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.
When one thinks of Russia, one thinks of spies. Its president is one of them, after all. This association comes to mind especially vividly in the light of the spy novels I’ve been listening to lately. Their well-developed Moscow plot is centred around Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, with the headquarters in Yasenevo.
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:
There are some places in Moscow which always make me think of Christmas, no matter what time of the year I happen to stumble upon them. The shopping window in the Old Arbat which you can see above is one of those places.
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.
Taking pictures of strangers still petrifies me – yet every now and then I kick myself out of my comfort zone to do what I promised myself to do. Here is yet another one of the last metro stations – Planernaya, the north-west end of the purple line. Its name sounds almost like Planetarnaya, which would mean The Planetary Station. I find this association highly relevant, as the very back of it looks like the exhaust pipe of a giant spaceship.
Last Wednesday someone died in my presence. A man fell on the tracks right in front of an approaching train. I had my earphones in, I was looking the other way, I was wondering how late I would be for work. The whistling sound of the approaching train made its way through all the obstacles I placed for it, and so I started mentally preparing for the upcoming fight for a scrap of space in the train to fit myself and a book I was intending to read. It was about six in the afternoon, rush hour, crowds of people. Suddenly, the train which was supposed to slowly roll up the platform stopped in the middle of it. I slowly looked up from the phone. One of the metro conductors walked slowly past me, the other one was peeking out of his booth, with one leg already on the platform and the other still inside. A policeman appeared out of nowhere. I took the earphones out. – Meat – said the conductor on the platform – All that is left of him is meat, we need to call.
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.