Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Never Go Back

I must be one of the few people in the world for whom Moscow is a city of romance. This is purely because I met my husband there. The place itself is not without charm, but it is a very grim variety of charm - or at least it was on the two occasions I went there, both of them during the long, grey Brezhnev years.

My husband has never had any desire to revisit the place. I, however, toy with the idea from time to time. At least I did until yesterday, when a friend, back from a visit to Warsaw and Moscow sent my husband an account of his trip.

Apparently, things have changed. I knew this, of course, but what particularly caught my eye was my husband's friend's comment that in Moscow 'the atmosphere of mutual hostility between consumers and shop employees seems to have largely disappeared.'

This made me feel absurdly disappointed. Unpleasantness was part of the flavour of Moscow. Rudeness was woven into the traveller's experience of the place. It wasn't surliness alone that made things feel exotic, but it was certainly an important ingredient in the mix.

If sullen, unsmiling so-called 'service' has vanished, replaced by the 'have a nice day' cheerfulness of home, then what is the point of traipsing back again? Sure, I hated Moscow when I went there earlier, but I would hate it even more now for not being the Moscow that I used to hate. 


  1. You have such a following of well-informed commenters (commentators?), I scarcely dare add my two bits, but when I was in Russia in 1963, the shopkeepers were perfectly lovely and showered me with gifts. Was this all just propaganda and the fact that we were very peculiar Americans holidaying there as a family in the middle of a Cold War winter, and I was a mere child?

  2. Just your natural charm, I think. I've always assumed your life is like that wherever you go. Hope all well with you, considering the circumstances, and I always love your comments.

  3. Hello, Smiler, Bob and Barbara - good to hear from three old Moscow hands. I should do a post on those beer places and the dieticheskaya stolovaya, shouldn't I?