[A street scene]

October 14 (cont'd)

In Moscow

We wandered around central Moscow for several more hours. Got some [delicious] ice cream from a Panda kiosk and went into a depressing Soviet-style drug store, depressing because it is dull and lifeless and maintained but not really taken care of.

The old KGB Headquarters
The Manezh

We passed the KGB HQ and the Lenin Library, a building called the Manezh (once a stable and riding school for the Tsars, but now an art museum,) and several monuments to historical figures, including Marx, who Olga didn't quite recognize!

The Old Arbat
A painted tile wall on the Arbat

We ended up on the Old Arbat, a sort of outside mall that struck me as, maybe, halfhearted? I don't know. Olga says that many feel the Arbat has become too artificial since it was closed to traffic. Maybe that's what it was, or maybe it was just a slow day.

Speaking of the day, I seem to have brought California's weather with me. It was pleasantly cool and sunny all day, very unusual for this time of year according to Olga.

We went to Pushkin's Moscow apartment on the Arbat. I can think of few American literary figures as widely respected there as Pushkin is here. Make that none. Our writers aren't heroes.

Steven Seagal, in Russian

At one point we passed a movie theater, which I was amused to see was playing the latest Steven Seagal film. I wish we'd start exporting water heaters instead of Seagal movies!

Entering the metro

We visited some more churches and took the metro to a bus stop. The metro! It is huge, both the trains and the stations. Fairly clean compared to the US subways, what precious few there are. The trains are fast and not too crowded, though apparently they've grown more so since the buses stopped running frequently.

We ate dinner -- borscht and potatoes and mushrooms, courtesy of Olga's sister-in-law Sasha -- and left for the Bolshoi Zal, or Big Hall, to hear an organ concert. The concert was okay. A boring selection of pieces, performed pretty well.

On the way, we walked down a completely ripped-apart street. Olga said it had been that way for a year now; it used to be a major side street, but someone decided it needed repair. The repairs started but nobody has apparently gotten around to finishing them yet.

Now to bed.

A metro decoration

Addendum: The metro station (don't remember which) is filled with mosaics and paintings depicting the opening of a hydroelectric plant, happy workers in a field, athletes receiving medals, and so on -- supposedly representing the results of socialism. "It's all lies," Olga said. Then there is the monument to "Moscow's Best" at Octyabrskaya (?) Park, with photos of maybe 20 contemporary citizens and text about each. I haven't seen it up close yet. Olga says, "These are the people who've won the 'socialist' competiton. Such things were always invented."

This city is dark at night. There is the occasional apartment building with lights on [and of course the streets are well-lit] but none of the office buildings seem to be active at 9PM.

Russians on the bus and metro mostly avoid the appearance of looking at each other. They steal glances when the subject isn't looking, but quickly look away if he or she looks back. Advertising space on the walls of Metro trains (most of the ads are for apartment-rental services) must be expensive, given how well-scrutinized the walls are.

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