Taking the air down one of central Moscow’s many beaten and snow-capped pedestrian streets has me thinking that there’s something about the Russian Capital that makes every single building feel like a monument. All the buildings flanking the streets are old and ostentatious; most of them built in a time when the Soviet Union was still flourishing, and the aspiration to be the World’s leading nation still permeated this country. The roads and the sidewalks of where so many millions have walked before me are often wider in a way you don’t come across anywhere else, and perhaps it’s the amount of space that makes you feel so little. As I pass by the Red Square, it’s impossible to not stop for just a short moment. Even if I’ve been here a few times before, this is one the places in the world that just embraces you and watching the gaudy domes of St Basil’s cathedral as the snow falls thick, and the wind whistles is a moment you want to have in your life. Even if it’s a very short one because the sharp wind makes the cold unbearable to handle.
Outside of Moscow’s Red Square humungous institutions of gray concrete blocks flank the largest thoroughfares, all looking like impregnable fortresses with occasional marble decor and inexplicable big Russian letters in gleaming gold. The Metro deserve’s its own chapter, because surrounding the turmoil that constitutes the public transport of Moscow is marble walls and crystal chandeliers. An unbelievable contrast. But despite the cultural wealth, the atmosphere in the Russian Capital is cold, and it has very little do with the weather. I’ve been here in Summer, and it’s not much different. People rush to get by in the streets like slow wandering would be frowned upon. And there’s something so interesting about how inherently impolite this country is. Saying please, thank you or even just being soft-spoken is yet to have it’s breakthrough here, but for some reason, that’s alright in its way. The thing is, back home if someone doesn’t hold the door for you or say thank you when you do something for them, you immediately think that’s rude behavior. Here, however, it’s so unexpected that you don’t even waste any energy contemplating why people act the way they do. Perhaps it’s the language barrier; Most of the old generation of Russian population don’t speak a word English, and even the ones who do are rarely even an inch inclined into compromising their language for your benefit.
I’ve never been much of museum enthusiast, but I can walk around for hours on end in old, derelict neighborhoods where history once took place and just marvel. Soviet architecture is strikingly captivating. Something is fascinating about beholding those great pieces of abundant architecture which all saw the light in a time when the Communist era had influenced Russia when instead of feeding its people the regime spent money on buildings to showcase their greatness. Contrasts hard to grasp, but so vivid when you’re standing right in front of them. And as horrid and dyed in blood the story behind these remnants of history are, it’s impossible not to marvel at the opulence. From the high society buildings with magnificent bay windows and protruding corner towers to the subclass million complexes on the outskirts of town whose purpose were to accommodate as many as possible in a time where the population grew at a pace out of control. It’s hard not to feel that this is more a historical museum than an actual living place, and it seems that in the concrete jungle of Moscow there’s never been any room for modesty. But then again, that’s never what they’ve been renowned for.