Thursday, May 24, 2007

Inspired by a few wonderful strolls we've had over the past week, I planned to post a 100-percent positive entry about Moscow. I swear I did.

But then something interfered - because it's Moscow after all, you know, and it's best not to expect anything good from it, and that's the beauty of it, I guess, the beauty of running into stuff that pleases you when you least expect it - and then running into stuff that pisses you off and reminds you of where you are.

Anyway. Vorobyovy Gory is such an awesome place, especially now, when everything's blooming all at once: lilac, apple and cherry trees, chestnuts, dandelions, and tulips (in Kyiv, each of these plants has its own blooming season, but here, somehow, it's different, at least this year).

They've set up what they call an Ecological Path on Vorobyovy Gory, and although it's too close to a couple major highways, there're so many trees that the quality of the air is really nice. Even despite all the smokers out there.

We like to take a boat there - a very handy means of transportation, especially on a rainy day like yesterday (I got totally soaked, but Marta didn't even wake up, not until we were safe inside the boat).

And it's lovely to watch all those people jogging and roller-skating, very inspiring - and they do outnumber the smokers.

Then, there's also the Luzhniki Stadium, across the river from Vorobyovy Gory. The air's not that great, but it's surprisingly clean there, lots of flowers, too, and the tennis player in me is itching for some athletic activity (after, like, nine years of being a lazy ass). Lots of kids playing basketball and doing all kinds of extreme bike and skateboard tricks right underneath the subway bridge. Way cool.

So I was all excited on our way home today, and was composing this positive post in my head, but then I decided to stop at a tiny grocery store near where we live. I had no idea it was so tiny, but once I was in there, with the stroller and Marta in it, I was reluctant to go elsewhere. It was late and the place wasn't crowded, no more than three or four customers other than me, and I thought I could survive it. I placed a ton of cookies and chocolates into my basket (just couldn't resist it, must've been those imaginary athletic activities that did it to me), and I chatted about some baby stuff with a friendly shop assistant - and then suddenly this young guy, the big boss, I suppose, started yelling at me:

"Zhenshchina, zdes nelzya s kolyaskoy! Eto vam ne supermarket! Lyudi rugayutsa!" ("Woman, strollers aren't allowed in here! It's not a supermarket! People are complaining!")

It was so shocking, you know. I turned and asked him who was complaining. He repeated what he'd already said: "Lyudi rugayutsa!"

And I looked into my basket, and it was so full of stuff, and I did a quick calculation of how much money they were going to lose if I just left, and then I put down the basket and just left. They must've spent the next hour or so getting all the stuff I didn't buy back on the shelves. Bastards.

I could've fought for my right to shop there with the stroller, could've cited some legislation, I guess - the way one Moscow blogger did a while ago - but I went to a real "supermarket" instead and bought all I needed there, minus most of the cookies and other sweets - and minus the pain in the ass. This is another thing I like about Moscow (and any other big city, for that matter): you're not stuck with just one option, there's plenty to choose from.


A few pictures:


  1. If the Moscow law is anything like what I'm thinking, you wouldn't be able to cite it in defense against a stroller-forbidding ignoramus. Just an entrance too narrow for a wheelchair.

  2. Yes, this rings bells. A constant feature of Russian life is that people will do themselves a bad turn for the sake of spiting others. We call it "cutting off your nose to spite your face" and I'm afraid it's a national characteristic in Russia.

    Another big difference with Ukraine, at least in my experience, where people are more helpful, more often.

  3. To quote the US version of "The Office", which I've been watching on DVD recently, "This is the smallest amount of power I've ever seen go to someone's head". It does sometimes seem to me that people with tiny amounts of power in Russia love an opportunity to wield it, especially over a harmless young woman.

    But, I have to say, today I applied for a new Russian visa (in Sweden), and I was bracing myself for an interaction with a grumpy chinovnik, and was extremely pleasantly surprised by how nice the guy in the window was. I was the only "customer" there speaking Russian instead of English (apparently consulate officials don't have to know Swedish) and this seemed to soften his bureaucratic heart.

  4. yeah, screw them if they don't want your money.

    So what happened to the giant flea market at Luzhniki? Is it contained in that mini-mall they were building down there? Or is it just on the other side?

    I dug the flea market but it really turned the rest of the area into a giant toilet.