Thursday, September 29, 2011

Moscow is a huge city. And I do mean huge, in terms of both population and physical size. I read on Wikipedia (so it must be true!) that Moscow is the northern-most city in the world with over 10 million people. In fact, it has about twelve million official residents and, by some estimates, another 3 million unofficial ones. That's 15 million. 15,000,000. It also has a land area of over 400 sq. miles, making it a little more than 1/3 the size of the state of Rhode Island. Or, for you Euro-philes out there, about half the area of Luxembourg.

And so I had to prove that, amidst all of this hustle and bustle, there are some green spaces. Like the one above, at Chistye Prudy (lit. Clean Ponds).

In need of a chance to stretch my legs, I decided to walk home from Chistye Prudy, following the Boulevard Ring. Like most European cities of a certain age, Moscow is constructed on a series of rings. For the most part, these follow the paths of defunct city walls. In Moscow, the inner of these two follows a the site of walls that were taken town in the 18th century, having lost their value after being replaced by a large set of earthworks where now the outer Garden Ring courses. The boulevards themselves became permanent features during the reconstruction after the city was destroyed by fire in 1812.

The picture above was taken facing downhill on Sretenskii bul'var, in the direction of Tsvetnoi bul'var.

A little further along, you eventually come back around to Tverskaia, the major thoroughfare of central Moscow. In the square where they meet, a fountain, which at that time of the afternoon happened to be well lit.

Did I mention that the square is named after everyone's favorite Russian poet? I couldn't resist taking this picture of the pigeon roosting on the head of Aleksandr Sergeevich, milyi.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


The last two days have been my first two doing, well, what I actually came to Russia to do: work in the archives. Rome was not built in a day, and neither will my dissertation be researched in two. In fact, I won't even get a chance to see any documents until Thursday. No matter, it's an accomplishment just to get in, get set up, get the proper passes, and fill out the necessary paperwork. So while I have no pretty pictures to show for them (more of those soon, I promise), it's been a good couple of days.

In other news, I've also gotten my registration (hooray legal residency!) and therefore have been able to buy a SIM card. Now I can make phone calls, like an adult!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Weekend Fare

As promised, a few pictures of food: this is the leek and potato soup I made with the aid of my trusty dutch oven. It is, in my opinion, the best ten pounds I could have put in my luggage. Or at the very least, the ten pounds that will help me eat better this year! There wasn't a whole lot to the recipe. Basically, just remember to wash the leeks thoroughly, sauté them along with your carrots and celery. I added a bit of garlic for fun. Then in go the potatoes and stock. Leave it at a slow simmer until the potatoes are soft, probably 30 min. or so. Finish it with a bit of cream, or not, as you so desire. Just that easy!

And what weekend would be complete without some time spent in a coffee shop? There are not many places in Moscow with chairs as comfortable or an atmosphere as good as Coffee Bean. I have time, so I will keep hunting them out.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Environs

As promised, I snapped some pictures of the immediate neighborhood around my apartment and of my building. This first one is of ulitsa Krasina (Krasin street). It might have been named after this guy: Leonid Borisovich. But since he apparently was disgraced after his death, perhaps not.

In any event, I took this picture on my way to the supermarket, which is fortunately about 2-3 minutes walk away from home. It's not a very wide street, but as you can tell, it's comparatively busy.

This is the outside of the building. As I said in my last post, it doesn't face the street, so you have to know where you are going to find it. I think you should be able to make out the signs on the corner of the building that show the street name and number. It's a gray brick building, a pretty standard five-story apartment block. Since it doesn't appear to have been prefabricated, my guess is that it was built sometime in the immediate postwar period--no later than 1955.

This is the door to our entrance, no. 1 of 2. It's the first line of "defense," if you will. The first of several. There is an intercom over which to call any of the ten apartments reached from this entrance, but for residents, there is radio-frequency gadget that one keeps on a key ring. Just swipe it and in you go. Then inside of that is another door, locked with a push-button combination. And that only gets you to the stairwell . . .

. . . which looks like this. That's our door at the top. Two more doors here, each one with it's own key. Isn't this fun?!

Perhaps next time some pictures of some of the other things in the neighborhood. Stay tuned!

ul. Krasina 24, ap. 10

In an attempt to show my loyal reader(s) a little bit more about my new-found life in Moscow, I snapped a few pictures of my apartment. This is the first of a multi-part series: I will try to post pictures of my building and neighborhood in the next few days.

The apartment has three bedrooms and is located on the fifth floor of a five-story building. Sorry, no elevator. On the bright side, I won't be in the market for a second-hand Stairmaster.

When you enter the apartment--through the typical double doors--my apartment mates' rooms are on the right, and to the left is the common area. It has a TV (I don't actually know how many channels we get. I haven't even turned it on!), coffee table, and couch.

Again to your left, beyond the couch, is the kitchen. It is, for kitchens in Russia, large and well apportioned. In fact, it's better than those of many of my rental places in the States (but not Todd St.!). Note the bookshelf in the foreground. It is, in addition to my contributions (the most recent New Yorker and Graham Greene's The Quiet American), well stocked with Russian fashion magazines. Perhaps I will browse them over breakfast. Let's call it "cultural research."

One of the advantages to living in a country awash in oil and gas: gas stove. I had forgotten just how awesome cooking with gas is. Hooray! There will be future posts about cooking successes and follies. Sneak peek: on Thursday, I made a potato and leek soup with cream. Yum!

The view from my room into the common area.

My room, which includes a large desk by the window and more cabinet space than I could possibly use. In addition to those in this picture, the entire wall behind me is covered with similar cabinets. Whoever remodeled this room seems to have knocked over an IKEA. And I can't complain.

There is also a balcony which leads from the common room. The view isn't much, but that's because our neighborhood is relatively quiet and the building is screened even from the local streets by other buildings. The sound is the soft hum of busy streets--Tverskaya-Yamskaya and Sadovaya--that are 3-4 blocks away. This is the view as you look left, in the direction of M. Mayakovskaya. It's a little scary that the maple in the foreground has lost almost all of its leaves. Not all the trees are that far gone, but fall is in full force. On a happier note, there is a beautiful goldfinch in the tree at this moment. It's the little things.

This is the view as you look right. The building in the foreground is a secondary school.

A closeup over the top of the school, that is the top of the Stalin-era "skyscraper" at Kudrinskaya ploshchad'. You can check out more about it and it's six contemporaries on their collective Wikipedia page.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Don't talk to strangers . . ."

As many of you may know, perhaps my favorite work of Russian literature is Mikhail Bulgakov's masterpiece satirizing life in 1930s Moscow, The Master and Margarita. It turns out that the actual location of the novel's first scene, Patriarch's Ponds, is located about five minutes' walk from my new apartment. On my way out today to take care of some errands, I stopped to snap a couple of pictures.

This is especially fun since my favorite book people are in the process of reading the novel. This one's for you!

Malaia Bronnaia street, which is one of the four that ring the park.

One side of the pond. Also, a puzzle: in Russian it is "Ponds," but there is only one pond. My guess is that there used to be more, but as the Patriarch's estate became incorporated into the growing city, they were filled in.

And finally, a bench, close to the entrance, with it's back to Malaia Bronnaia. Perhaps the one that Bezdomnyi, Berlioz, and Woland occupied?

In lieu of update, a pretty picture

Mission #1 largely successful: I went to bed at 10 pm local and woke up at 8:30 am. I'm sure I will be tired, but at least I seem to have beaten jet-lag. (Knocks wood.)

Since today and the next few days will probably be taken up largely with getting settled and taking care of bureaucratic stuff, all I can do is post a pretty picture I took out the window of the airplane shortly after leaving JFK yesterday (?) the day before yesterday (?).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

To Moscow!

A little later than originally planned, I have finally made it to Moscow. Since I arrived this morning, I have spent a few hours getting settled into my new apartment, which I hope will be home for the next several months, and letting my friends and family know that I made it.

I don't imagine that there is anything profound that I can say, given my exhausted state. I won't try. However, the plan is for this post to lead to another, and another, and another.

And now, to the supremely difficult task of staying awake for a few more hours so that I get on some reasonable sleep schedule.