13 August 2007

A Sunny Saturday's Walk

Moscow continues to surprise me with its everchanging weather. Last week there were rainstorms to make Noah reconsider building a new ark; but this weekend it was hotter than ever. A lot of moscowites ran to their dachas to get their share of sun and enjoy the glorious return of the summer (and therefore clogging the 6-lane motorways) and the drunks, bums and filthy expats reigned over the dirty and sizzling streets of Moscow for the weekend.

As I am trying to discover the dark corners of Moscow off the beaten path, I woke up early this saturday after a clubbing night that started in a punk rock bar but oddly ended in a techno party. (For those who want my rating of the nightlife must wait for a while; but can check Chris' listings). I always wanted to visit Botanichesky Sad (The Botanical Gardens) up north on the orange line of Metro and tricked Nastya to join me on my quest. Coming from the eastern republic of Chuvashia a couple of months ago, she was a more foreigner to Moscow than I am and long wanted to share my touring experiences. We started off the Botanical Gardens Station but confronted with a wall of forest and followed a flux of babushkas and cyclists through a patio that lead into it.

Strange statues of hunters in the park

The first non-slavic statue I have ever seen in Moscow

Although it was calming to get away from the traffic and the usual hum of Moscow for a while, it took me minutes to understand that we weren't in a Botanical Garden but a simple park full of muddy lakes and empty beer bottles (Business Idea: One can hire a group of Tadjiks and sweep those parks every Monday to collect the bottles and cans and can make millions). After following a group of over enthusiastic people, we ended up in an arched gate that had no inscriptions but a gang of ohrana (security) guys who were gazing us as if we were cold war agents trying to infiltrate a nuclear warhead base. Thanks to Nastya, who talked our way into the facility, we got our vague description to a way to Botanical Gardens but I had already lost any hope of finding anything botanical in a place that looked more like a post-war wasteland than a garden.

Nastya and the Pavillion for Fish Industry in the back

After a walk under the burning sun (which made Nastya the happiest Chuvashka in Moscow) I realised that we were in the backyard of VDNH (The historical park that was intended to show the visitors of Moscow the achievements of Soviets back in 1960s; but now a twisted metamorphosis of shameless capitalism and long forgotten buildings and a promise for a better life. It had a pavillion for every achievement from space exloration to forestry and visitors could enjoy regular shows and a diversity of attractions from every soviet republic.) Although as an untiring enthusiast of VDNH I have been there for maybe 10 times (but as the entrance lies south toward the center of Moscow and the main attractions toward those gates), I have never passed beyiond the Vostok rocket and YAK jets on decay. Neither does the majority, so the pavillions beyond the regular walkpath were left to decay or transformed into warehouses or closed forever. Some included the pavillions for soviet egg incubators, rabbits and an artificial lake with a big 3-story fish restaurant complex. We walked through the once gloriuos exhibits and a showcase (actually a dirtyard now) where once there were contests between collective farms on pigs or sheep.

The pavillion for Soviet Rabbits and Furs

All proletarian rabbits in the world, Unite!

Strange wheat statue of in the middle of the lake in VDNH

The Vostok rocket that carried Gagarin into the space

YAK Jets that carried millions of soviet passangers are now on rusting display in VDNH

After we walked back through the thousands of rollerskaters (VDNH is an ideal venue for rollerskating and one can find a lot of enthusiastic tutors in bikini tops and short skirts on rollers) and joyous weekenders, I decided to visit another dark spot on my mindmap of Moscow, the Cherkizovsky Market, about which Nastya's ever smiling facial expression changed into a dark frown and she decided to go back home.

Already resistant to local anti-propaganda like this, I took a cab (and nearly survived a deadly crash of two Ladas on a crossing), reached the Cherkizovsky Market area which is close to the Lokomotive Station, the playground of the team of Russian Railroads, ingeniously called the Lokomotive Moscow. I made another thanks to God ,after the survival from the crash, that I hand't worn my favourite CSKA Moscow cap when I saw band of Lokomotive fans in their signature colours: red and green. I would have been like a shooting duck between the already drunk mob (it was 4 pm) but safely made my way into the Cherkizovsky Market where I though I could find some material to repair my ever-breaking IKEA bed. All I could find was millions of stalls full of cheap and imitation textile products and more Turkish (or Turkic) men than in an average Turkish town. Although there was an ongoing press campaign to oust all non-slavic sellers out of the markets for a couple of months, it seems that the Russian law isn't really applicable there since I cound't even see anyone close to slavic in the market.

Cherkizovskiy Market, an imitation of every textile brand on Earth and beyond

Without finding anything to repair my bed which resists my attemptas for an undisturbed sleep, I tried to find the nearest Metro station and surprised to get my answer in Turkish language from a security guy who pointed to the direction of three odd white skyscrapers which later came up to me as the hotels in Izmailovskiy Park. Those hotels were built to accomodate the visitors of 1980 Moscow Olympics and don't have the slightest hint of architectural beauty and glamour (like all 80's soviet products). I walked past the endless rows of fruit warehouses and cafes for the central asian workers who dominate the surroundings to reach the Izmailovsky Flea Market (where my every visit costs me my half-salary). This time I followed my tradition and bought an old USSR desk flag and a memorial flag of East German Republic (After a hard bargain, the seller agreed a discount if I teached him some words in Turkish so that he could tempt the Turkish tourists. Although I told him that a few Turkish tourists would come here to buy old soviet memorabilia but they would prefer to crowd the strip bars instead, he got a bargain and learned how to greet his customers in Turkish and I got the flags for 300 roubles (~12$).

The grand statue of the Partizanskaya Station. A usual portrayal of an old man leading the boys and girls to sabotage the Nazi invaders.

After checking the DVD stalls and having a cheburek (which was the best I have ever had in Russia) from a reasonably dirty cakeshop, I reached the Partizanskaya Metro Station, whose name changed from "Station in the name of Stalin" to "Izmailovskiy Park" and recently to "Partizanskaya". Its interior decoration is like a shrine to the partisans who had a considerable share in the WWII.

"Glory to the Partisan men and women!"

A detail from the columns of Partizanskaya Station. PPSh-41 sub-machine gun and the Russian forest; a deadly combination for the Germans in 1940s.

Statue of Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, a famous female partisan and a martyr, watching over the crowd.

The arrival in Kurskaya Station

A usual Metro scene

Not a very peaceful place to read books but this photo clearly shows how Russians love to read anytime and anywhere

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Keep on walking :) We want more