Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Luzhniki is such a strange place.

As Julie wrote in a comment a few days ago, it used to be "a giant toilet" - thanks to the huge open-air market based there. But that was five years ago.

The market has since been shrunk and moved indoors, into the pavilions located at a safe distance from the stadium, closer to Sportivnaya subway station than to the impressive metal fence encircling the stadium.

And "the stadium" is, of course, the wrong word to describe Luzhniki. There are several football fields there, including the giant arena in the center, and quite a few tennis courts, and a skating rink or two, and the swimming pool. And there're roads, and all kinds of fancy cars driving around, and inside the giant central arena, there's a driving school, and a restaurant (or, perhaps, nothing but a Soviet-time sign that survives where the restaurant used to be), and even a hotel (or, again, just a sign). There's a statue of Lenin there, too.

FC Torpedo, one of Moscow's several teams, is based in Luzhniki: a few days ago, young boys were having a practice game, and the way the coach was yelling and cursing at them was absolutely unforgettable.

There's the Olimp Restaurant, on the embankment: often, it sends the lovely smell of grilled meat all the way across the river, to Vorobyovy Gory. The cars parked in front of it are sort of intimidating, way too fancy, and so I've never ventured inside, but we've seen the vehicle of the ambassador of Azerbaijan there and decided it must be a place specialising in Azeri food.

The best-looking tennis courts there are clay, and somehow I managed to guess how much it'd cost to play on them for one hour, and Mishah didn't believe me, but I checked online after our walk and it turned out I was almost right: I'd said it must be something like $100 an hour - well, it's $110 (2,800 rubles). Crazy, huh? But there are cheaper options in Luzhniki as well - things aren't as hopeless as they sometimes appear to be here.

The skating rink looks pretty from the outside, its architecture reminded me of the stuff they had in Tallinn back in the Soviet times - but inside it is awful: squeaky doors, leaky-looking roof, dim lights over the ice and shivering kids on it, no decent space for parents willing to watch their kids shiver and skate. But I'm sure the main couterargument of the folks there would be that we have the best coaches in the world. Like we have the best doctors in the world and that, for some reason, is supposed to make one feel okay inside one of those horrible post-Soviet hospitals. (Marta's too small to learn how to skate yet, so why am I complaining? Because I hoped to be able to skate there myself - but now I don't think it's a good place.)

The swimming pool, unlike the skating rink, looks dingy on the outside, and they had fire at a sauna there a few days ago, and the area around it still stinks of burned plastic. (Julie, I know it's been five years - but, how was it swimming in there?)

I tried to take a picture of some writing on the swimming pool's wall, but an Azeri-looking guy told me it was forbidden and threatened me with a guard. I can't possibly imagine what secrets they are hiding. Or perhaps I can. Fire hazard is one guess. Illegal workers is another.

Must be plenty of the latter, for on the edge of the compound there's a makeshift bus station, with a few dozen buses, most of which are ready to depart for Makhachkala, Dagestan. And Derbent, and Budyonnovsk. Lots of people with huge bags and sacks nearby. Quite impressive - and, needless to say, it didn't even occur to me to attempt to take a picture there. I felt happy, though, that there was no way for Moscow skinheads to attack these people - if the fence isn't enough, Luzhniki seems to have enough human security guards, too.

All in all, Luzhniki is a nice place to walk. I let Marta take her naps near the tennis courts - I want her to get used to the sound of tennis: a complete failure myself, a heartbreak for my tennis coach father, I want Marta to grow up a brilliant player, of course.



Here're some pics:

The swimming pool:


  1. Wow, thanks for the walk around Luzhniki! It's really changed, back to the Soviet space I expected to find when I instead stumbled on about 10,000 people streaming through the underpass near Sportivnaya Metro.

    The pool there is awesome! You just have to follow all the rules, of course. First get your propysk to swim from the doctor, then pay the fee and get a locker token, then be sure to take off your shoes before entering the locker room, give your token to the dezhurnaja...But once you're in it's great. The pool is huge and there's a trough leading from each locker room directly to the pool, so you never have to go outdoors. I miss that pool still. I never found a sauna there but it's probably for the best. The showers are kind of grotty.

    The buffet at the pool is nice too. Maybe there will actually be people in there now that the market is gone.

    And I feel sorry for the workers who had to clean up the pool complex. One time I made the mistake of walking up a random stairwell and found, of course, more toilet.

    Slava Luzhniki! Though I have to say that Vladimir Ilych did look better with leather jackets and wedding dresses hanging all around him.

  2. for some reason, Blogger is only letting me comment anonymously!