Russian Language Blog

Walking Around Moscow Posted by on May 3, 2011 in Culture, Russian life, when in Russia

I’ve got good news and more good news so which one do you want to hear first?

If you chose good news, here it is. You can now watch some of the iconic Russian movies online for free at Mosfilm’s official YouTube channel. Even better, many movies are digitally restored and subtitled in English.

More good news is that today’s post is for the arm-chair travelers in all of us. How would you like to go «на прогулку по Москве» [on a walk around Moscow]? I would love it very much and that’s what I did earlier today. Ok, well, it was more of a virtual stroll thanks to a few «любительские фильмы» [amateur videos] on the same YouTube. And I want to share this experience with you.

None of these videos are about Moscow’s «достопримечательности» [places of interest]. Sure, these places are visited and filmed, but generally stay in the background. The main focus is on street scenes, the typical ebb and flow of the Moscow city life.

The video opens up with some people in the tour group «кормят голубей» [feeding the pigeons]. Russians have some mixed feelings when it comes to pigeons. For the most part, they are seen as a nuisance since they leave their droppings everywhere. But at the same time, pigeons are «символы мира и счастья» [symbols of peace and happiness].

For some reason the tour group goes to see «кондитерская фабрика «Красный Октябрь»» [the confectionary factory “Red October”]. I mean, last time I was in Moscow, I went by it myself. So I guess I’m not the only one who’s crazy about Russian chocolate. «Обожаю чёрный пористый шоколад!» [I love black porous chocolate!]

The Red October factory is the oldest continuously running candy factory in Russia, in operation since 1851. The red brick building on the embankment that you see in the video now houses the museum and also «цех по производству шоколада ручной работы» [production facility for hand-made chocolates]. Yum!

One thing you might notice in the video is that most cars on Moscow’s roads are «иномарки» [foreign-made and imported car]. Don’t think for a second that most Russians drive «иномарки», whether imported or assembled in the country. Half of all cars on the Russian roads are «подержанные автомобили отечественного производства» [used domestically-produced vehicles].

Another car-related episode in the video is an oddly parked car that’s taking half the sidewalk. As more and more Russians get behind the wheel, large cities experience «острые проблемы с парковкой» [acute problems with parking]. There are not enough convenient and free parking spaces. So «водители» [drivers] carve them out whenever they can (and some places where they really-really can’t or shouldn’t).

Next in the video is «Храм Христа Спасителя» [Cathedral of Christ the Savior]. This enormous cathedral, the largest in Russia, has a fascinating history. You can read all about it on Wikipedia, but let’s just say that first it was a cathedral, then – a giant swimming pool and finally – a cathedral again.

From the pedestrian bridge to the Cathedral there’s a great view onto a much-maligned statue of Peter the Great by sculptor «Зураб Церетели» [Zurab Tsereteli]. If you’re on a quest to see “the biggest” and “the mostest” of all things in Russia, make sure to take lots of pictures. This is the tallest statue in Russia. It is also officially one of the world’s ugliest structures.

Closer to the end of the video we see the group intently looking onto something on the roof of a building. «Тур-гид» [The tour-guide] is pointing to it and starting to talk into his «мегафон» [bull horn] also known (rudely) as «брехальник» from the word «брехать» [to yap or to lie]. Accidentally, «МегаФон» is also a brand name of a cell phone carrier and appears on a few signs throughout this video.

Turns out, there’s a banner on the roof that reads «Дорогие москвичи, не пугайтесь жителей столицы» [Dear Moscovites, don’t be scared of the guests of the capital city]. Many Moscovites have this fear of non-natives who are seen as gold-diggers of the sort, snagging all the good jobs, affordable housing, straining city services and raising crime rates. Yet it seems that Moscow depends heavily on «гастарбайтеры» [guest workers] for all its construction projects.

One of the things that amazed me when I was in Moscow last time and that comes through in this video as well as the amount of «реклама» [advertising] on the streets. Banners, signs, posters and billboards of all sorts are abundant here, including in the city center, frequently dwarfing some of the historical landmarks (as in the middle of this Part 2 video).

I wonder if Moscovites have become immune to these ads just like they used to be immune to all the «Миру – мир» [Peace to the World] and «Слава Коммунистической партии» [Glory to the Communist Party] billboards of the old Soviet days.

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  1. Bob:

    Cool post! It’s the little things like this that I like to pay attention to, and which make a ‘standard’ trip all the more interesting.

    Perhaps someday you’ll let me elaborate on some of the little things that caught my attention during my two trips to St. Petersburg 🙂

  2. Yelena:

    Bob, I’d be happy to let you elaborate whenever you wish! It’s always interesting to read just these types of travelogs (’cause the rest I can get from any old travel guide).