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That Was Unexpected.

27 July 2014

Last Saturday, as Maki and I headed out of the library, we decided, spur of the moment, to take a stroll down Arbat. It had been a while since I had been down the street, so lo and behold, I surprised to see this most recent of developments.

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A quick glance at the menu suggested it wasn’t actually dramatically more expensive than in the US, and I was also delighted to see that there was a mushroom burger on the menu, just like in the US. So, obviously, we had to do it.


And it was perfect. Chocolate milkshake, yes please!

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It was a day of American nostalgia, since our last stop that day had been, in fact, at a Dunkin Donuts, where we treated ourselves to iced coffee. And a selfie. But only because there’s a totally ridiculous mirror for that purpose.

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And that morning’s breakfast? Makeshift huevos rancheros — with hand mashed refried beans and fried Armenian lavash for tortillas. Tomato sauce also self-made. Rounded off with Philz Coffee, purchased in San Francisco. Sadly, our supply is almost finished…

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Anyway, we’re enjoying these expat luxuries while we can — things will be quite different when we get to Dushanbe on September 5 (now ticketed from New Delhi, even if we don’t have tickets to India just yet). Life is good.




Summer in the City

26 July 2014

Here and there, meandering through Moscow, mostly after long days at the archives and the library.

Christ the Savior, with a Moscow skyscraper in the distance.

Christ the Savior, with a Moscow skyscraper in the distance.

One of the things that you quickly come to terms with when you live in Moscow is that it basically takes an hour to get anywhere, 45 minutes if you’re really lucky. And anything less than that is rare and fabulous. These past two summers, I’ve been delighted that from my apartment, the rule is generally around 45 minutes. But perhaps best of all, most of these 45 minutes are actually spent walking. Which, while maybe a downside in worse weather, has been absolutely fabulous during this most perfect of summers.

View from the bridge near Kievskaia metro station. I walk 12 minutes to the metro, take the metro one stop, and walk another 20 to the archive, during which I cross this bridge.

View from the bridge near Kievskaia metro station. I walk 12 minutes to the metro, take the metro one stop, and walk another 20 to the main State Archive, during which I cross this bridge. This was taken in the afternoon, on the way home, with a glorious reflection from the marble bridge.

The days are long here — both in a physical sense, as the sun rises early and sets quite late, and in the work sense, as weird archival schedules get neatly paired with hours at the main State Library, conveniently located in the heart of Moscow. Since the library is opened six days a week, 9 am to 8 pm, it’s a great place to go to supplement archival work, which is all the more true when a lot of your sources are published, but not available outside Russia. For some crazy reason, American libraries do not have a wealth of 3rd grade Soviet history textbooks from the 1930s…

The Lenin Library, which fills in the gaps when the archives are closed.

The Lenin Library, which fills in the gaps when the archives are closed.

In part because the weather has been so terrifically fabulous this summer, there has been lots of walking, and in part because I also just love walking, this summer has taken me all over the city. After the archives close, there are always places to walk. For example, on this beautiful day, heading over to Gorky Park.

View from a different pedestrian bridge, the other way from the main state archive.

View from a different pedestrian bridge, the other way from the main state archive. I was experimenting with different settings on my point-and-shoot camera, and this is the vivid color one. I apologize for the Instagram-like effect.

Another day, Maki and I took a nice walk after the end of the day’s work in the library, also towards Gorky Park, but coming from another direction — past Christ the Savior, from which the header picture is taken. A glorious night!

Maki in front of Christ the Savior.

Maki in front of Christ the Savior.

That walk took us through the ever-expanding pedestrian embankment that now takes over a long stretch along the Moscow River. Moscow, I swear, gets more pleasant each time I return. Last summer, this area around Muzeon Park was a big construction site. Today, the views along the river are wonderful, especially at sunset.

Sunset in Muzeon Park.

Sunset in Muzeon Park. A skyscraper in the distance.

Muzeon Park is also home to the Fallen Monuments Park, which is supposed to make a statement on Soviet history of sorts. Read more…

Spotted in Moscow

20 July 2014

Last week’s number 1 absurdity, presented without further comment.

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Sundays in the Park

20 July 2014

With so much in the news, sometimes it’s nice just to get away from it all. Last week’s choice: Tsaritsyno.

2014-07-13 moscow 009Sundays are nice, quiet days here in Moscow. It’s the only day a week that the metro cars aren’t crowded to the point of insanity, and for the day, the pace of life slows down dramatically. Last week, we trekked out to Tsaritsyno, a park that I last visited in 2007. Particularly adding to the wonderfulness has been that our weekend weather has been basically perfect all summer.

Panorama picture from my iPod.

Panorama picture from my iPod.

The arched entry into the central courtyard:

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The park itself is pretty fabulous. Like most parks in the city, it was once a separate little residence located outside the city limits. In this case, it was built as a place for the grandchildren of Catherine the Great to hang out.

In front of a bridge at Tsaritsyno.

In front of a bridge at Tsaritsyno. Because I don’t appear nearly enough here on this blog.

This time, our fascinating discovery was that this park became open to the public not long after Catherine the Great’s death — with a decade (she died in 1796), the park was already public. Kind of amazing.

Requisite sunglasses picture. The building is really amazing!

Requisite sunglasses picture. The building is really amazing!

We whiled away our afternoon watching people playing with their children in the park. Evidently, Sundays are days Russian men take their fatherly duties seriously. Or at least, the more hipster ones who were out and about, playing with the little ones while their wives chatted with each other. It was kind of wonderful, really. Read more…

Always with Us

11 July 2014

Red Square impersonators on July 4.

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You know, in case you want a picture.

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Lazing on a Summer Afternoon

11 July 2014

A walk in Kolomenskoe, a huge park within the Moscow city limits.

Panoramic view over the Moskva. Beautiful.

Panoramic view over the Moskva. Beautiful.

Kolomenskoe, once a village located outside Moscow on the road to Kolomna, was incorporated into the Moscow city limits in the Soviet era. Though within the city limits and decidedly with a view of the endless, sprawling apartment complexes of the city, the park makes Moscow feel far away and remote. You can seemingly walk endlessly along its many trails and take in its many historic sites. The park was originally the site of a 16th century church, which remains a centerpiece of the glorious grounds.

The Ascension church is to the left.

The Ascension church is to the left.

During the Soviet period, there was some effort, however, to move a bunch of historic monuments, foremost churches, to its grounds, so that it could serve as a rather random collection of buildings that gave a view into the history of the country. The church of St. John the Baptist (or more accurately, of his beheading), mentioned in the last post, is just one of these churches. Mostly, however, the point is to walk along its many trails and paths.

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Forced, by necessity, to take a day off from the archives — basically all institutions here are closed on Sunday (WHICH I THINK IS GOOD!) — my friend and fellow historian, Betty, and I decided to laze away a recent Sunday afternoon, now almost two weeks ago, exploring the park, located only a short walk away from her apartment.

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We eventually found ourselves down by the Moscow river, where we stopped and sat in the grass, watching the people go by.


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Along the Moscow River.

One of the highlights of the day — at least, before we stopped for ice cream and beer (obviously the two most important food groups, especially in the summer) — was a stop by the pond, where two old men were playing with their model boats. Read more…

Exactly as Described

30 June 2014

In Kolomenskoe Park.

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At first, I was amused by the name of this church. Although an accurate translation, the name seemed strange for a church. But as we arrived at the church, it turns out, it was exactly as described:

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Yep, complete on the silver platter.

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