciate an entire night of fireworks.

Zhoen said...


Relatively Retiring said...

Molly: thank you. It's good to be back, but I feel rather intolerant of the traditional English panic about snowfall now!

P.Pete: you would have loved the next part of the trip, but would Moscow really be your sort of place?
Never mind the bow-tie, you should see what the chihuahua wears when he goes outside!

Jenny: the Metro photo is an official one, as photography is not allowed down there, but, yes, you could just spend a week travelling and admiring the stations,couldn't you?

Elephant's Child: yes, a wonderful time, and it was more than one night of fireworks, as they have a good old go on Orthodox Christmas as well!

Zhoen: thank you, glad you enjoyed it!.

Frances said...

It's good to see you back, and read of your exotic and colourful times. What fun.

Relatively Retiring said...

Frances: thank you, I have missed my blogging friends.

Fire Bird said...

how can they possibly afford that many fireworks??

good to see you back and hope the little one is doing well...

Relatively Retiring said...

Firebird: Explosives may be cheaper in Russia?
Thank you for the kind thoughts. Liitle One has her own flag flying in Russia now.

Leslee said...

What an exciting time to be in Moscow - or any world city for the New Year - must be eye-opening! Things do get a bit ho-hum in the same place after awhile - I barely made it to midnight. (Although earlier in the evening was quite fun as Boston has a wonderful arts procession in the early evening.) Happy New Year to you!

Relatively Retiring said...

Leslee: Happy New Year to you. New Year's Eve is the most spectacular time to be in Moscow - and certainly the noisiest.Presumably the cat and the chihuahua are quite blase about it all.