The great move

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

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!




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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Sound postcard – the Cathedral.

Some time ago I was passing – as I usually do on Mondays – near the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. It was just before eight a.m., every scrap of concentration that was available to be me at that early hour was concentrated on keeping me up right and preventing me from dancing a sliding dance on the very slippery metro stairs and pavements covered with snow. It was dark. Around me I could only hear the even steps of other dawn ghosts,  going to work for the way-too-early shift. Suddenly, right above my head, the bells started ringing at that bitter, grey hour. It wasn’t just one, deep, rumbling bell, but a conglomerate of all sorts of bells, small and big, the chaotic sounds of which gathered together in one, uniform melody:

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A building which I cannot understand.

I pass the building above twice a week, early in the morning. It’s the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, a building the history of which shares the tragic fate of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church of the last two centuries: tsarist splendour, ruthlessness and absurdity of stalinism, practical provisionality of the late communism and the return of tsarist splendour. It is also a building which annoys me every time I see it and the mere existence of which I do not understand.

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The Metro Chronicles: The Stanford Experiment

Moscow metro can be intimidating for a newcomer, particularly if it is, like myself, a newcomer from the pedestrian-only, queue-friendly Edinburgh. Surviving the rush hour in the metro requires turning on the jungle mode: you need to push people around, overtake them on the right, squeeze in front of them on the escalators, storm with them the already full carriages, all the while caring very little about the elderly ladies in front of you (most of the times you have to choose between pushing the aforementioned lady or having your backpack shut outside of the carriage). Needless to say that despite my greatest efforts I too have to turn on the jungle instinct from time to time, even though a part of me rebels against that, squeezes something within me and says ‘That’s not right!’.

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New me in a megapolis, or what I learnt about Moscow (and myself) in the past three months.

The New Year, as I have mentioned before, doesn’t in fact bring anything new for me. It is also probably the worst time in the year to make resolutions, the period when the amount of unused gym memberships skyrockets, as everyone deceives themselves yet again that they have some strong will and perseverance.  At the same time it is a good moment for summaries of all sorts, the only point in the year when the immediate surroundings seem to be more forgiving of the inherent tendency to overanalyse life. The past three months were very important to me — and very interesting indeed. I have learnt a lot about Moscow, about Russia, about Russians and about myself. Still carried by the wave of New Year’s reflexive mood, I decided to share all that with the Readers.

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Happy New Year!

The most important Russian holiday, New Year, has just passed. Millions of people all over the country sat by their tables with friends and family, ate tons of olivye and watched goluboy ogonek – a tv programme recorded every year, where the same celebrities sing the same pre-recorded songs, tell the same bad jokes, drink champagne and keep being scaringly happy for four long hours.

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In the meantime

While still waiting for the hero to properly appear, I will share with the Readers yet another scene noticed in the streets of Moscow.

I had a KFC lunch on Sunday. The place was crowded, everyone around me was angry and sweaty, wearing too many layers as the day turned out to be unexpectedly warm. However, the lady serving me was genuinely nice and happy. Yet another joyful person within the same week. It seems that Moscow is finally smiling back at me: she has clearly decided that, since I didn’t run away screaming yet, I deserve some common courtesy. It seems that I passed the test.

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