Tuesday, June 21, 2005 11:58:24 PM
What a trip. Bumped flights, irregular procedures, lost luggage. And the language difference. Vive le difference - with major tongue in cheek. But I should not complain too much. So far many people speak at least some English, and I still speak no Russian. I am in their country, and I am getting better reception - by far - than would a visitor to the US who didn't speak English.
In Moscow it has been raining, and the Muscovites are commiserating that I have been unlucky - it does not normally rain at this time of year. Regardless, I am not bothered, as it keeps the temperature cool and pleasant. Our latitude is quite far north, so the nights are very short. The rain, I am sure, also cleanses the air, and I suspect that the pollution here is quite bad. Cars are not as prevalent in the city as say Mexico City, Rio, or Caracas. I think the economy here still prevents a lot of automobile ownership or usage. Still, rush hour is bad enough, and when we are driving down the street I smell the auto fumes in the air even in the middle of the night.
Signs of economic prosperity and growth are everywhere here. New building construction, new road maintenance, new automobile and boat dealers. The shops are well stocked with a wide variety of goods, and there are 24 hour shops open. New billboards and street advertisements are everywhere. They are in many places you would not find them commonly in the US, but this is Moscow - perhaps a comparison would be better made to Manhatten than elsewhere. As a matter of fact, the major roads that my hotel, and the office, are on, remind me of nothing so much as Broadway in New York. There are many many lanes and the traffic is nuts, with drivers crossing several lanes frequently to make a destination turn.
Drivers here follow the central/south American driving school more than the American or British. You drive where there is space, with the occasional disregard for the rules of the lane lines, etc. Pedestrians have a certain right to the right of way, but they must in reality believe that they have nothing of the sort. It is much safer, and the driver may easily disregard any rights the pedestrian has. Or, perhaps the driver is paying attention to the traffic coming in on his left, who knows. Better to run and dodge than to be flat meat.
Food: the food so far is pleasantly surprising and quite good. I have seen so far lots of fish, and it is cooked attractively. At lunch in the cafeteria I see cold fish salad with tomato sauce and rice - not a good description but a very pleasant dish. Fish medallions for a main lunch course, fish soup with potatoes slivers. A lovely soup - at first I think it is a chicken soup, clear and inviting. After eating it though, I think it must be a fish stock. There is a light flavor of fish - not strong or overpowering, but light and pleasant. In the evening I leave the hotel to find a 24 hour store, and they stock smoked fish and French table wines. The smoked fish is quite marvelous, although I haven't the faintest idea what it might be. Since it had a leathery skin, with probably large scales, perhaps something similar to a carp, or perhaps a sturgeon. Who knows? It was good. Dannon yogurt is on the shelves too - but they do not have plain yogurt, it all has flavoring. Anyway, yogurt and some thinly sliced rye bread served with the fish as my dinner. This all costs me - with bottled water - about $10, I add a bottle of French Merlot, one step above a table wine, for another $12. I top this with Cookie Crumble Smush from home as my dessert.
So far I have seen: fewer smokers than I have feared, but still plenty. An open and freewheeling economy - in some ways less restricted than in the US. The food is better than I expected, and better than British food used to be. Now, please, lest anyone take offense, I am comparing this to British food as it once was, and now how it is now. But once, and not even that long ago, it was bland and poor, focusing on fats, meat pies, ad nauseum for variety and taste. Not my way to go. It was, at my last visit, often not that way, although traces of that eating pattern were still evident. So here I have variety, with rice, beans, many breads (including stuffed pastries with meat), not too much sugar ( a la USA), meats, fish, and cheeses. I am sure there is more, but this is what I can see. Now, street vendors in Dublin and London had a wider variety of continental European fruits and vegetables available when I was last there, but not by so much, and I have not seen many places here yet.
Oh yes, and my electrical adapters all work, so I am set there.
But off to bed for me. Good night.