Summer in Moscow is a nice change from the cold, dark winter. I am happy that I can go outside in shorts and a t-shirt, even if the Russian women are wearing stilettos and mini dresses. Since it is Russia, there are always interesting observations. Here are some thoughts:
- In the post-WWII years, Moscow was expanding so rapidly that they planted poplar trees because they grow so quickly. However, they produce huge amounts of pukh – white, fluffy stuff that resembles the white dandelions flower head that you used to blow as child. Supposedly, they don’t produce allergens the way pollen does, but Michael’s runny nose and itchy eyes would indicate otherwise. The problem with pukh is that it flies everywhere and no one has screens on their windows. That means if I open my window in my apartment it is soon covered in white fluff. It is all over the streets, drains, and apartments. Here is a picture of pukh still on a tree outside my window:
- The subways are not air conditioned and to say they get hot is an understatement. Fortunately, unlike waiting for the F in Brooklyn, the trains come every two minutes. Once on the train though, it is packed wall to wall with people and everyone has their arms up to hold on to the rail. It smells like 200 people who are hot and sweaty and do not wear deodorant. The only ventilation is provided by these three feet long windows that open about three inches on each side so you have dirty, hot tunnel air blowing into the train. Thankfully, I rarely take the subway more than a few stops and try to avoid rush hour.
- Sunlight! There is lots and lots of sunlight! It stays light until almost 11:00 pm and the sun rises around 6ish. It is amazing to be able to eat dinner, go for a walk and still have sunlight.
- Fresh fruit! For most of winter, the only fruits and vegetables that were reasonably priced were cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, onions (which I hate), and apples. The grocery stores sold a few imported fruits, but the prices were insane. I saw a dozen cherries for $36. In the summer, you can buy fresh cherries and strawberries on every corner for cheap! Markets even sell items like spinach and peaches now. I can finally bring fresh fruits and vegetables back into my diet. Hopefully, it will counterbalance the excessive amounts of chocolate and cheese I ate all winter.
- Throughout the year, Russians use dill as the most common spice. I can handle it in small doses, but not when it is piled on food. In the summer, the quantity used seems to increase dramatically. For example, I ordered a Greek Salad for lunch today and there was at least 1 cm of dill covering the salad. Any spice used in that quantity just isn’t good. Maybe that is just the picky eater in me though. Sadly, I haven’t outgrown my pickiness yet.
- I am not sure if it is due to a lack of privacy in their apartments or if it is just cultural, but Russians, particularly young ones, love PDA. It is impossible to take an escalator in the subway and not see a couple making out on the other side. The subway escalators take at least 2 minutes, so I guess they have time to kill. In the summer, this activity is taken outside too. My friend Liz and I always comment on how many people we see making out on park benches.
- Summer also brings out the very stereotypical Russian drunk! They can be found in the winter, but are either inside or huddling somewhere warm. In the summer, people bring drinking to the streets and it is celebrated as the national pastime that it is. Every park bench has people drinking beer, the street corners have people passing around vodka bottles, and tables in front of kiosks also have people drinking. An unfortunate side effect of this is that these people also feel the need to urinate on the streets. I can’t describe the feeling of walking out of the subway at 11:00 pm and swerving in and out of drunk people and stray dogs while avoiding the pee on the street.
- The warm weather! It is almost always in the 70’s or 80’s. Michael has warned me that it gets very hot in July and August, but I am loving the warm temperatures!
From Russia with Love,