Moscow, Again, or What Is It That Flows Together? Posted by yelena on May 18, 2011 in Culture, Russian food, Russian life, when in Russia
Alexandr Pushkin, that most famous of the Russian poets, wrote
«Москва… как много в этом звуке
Для сердца русского слилось!»
[Moscow… how much there is in that sound
That flows together for the heart of the Russian!]
If we approach the problem from a strictly «количественный подход» [quantitative approach], there are «почти девять миллионов» [almost 9 million] search results on Google for this phrase.
But what interests me most is not «количество» [quantity], but «качество» [quality]. In other words what exactly “flows together” for the hearts of Russians and foreigners alike at the mention of «сердце Родины моей» [the heart of my Motherland].
I must admit, my experiences of Moscow are mostly second-hand, through history textbooks, literature, conversations, etc. I spent a total of about 7 days in Moscow in my whole entire life, in 1996 and again ten years later, in 2006.
Thus I decided to do some arm-chair travelling with the help of you, ladies and gentlemen! Thank you for all your awesome responses to the question on our Facebook page. Once again, I’m blown away and deeply grateful!
There were a lot of mentions of «музеи» [museums], «Красная площадь» [the Red Square], «мавзолей Ленина» [Lenin’s mausoleum] and «Собор Василия Блаженного» [St. Basil’s Cathedral]. All are must-see when one’s in Moscow, for sure.
Another must-see is «московское метро» [Moscow subway], that boasts some of the most beautifully decorated subway stations in the world. At least, it is true for the old stations. The new ones are either plain or plain weird, like «Достоевская» [Dostoyevsky station] with mosaics depicting key characters and scenes from the “Crime and Punishment” and “Brothers Karamasov”. Not the most «жизнерадостные» [cheerful] or «оптимистические» [upbeat] choices, especially for an underground space. But if there is going to be a macabre tour of Moscow, this station must be on it along with «мавзолей» [the mausoleum] and possibly «Патриаршие пруды» [Patriarshiye, or Patriarch’s, Ponds] from “Master and Margarita”.
Several mentions were about unfriendly, unsmiling people and the general hustle and bustle. I guess the latter is unavoidable in any large city. Besides, life is hard for Moscovites, what with «пробки» [traffic jams], «толчея в метро» [crowded subway], «дороговизна жизни» [expensive living] and freaky weather extremes.
Seriously though, many of my American friends note this outward somberness, lack of joy on the faces of Russians. To which I say – just get to know them better! Yes, Russians are «скупы на улыбки» [thrifty with their smiles] with strangers. But once the initial barriers are broken, it’ll be hard to find a more «отзывчивый и приветливый друг» [understanding and companionable friend] and a more «гостеприимный хозяин» [welcoming host].
Many of you mentioned delicious food, from «блинчики» [blintzes] and «пирожки» [small pies] to «борщ» [borsht] and «мороженое» [ice cream]. In my opinion, if there were only three things you could try while in Moscow, I would make it «чёрный хлеб» [dark bread], «беляш» [small round pie with meat filling], but only if it’s «с пылу с жару» [so fresh, it’s still hot] and «мороженое» [ice cream]. Oh, and just for my American friends, I’ll add «горячий шоколад» [hot chocolate] to my list.
Not sure «как обстоят дела» [how things are] with hot chocolate in other countries, but here in the States it’s just hot water with some cocoa powder mixed in. In Russia this drink is called «какао» [cocoa]. That’s for kids. But «горячий шоколад» I had in cafes in Moscow, boy, it was served with small spoons – that’s how thick it was.
And since I’m no this hot chocolate detour, here’s the recipe I found that best approximates the hot chocolate I had at various cafes in Moscow and St. Petersburg:
- Start with 100 grams of high-quality dark chocolate. Break it into pieces and «растопите» [melt] it «на водяной бане» [in a double-boiler].
- Add 1 table spoon of water and «размешайте» [stir].
- In a separate «кастрюлька» [small pot], «доведите до кипения» [bring to boil] 250 milliliters of milk or light cream.
- Slowly pour milk into chocolate, «непрерывно помешивая» [constantly stirring].
- «Взбейте» [whisk] hot chocolate for a few minutes. Optionally, add sugar to taste and/or fold in some whipped cream.
- Pour the real hot chocolate into cups and forget about cocoa powder for the rest of your life.
The tough part about travelling to Moscow is how expensive it is, especially for a foreign tourist. So here’s my question for you – if you only had an overnight stay in Moscow, what would you like to see or do? «Москвичи, посоветуйте нам, гостям столицы!» [Moscovites, do offer your advice to us, the guests of the capital!]