Saturday, 15 November 2014

Zhivopsny Bridge

With just a few days before we head home to Australia and much to do, this really will be my final post on this blog. 

I have given much thought about how to finish. 

It would be easy to end with a commentary about the deterioration in the relationship of my own country (and many others) with Russia over the past three years. However, not all Russians are comfortable with what is going on. When MH17 was shot down, flowers appeared at the gate of the Australian embassy with a note of apology. When one speaks to Russians as individuals, some reveal disquiet and fear about the isolation of Russia resulting from current antagonistic foreign policies. As someone said to me the other day, many ordinary Russians don’t want this, they just want to be left in peace. 

A Moscow playground. Sting asked in his Cold War song 'Russians' whether the Russians love their children too? They certainly do. Let's hope some of the adults can behave a little less like sulky children.
So I have decided to end with just an ordinary post.

Rummaging through my photographs, I find there is an interesting structure I haven’t covered – the Zhivopsny Bridge. This striking bright red arch in the north west of Moscow is visible in the distance from several locations in the city, but was not mentioned in any guidebooks. So I had to hunt it down on Google Earth. 

Getting to it requires taking the metro on the purple line to Shukinskaya, then a number 23 or 28 tram south to the tram terminus, followed by a 10 minute walk west. A bit off the beaten track, so if you are a short stay day tourist you might want to content yourself with just looking at the photographs, unless you happen to be a bridge enthusiast.

Wikipedia provides a little information. Opened in 2007, it is the highest cable-stayed bridge in Europe. The structure suspended from the top of the arch is not an alien spacecraft that crashed into the bridge, but was to have been a restaurant. The restaurant was never opened to due fire safety concerns and a lack of interested investment. The bridge crosses the Moscow River at quite an acute angle to minimise its impact on the protected forest park of Serebryany Bar Island.

And with that, I will wind up this blog.

Wendy and I are moving to Melbourne, her home city. This will be a new experience for me. Sydney, where I grew up and have spent much of my life, has had a good-natured rivalry with her southern sister almost since the day Melbourne was founded by John Batman in 1835 (I kid you not – Batman founded Melbourne!). I will be blogging my impressions of Melbourne, hopefully without too much Sydney bias. You can find a link on this page.

The place - a large bay in southern Australia. The year - 1835

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Unity Day

Today (4 November) is a public holiday in Moscow – Unity Day. 

Most people also took yesterday off, which means the city has been pretty quiet, as many people take advantage of the four day break to head out to their dachas (a house with a plot of land). Moscow is surrounded by numerous villages of dachas – in Australia we might call them weekenders – and it sometimes seems that almost everyone has one. Most Friday afternoons the roads are clogged worse than usual as people drive out to their dacha to do some gardening, painting, relaxing and whatever else one does in such places.

We had coffee first thing today and then did some shopping. I was surprised at just how quiet it was, even allowing for the dacha exodus. Returning to Mayakovskaya metro station I found out why – there were many thousands of people in Tverskaya Ulitsa with Russian flags and bunches of red, blue and white balloons celebrating Unity Day.

After taking a few photos I was motivated to find out what Unity Day is about. What I write next is plagiarised straight out of Wikipedia. I, at least, admit this – there have been revelations recently about members of the Russian Duma (parliament) who have engaged in fraud and plagiarism to obtain university degrees.

 Unity Day commemorates a popular uprising which expelled Polish invaders from Moscow in 1612. It is called Unity Day because all classes of society, from tsar to serf, united in the effort. During the Bolshevik years the day was replaced with a commemoration of the Russian Revolution. In 2005 the traditional holiday was reinstated. This did not make those remaining Communists in Russia very happy.

Age shall not weary them. A small group of diehard communists gather regularly in Plochad Revolutsi (Revolution Square) near the statue of Karl Marx
  Apparently only about 4% of Russians know what the holiday actually commemorates. I won’t be too critical of that though. I have spoken to Australians who don’t know who the first governor of Australia was (come on guys – he came out with the First Fleet – rhymes with fill up) and watched a You Tube video of Americans unaware of what the DC stands for in Washington DC (and it’s not Dodgy Congressmen). There are people everywhere who don’t make much of an effort.

For the younger generation, the hammer and sickle adorned red flag seems to be a thing of the past

Entrance to Tverskaya metro station. Bad day to catch a train.
The ever security conscious Russians (the word on the jackets is 'police')

OK, I know I'm getting a bit long in the tooth and young people keep looking younger with the passing years, but aren't these guys a bit short to be in the army

Map of a part of Ukraine known as Crimea painted up with the colours of the Russian flag and being carried by a guy dressed up as a Russian bear. I find it ironic that a day commemorating the expulsion of invaders from Russia is being used to celebrate the invasion of a neighbouring country by Russia. I confess Russian foreign policy completely baffles me - their actions over the past 12 months may have poisoned relations with Ukraine for decades, if not longer.