What I find astounding in Mexico is that there are very few beggars here. Most of them are found in the tourist areas of the country, like Cancun or Puerto Vallarta. Most of the time people who would otherwise beg find one service or another to offer. Some of them make breakfast tacos, some others sell snacks from their living room window, some walk around trying to sell chewing gum – and there are those who sing.
Last week I picked up my renewed passport. As the lady was cutting all the visa-free pages and stamping a huge, red “CANCELLED” across my 16-year-old face, excitement started tingling in the tips of my fingers. This old passport accompanied me throughout all my adult and semi-adult vagabonding. I had it in Kiev, Lviv and Zhovkva all the way back in high school. It saved me a lot of trouble in Hong Kong and granted entry to Taiwan on my very first inter-continental journey. I had it on the Transsiberian railway trip. It is the passport which, on my very first journey to Edinburgh, I put in a pocket in my carry-on (I was still serious about Ryanair’s strict one-bag policy then) which was then taken away from me and which a helpful police officer later retrieved from the baggage belt to let me enter the country. It is the passport which, even though it bears no signs of it, accompanied me on many trips in the EU and for good two years was my only widely recognisable ID.
Despite all the peculiarities which differ them, big cities ultimately have a lot in common: the overwhelming rush, the squeaks of car horns, the men and women in suits, the women with children, the hippies in parks, the intelligentsia in bookshops. Street musicians are yet another essential in that urban landscape. If you’ve followed the blog for a while you might have noticed that I have quite a soft spot for them. Today I’m presenting you with yet another wonder I’ve encountered.
The World Trade Center in Moscow is still there, and this is what it’s called: World Trade Center, in English. It consists of a few concrete-and-glass skyscrapers, filled with offices and expensive boutiques, connected by a shopping mall in the basement. At six pm the employees of banks and corporations, who occupy the said offices, pour outside. They form a river of dressed-up people, flowing to the nearest metro station. There, on the way out of an underground passage and into the station, this gentleman awaits them:
I have been visiting all different parts of Moscow lately at the most unusual hours. One evening not long ago I found myself near Elektrozavodskaya, one of the many suburban train platforms. As I was emerging from the metro, this voice drew my immediate attention:
Kurskaya is a very big metro station, where three metro lines cross with a major suburb trains hub. I was rushing through one of its multiple halls, pushed between endless chains of escalators when I heard the concert which you can now hear below. For a second the very centre of Moscow turned to be a market in a land far, far away, I could almost hear the hum of sellers and buyers, feel the smell of spices and see the desert surrounding that imaginary, middle-eastern town. Call me naive, but this is what that music made me think of. If anyone reading those words happens to know what instrument it actually is and where it comes from, I shall be eternally grateful if they share that information with me. For now, though, join me on a small excursion to that fairytale land, which I left as fast as I entered it, descending into the mundane abyss of yet another metro station.
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:
This is a sound postcard I recorded on Shchelkovskaya, to accompany the photographs you already had the chance to see. Enjoy.
After two long months spent on a sofa back at home with a leg in a cast (which did have its good sides), I am back to Moscow – with a new batch of enthusiasm and a new batch of ideas. I left a dark, gloomy city in the middle of winter, I came back to a city of blooming spring, with people in love kissing in the sunshine. Despite still not being able to walk normally, I enjoy the sunshine as much as possible. Tuesday brought me to VDNKH, my favourite park in Moscow, where the old and the new come together in the most unexpected ways. Here is what I saw and heard there:
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: