29 August 2006

THings I hate about Moscow (yet)

Metro: Although I acknowledge and praise its practicality and prices, its hygienic and atmospheric conditions are really close to unbearable in August. Despite the nonstop flow of hot water to nearly all of the housing facilities for personal hygiene, the stench of cheap beer, rotten bacon and sweat combines into a mustard gas that the soldiers may have encountered in German trenches in 1917. In addition to this, the air conditioning system seems to be shut down in the waning days of Cuban Missile Crisis, making this stench reach a level of ultimate crippling saturation.

Prone to many local jokes, the Metro is also home to a unique class of human beings: The Rushing Muscovites. These people can be seen in rush hours and have been seen to develop a surprising strength and stamina to push the passengers in front of them when they want to enter or exit a train. Especially the old ladies have long forgotten the universal rules of etiquette and don’t hesitate to push you aside in the train, ruining your early morning crisp looks. This morning, an old lady (babushka) nearly tore my jacket off by her rusty carriage. Knowing that an expectation of an apology is futile, I didn’t even turned around; but heard that she was cursing me of blocking the way in the train (not mentioning the words about ethnic hatred)…

Police: We must tank the forces of militsia, the police, for their painstaking and nonstop work to keep Moscow as safe as possible (for the ubermensch, fair haired and pale skinned Aryan/Slavic citizens). If you somehow possess a dark skin, black hair, Caucasian or an Asian look (or even dress as one) you are an easy target for the turkey hunt of the brave police of Moscow.

You are to be checked in every Metro entrance or station and even easily picked up by the patrols on foot. Although I acknowledge that the Russian capital faces a flow of immigrants of good (or bad) deeds from the forgotten realms of soviet lebensraum, those poor guys who are overcrowding the campsites of construction and service companies are forced to leave a substantial amount of their low salaries to the swelling bank accounts of the corrupt policemen, who are ready to ignore any element of crime for a respective element of money.It is even an urban legend that the one can get away for even murder for an agreeable amount of money. So a lot of policemen (who are also underpaid) join the race of darkskin hunt and share the spoils.

Although I was told that nothing would happen if I would have all the documents present, I was constantly checked at the first times. I also had to bribe some overcorrupt young militsia and I admit that I was intimidated by the size of his AK-47 which had to be such a burden on his underfed body.

After they have proved themselves as vigilant and belligerent in the battlefield of Moscow streets, some elite are to be promoted to the dusty streets for a creamy piece of the cake. The traffic policemen (although I do not have a car right now –that’s why I use the metro) are roaming the vast avenues like the medieval nights in the search for glory. This time the glory can be fading colors of rubles or the eye-catching greenish glaze of the US dollars. The expert drivers always know where they are ambushing and try to avoid them, since they now that an encounter with a traffic policemen means a negative balance in your bank account. Regardless of the traffic rule you have violated, there is always an “easy way through”.

Not coming from a perfect society (I have once witnessed a very drunk driver –even smashed on traffic signals near the cops- pay a large amount of cash and drove away), I cannot say that I am amazed by the level of corruption.

Rents: Skyrocketing rents are usual for every big city, so that wasn’t a big shock for us when we came to this city. But after checking some flats for rent (and hearing the prices) , we had to get some fresh air…Now that the minimum price is converging to a thousand dollars for one-room flats in the city center, it is either lowering your style of spacious living or getting to know how to share a flat after years of the comfort of living alone.

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