The great move

Flying Samovar has moved to its very own domain! Visit it at

flyingsamovar.com

You’ll find all the blog archive there – and much, much more.
I have big plans – I’m moving to Mexico now! For real-time travel updates, follow Samovar on instagram, twitter, facebook and pinterest. You can also sign up for the Flying Update, a monthly digest of all things nice in the travelling Internet, as well as some news from me and some material not published on the blog. Off we go to the next adventure!

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Sound postcard – a street vendor

I have been visiting all different parts of Moscow lately at the most unusual hours. One evening not long ago I found myself near Elektrozavodskaya, one of the many suburban train platforms. As I was emerging from the metro, this voice drew my immediate attention:

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A film postcard from the Old Arbat

There are some places in Moscow which always make me think of Christmas, no matter what time of the year I happen to stumble upon them. The shopping window in the Old Arbat which you can see above is one of those places. It belongs to one of souvenir shops the street is filled with. The Old Arbat used to be the bohemian heart of Moscow, the place where all the poets of the Silver Age lived and worked, and where the kitchen in just about any flat could have been the very space where they living through their joys, disillusionments and depressions on one of the many posidelky (kitchen parties). Not much of the bohemian chic has survived the historical turmoil Russia has gone through since the time of Tsvetayeva and Akmatova, and the place is now mostly filled with tourists. This one shopping window, however, and the infallibly turning, delicate apparatus it displays, retain a spark of magic. I stopped by the place one gloomy afternoon last October, and this is what I saw: 

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Sound postcard – a strange instrument on Kurskaya.

Kurskaya is a very big metro station, where three metro lines cross with a major suburb trains hub. I was rushing through one of its multiple halls, pushed between endless chains of escalators when I heard the concert which you can now hear below. For a second the very centre of Moscow turned to be a market in a land far, far away, I could almost hear the hum of sellers and buyers, feel the smell of spices and see the desert surrounding that imaginary, middle-eastern town. Call me naive, but this is what that music made me think of. If anyone reading those words happens to know what instrument it actually is and where it comes from, I shall be eternally grateful if they share that information with me. For now, though, join me on a small excursion to that fairytale land, which I left as fast as I entered it, descending into the mundane abyss of yet another metro station.

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Last metro stations – Planernaya

Taking pictures of strangers still petrifies  me – yet every now and then I kick myself out of my comfort zone to do what I promised myself to do. Here is yet another one of the last metro stations – Planernaya, the north-west end of the purple line. Its name sounds almost like Planetarnaya,  which would mean The Planetary Station. I find this association highly relevant, as the very back of it looks like the exhaust pipe of a giant spaceship.

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Metro blues.

Last Wednesday someone died in my presence. A man fell on the tracks right in front of an approaching train. I had my earphones in,  I was looking the other way, I was wondering how late I would be for work. The whistling sound of the approaching train made its way through all the obstacles I placed for it, and so I started mentally preparing for the upcoming fight for a scrap of space in the train to fit myself and a book I was intending to read. It was about six in the afternoon, rush hour, crowds of people. Suddenly, the train which was supposed to slowly roll up the platform stopped in the middle of it. I slowly looked up from the phone. One of the metro conductors walked slowly past me, the other one was peeking out of his booth, with one leg already on the platform and the other still inside. A policeman appeared out of nowhere. I took the earphones out. – Meat – said the conductor on the platform – All that is left of him is meat, we need to call.

The platform started to fill with people, a couple of prying passers-by started peeking behind the edge of the platform. Someone who just a moment ago was a man suddenly turned into meat, and now also entertainment for the masses.

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Sound postcard – street poetry

Russian is a beautiful language, and one which was made for poetry. Coincidentally – or maybe because of that – poetry has always had its place in the mainstream culture. It’s difficult to find a Russian who would not know at least a couple of their favourite stanzas by heart. Poetry also makes its way to the streets. Here is a poetry reader on one of the main tourist spots in Moscow, only a couple of steps away from the Red Square:

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Samovar’s escape to St.Pete

Quite clearly, I am failing miserably at keeping up with my New Year’s resolution of writing here regularly. I still have six months to improve. In the meantime, here is a small note from a little holiday I went on a month and a half ago.

Russians are very big on their public holidays. They have plenty of them – and 1 May is definitely one of the most prominent ones. Having found myself with a couple of days off I got in the mood for an excursion – and, very unexpectedly, I went to St.Petersburg. Here is what I saw and heard there:

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Last metro stations – Shchelkovskaya

My obsession with the Moscow metro does not seem to decrease with time – and I must say that it does not come as a surprise to me, since my life here is centred on the metro – the times when it opens and closes,  the location of the stations, the intervals with which the trains depart. Moscow metro is an institution in itself, the most important means of transport, a major meeting point, a witness of history, a tourist attraction. When the metro is written or talked about, the focus is placed on the central stations – staple examples of stalinist baroque and carriers of last epoch’s propaganda, huge interchange hubs, filling up with crowds of people in the rush hours. The outlying, pragmatic stations come completely unnoticed – built much, much later, they sole function has always been to provide the districts of impersonal, gigantic blocks of flats with the essential connection with the world, not to emphasise the power of the empire. This is also where the mundane, everyday, ant-like life of the metropolis is staged, and just as the real Russia begins beyond the MKAD – real Moscow begins beyond the circle line.

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