Got Out of Town
It has been a long and strange winter in Moscow this year. With the temperatures going up and down all winter and with hardly any snow on the ground, it’s become less and less romantic being in Moscow this winter season. Right now Moscow is only good for stepping over muddy puddles in the gutters and getting germs from close contact with other Muscovites in the steamy and humid metro.
With a week-long vacation in early January, the whole city shuts down and after 2 years of listening to the familiar refrain of, “and where are you going for the holidays?” I was ready to join the lemmings swarming to Sheremetevo and Domodedovo over the New Year’s weekend. And did we swarm; the lines for checking in at the airport were stretching out the door as everyone jostled for position. Some scary fights broke out during the hours of waiting, but no serious damage occurred. After all, we were in a holiday mood and not in a mood to get arrested and hauled back to Moscow.
So off I went to Italy for a mid-winter break. Going to Italy doesn’t give you much of a break from Moscow locals who have also fled the dark and dreary city. I saw many Moscow expats and natives soaking up the Italian sun in the many outdoor cafes and restaurants. You could tell who we were; dressed in our overly-heavy down and fur coats, we had that stunned, “Is-it-really-January-and-sunny- here?” look about us as we stared up at the sky in between sips of espresso. And I thought that most Moscow vacationers would be stretched out on the sand down at the Red Sea resorts or far away in Asia on the beaches of Thailand. And what a contrast to Moscow! Palm and cypress trees gently waving in the temperate breezes blowing off the Mediterranean, with great food to eat and lots of museums and little streets and squares to explore. No threat of snow and no threat of icy streets on my vacation!
As my plane flew north above Russia, I prepared myself to face the remainder of the Moscow winter. We plunged down through the gray cloud cover towards the airport and I said goodbye to the sun, possibly forever, I thought. Down below, snow was still absent from the woods near the airport. I saw bare trees and bare ground and in among them, a small herd of deer nibbling on the sparse pickings in the woods. A momentary thrill – it could be cold and clean down there and after all, there are at least two more months of winter with temperatures bound to go below freezing for a night or two if we are lucky. Of course, I look forward to spring; just give me a little winter before then!