Moscow/Petersburg Day Nine. Dough

The terminal from which trains departed from Moscow to Russia’s second largest city used to be called Nikolaevsky, then communists changed it to two names – Leningradsky and Oktjabrsky, which means “Leningrad station” and “October station”; it was quite confusing and most people just said Leningradsky. Now the city of Leningrad is no more; it’s called Saint-Petersburg. But it is still the center of Leningrad oblast (region); for some reason they didn’t change that. And the terminal still has two names. And a huge bust of Lenin in the entrance hall.

It also has Japanese-style restrooms, which Hadar didn’t like at all and she decided to do her thing in the train. In the train the restrooms weren’t much better, so she decided to wait until Saint-Petersburg. I told her that the terminals on Moscow-Petersburg railroad are designed to look exactly the same, so there’s a chance that the restrooms will look the same too, but she just wouldn’t agree to go into that atrocious place.

The train ride was rather tolerable, not much to say about that. We slept well.

The terminal in Petersburg is simply called Moskovsky – “Moscow Station”. The restrooms there looked just like in Moscow. But instead of Lenin, they had a huge bust of Peter.

In Petersburg we just went on the world-famous Nevsky prospect towards the world-famous Palace square. There were of course the beautiful bridges over the Neva river, especially the world-famous Anichkov. It’s the one with the statues of horses and naked horsemen. Apparently it’s an age-old meeting place for the city’s gays – at least according to the travel guide i had. I’ve never thought of it that way, but it makes sense, i guess.

It is said that Peter modeled Petersburg after Venice and Amsterdam. Maybe it’s true, i havent’ been there. The weather reminded me mostly of London. Cold and wet, but it doesn’t depress me. And the streets are beautiful. We even found something that was close enough to a bakery and ate some dough; again, most of it was cookies and not bread, but it was a good start for the morning. Then Hadar wanted to finally go to a good restroom, so we went to a fast-food place called Teremok. It is a junk-food joint, but with a warm Russian vibe. So we ate tasty bliny with kvas. More dough; still not bread.

The Petersburg Kazan Cathedral is big, probably bigger than Moscow’s Christ the Savior’s, but somehow doesn’t make the same impression. Maybe because the color is darker.

The Palace square is big and nice. But who needs all those paintings in the Hermitage?

We took a boat to Peterhof. Nice place. This time we fucked the box office at the entrance and took the cheapest ticket for Russians. The place has a very Versaille feel. The fountains are certainly impressive. We didn’t go into the palaces, but a walk in the park was very relaxing and even intoxicating. Somehow we found ourselves reciting a Hebrew nursery rhyme: “Eyfo, eyfo, eyfo, eyfo, eyfo ha-uga?” (“Where, where, where, where, where is the cake?”). No idea why. Maybe it has something to do with dough.

When we came back to the city, i decided to take a look at the “Leningrard Rock-Club” – the mythical place where the great Russian rock-bands such as Aquarium and Kino paved the way to Glasnost with their guitars. It’s on Rubinstein street, number 13, which is also close to the world-famous “Five Corners” piazza. I finally understood Chizh’s famous lines:

“The wind sweeps away the money from my hands …
With a guitar behind my back and beer and bread in my pocket …
I’m standing on Five Corners,
There are just two hundred steps to number 13 …”

But – unfortunately the Rock-Club is no more. All that’s left is a just a little wall full of Russian Rock related graffiti.

Instead there’s an asian restaurant called Lapsha. Lapsha means “noodles” in Russian, which is very nice of them. They could have just called the place “Noodles”, but they gave it a Russian name. Really nice. So we ate more dough. Actually it was veg sushi, salads and noodles soup. I ordered rice noodles and not egg noodles; i thought it would be more natural and tasty and Hadar would like it. Was i wrong. The second the waiter brought the plate she went kaboom: “No! That’s not the kind of noodles that i like! That’s exactly the kind i hate! Etc. etc.” She expressed her dissatisfaction in Hebrew, but it was so clear, that the waiter understood everything and after a few minutes she brought a plate of dessert – “On the house, for the lady.” They are nice. The noodles, by the way, were great. Hadar just prefers the egg kind. So she wasn’t pleased.

Then we went further towards the Five Corners, passing on the way Rubinstein st. number 23 – the house where Sergei Dovlatov lived for a few years. Dovlatov is one of my father’s favorite writers and i hoped that there would be at least some memorial plate. But there was nothing, except a pizza place which has nothing to do with Dovlatov. And as far as Hadar is concerned, it has nothing to with pizza either – Hadar likes the thicker kind (sometimes called Napolitana, but that’s a matter of bitter dispute) and hates the thin dough pizza and we didn’t eat any dough there. Keeping Hadar dissatisfied is a bad idea, so we went to Mollie’s – an Irish pub nearby. I entered and asked the barman quite simply: “Do you have dough?” He was a little confused at first, but then he said that they have croutons with cheese and garlic. That was enough dough for Hadar. I got a Guiness too. And so, even though it still wasn’t exactly bread, we were finally satisfied.

Dough-hunting took a long time. When we finally reached Five Corners – remember, just two hundred steps! – it was already dark. I wanted to be photographed like Chizh in the aforementioned song. So i went into a grocery store and bought beer and bread. It was simple and cheap bread in cellophane and we already ate enough dough, so i just put it in my pocket. And the beer too. I didn’t have a guitar; a guy with a guitar passed by, and i asked him to give it to me for a second, but he wasn’t enthuastic and it was starting to rain. Whatever. At least i’ll have one more reason to return.

It was raining, so it was a bad idea to walk the streets anymore, and it was a great opportunity to go down to the underground and take a ride to see the Stalin-era stations. The thing that i wanted to do so much in Moscow, but didn’t want to drag Hadar around, has finally happened! What can i say – Socialist Realism had its moments.


Moscow Day Eight. Honey, Honey

We decided to finally go to St.-Petersburg. Hadar really wanted to and i didn’t object. We are young, our stimulation levels go up very quickly and we had quite enough Moscow (we as a unit; i could stay in Moscow and explore it for many months more).

Olga told Nikita about the “Bass Factory” infamy. Actually she just said “We were supposed to see a jazz band, but they replaced it …” and Nikita immediately replied: “Мерзавцы!” (merzavtsy), which is Russian for “Scumbags”. Not a very dirty word for Russian, but not one that you’d expect a fourteen year old to say in this relatively innocent context, if at all. We all laughed.

In the morning we went to the Kolomenskoe park. The park is quiet and nice. Now it’s almost in the center, but once it used to be out of town and the Russian monarchs wanted to build their dachas there. For some reason they never completed the building, but the forests around it are nice. I really wanted to see squirrels; i’ve seen a lot of them in my life, but Hadar never saw one in the wild. It took us some time, but finally we found one.

We hoped that we’d find something baked there, but all the food stalls sold meat. I wish i could say that it smelled good, but it didn’t.

There was also a big yearly honey market. Hmmm, honey fair in September, why could that be? Surely the Jews have nothing to do with that. Anyway, there was honey from all over CIS: Kyrgyzstan, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Don, Adyghe. It was nice to see that they bring the flags of their provinces with them – good to know that someone actually uses those flags. The honey was sweet. The dwellers are pretty good at making you come and taste and want to buy. It’s like Camden – as long as you’re there with money in your pocket, you’ll keep buying and buying unless you catch yourself, shut your ears and run away.

We bought train tickets to St.-Petersburg at the Paveletsky station. Hadar didn’t like the restrooms there.

City of BG, here we come!

Moscow Day Seven. Kremlin, Kremlin

Hadar made butter cookies. It smelled good.

Finally, it’s time for more gift-shopping! Yeah! Gzhel is the thang – Russian national blue-colored porcelain. Fragile, expensive and genuinely beautiful. Olga helped us find a little Gzhel store on a cheapo market full of immigrants from Caucasus that sell fake Chinese crap. Hadar noticed a counter full of purses; she wanted to buy one and started looking for something matching. They were all ugly, of course, but i was smart – ha! – and told her:

— “You’re vegetarian now, are you sure you want to buy a purse made of leather?”

— “Hmmm … ask him whether it’s leather.”

— “No point in asking him – he’ll tell that it’s leather. Most people want leather.”

— “Hmmm … let’s check the label.” The label, very helpfully, was written in Pinyin. “OK, ask him.”

— “I tell you – it’s no use asking him whether it’s leather.”

— “So tell him that we don’t want leather.”

— “Then he’ll say that it is not leather.”

— “Ask him, ask him.”

— “How can i help you? Sprechen Sie Deutsch?”, the dweller interrupted.

— “Well my friend here just wanted to ask whether it’s leather”, i asked in Russian.

— “Why of course it’s leather.”

— “OK, sorry to bother you – she’s vegetarian, she doesn’t want leather.” He clearly wasn’t prepared for that.

— “It’s not leather! It’s pressed, you know … they took leather and pressed … it’s not leather! Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

Poor guy.

Hadar bought a huge pile of porcelain and then the question arose how are we going to drag it all around the town. Hadar wanted to put it back at home, i didn’t want to waste any more time, we had a little argument yaddayaddayadda and finally left it at the store and asked Olga to pick it up for us. Hadar lost her mood.

We went to Kremlin. It’s about time. They fucked us at the entrance and made us pay the full foreigner price and deposit our bags. Bloody antisemite tourist haters.

It was a bite-size visit – we had enough churches already and the red walls, the Tsar Bell and the Tsar Cannon didn’t impress Hadar too much. I blame her mood. Curiosity number one: There was an exhibition of antique stuff, including many old gold incrusted drinking vessels, complete with bezoar cases. Having read Half Blood Prince just a few days ago, i knew that a bezoar is a piece of goat shit, that’s supposed to be a poison antidote. In the middle ages rich people were scared to death of being poisoned, so they drank their wine with a healthy dose of goat shit. So we were walking around an exhibition of awfully expensive ancient stuff joking about goat shit. I’m sure we were not the only ones. Another funny, but heartwarming curiosity: After we did our thing in the mobile toilet, we asked the nice old Russian cleaning lady (complete with kerchief and all) where can we wash our hands. She answered, “Oh, there’s no place to do it here, золотой мой“, which literally means “my golden one”. Yes, it’s a kind of a Russian ultra-gentle vocation, usually said to young people by old people. It’s not particularly special or rare, but i haven’t heard it in a while. Ah, yes, i forgot – THE KREMLIN! The center of the fucking universe (not counting Jerusalem)! And they don’t have a decent toilet?!

Then we ate at the aforementioned veg restaurant – Jagannath. Hadar forgot all her mood swings and became totally happy with the food. No other dining place had ever delighted her so much.

Then Hadar went to buy more gifts. And i bought myself a four-string Warwick Corvette – not before i had a big dilemma whether to get it or a wonderful Washburn.

Then Hadar wanted to buy tissues. So we went to a drugstore. It’s one of those new Russian extra/elite/premium stores. Built in an old home, designed with antique furniture and all that, but the drugs and the prices are just the same. I was surprised to see “Gematogen” – a sweet chocolate-like bar, which is supposed to be good for blood circulation. A genius drug – it’s very cheap, kids love it, it’s healthy and can be consumed anytime with no side effects. I used to eat it a lot when i was little (there was a drugstore near my home). So i bought a bar and it was the same sweet syrupy taste. But now that i write about it, i wanted to link to it and tried to google for it. Searching for “Hematogene” yields results in Dutch and Croat and also Wikipedia articles about medicine. So i searched in Russian and the pleasant surprise turned into a disappointment – apparently it’s made from the blood of slaughtered cattle.

In the evening we went to a live music club with Olga and Zhenja – an Israeli latin jazz band called “Esh” (never heard of ’em) was supposed to play there. When we arrived, the very serious server told us – “The band ‘Esh’ was supposed to play here tonight, but they didn’t come, so there’s a different band called ‘Bass Factory’ and they play in the style of New-Age.” He said “New-Age” with a particularly strong Russian accent and it was very funny – Nyu-Etsh. We came in anyway. Zhenja came with Roma. The band was weird – the beat was whacky in a good way and the saxophone parts were fine, but the keyboardist was horrible and the guitarist learnt too much from the obnoxious techniques of Alan Holdsworth and 80’s King Crimson. And they showed a film about underwater life. Roma said that it was “unbearable” and left after two songs. But we stayed and ate. After a few more songs there was a break and the guitarist promised that they will return with more of their own music and “a film from the life of insects”. The second part began with what they called their favorite song, “Inebriated Conversation”. It was the very worst song in their set and we left right after it. We constituted two thirds of the crowd.

Moscow Day Six. Shopping!

Today is the shopping day. I wanted to hunt for basses, so Olga took us to the Moskovski department store – there was a small musical instruments shop. I played with their basses a little, but didn’t buy. Then Hadar went gift shopping. It takes a long time for Hadar to pick up a gift. A really long time.

Then Olga took us to her favourite cafe – Propaganda. Tasty, stylish, inexpensive, veg-friendly; could work well in Tel Aviv, too. Then we visited a large bookstore (which is called, of course, the Central Book’s House – no kidding). Hadar looked in vain for Physics books in English, but i found some funny artifacts – a little book of translation to Russian of a poetess whose name is Йона Волах and an insanely expensive gift edition of something called Талмуд – трактат Таанит.

Then i went for a little more bass hunting. In a musical store i saw a red bubinga beauty called Warwick Corvette, which kicked the Ibanez acoustic away from my wish-list. I can’t play bass, but my fingers felt that that’s that. I decided to run a little sanity check on the web and then get it ASAP.

We also noticed a vegetarian restaurant near the gift shop. It smelled good and we noticed to ourselves to return there.

Then Hadar went shopping for more gifts. She finally (finally!) bought a “domovoi” – which is a Russian house-elf. The clerk rather obnoxiously kept saying the the domovoi is an obereg – a keeper, a giver of good-luck. I call it simply Avodah Zarah – but what a cute example of it.

Moscow Day Five. Poor Men

I woke up early. Then i took a shower and spoiled the bathtub. Poor Roma had to fix it.

Then we ate. Misha and Roma served yesterday’s lamb roast. It still smelled good.

Then we took another walk in the forest, but i am just unable to write about Russian forest.

We went back to Moscow early – Olga bought tickets to a figure skating show. Russians love figure skating, they’re pretty good at it and get a lot of Olympic medals. The show was beautiful although rather long. Misha made a manly effort to convince us to leave in the break, but Olga enjoyed herself immensely and Hadar and i didn’t mind staying. Poor Misha. When we later went to visit Zhenja and Roma in their Moscow apartment, Roma told us that the traffic on the way back from the dacha was terrible, but he comforted himself with the thought that although he is stuck in the traffic, we are watching a figure skating show.

I took a quick look on Russian shopping sites and saw that musical instruments are really cheap in Russia. An Ibanez acoustic bass costs half its Israeli price. I need to check it.

Moscow Day Four. Country

Morning – The New Jerusalem (probably not this one). It’s a big church outside Moscow, built in an area which for some reason resembled Jerusalem to the Russian Orthodox priests who built it. Let’s see – plains, a river, grass and trees and old Russian christian women. Very Jerusalem. And a bunch of weddings, of course. We’ve already seen some bride-and-grooms around in the Kremlin area etc. Hadar liked the beauty-contest style witnesses.

Then – Zhenja’s dacha. It is made of real, unprocessed wood glued together with some organic substance, by Belarusian muzhiks. It is not a Finnish ready-made house. Respect that. It stands on the bank of a large man-made lake (technically, a Soviet water reservoir) that’s so long that it looks like a river.

I demanded to go to the forest immediately to gather mushrooms. The forests of the Moscow region are rich with mushrooms. They are also really really big. And there are a lot of trees there. I love the forests of Moscow region.

The weather was perfect for the end of September, which also means that it was perfect for mushrooms. We found a lot of them. Everyone, including all the kids, knew exactly which mushrooms are good and which are poisonous. That’s one thing i forgot completely.

When we came back to the dacha we made food with all the mushrooms. My writing is so bad, because words can’t convey the goodness of making a fresh natural meal in Russian countryside.

Misha made lamb roast. It smelled good.

As the night came down the children went out to sit by the fire and tell each other frightening stories, while we, the older folk, drank Georgian wine and talked about digital cameras and modern work ethics. Roma called himself “Mastodon” – he said that he’s completely behind the technology. He proceeded to tell us that as far as he’s concerned all information technology is crap. Spreadsheets and email make a lot of information available to him, what is he supposed to do with it? It doesn’t make him more productive, not a tiny bit. Then the children ran inside and told that Chuchundra nibbled the electricity cables (really).

After Roma sent them to sleep, he told us about his cat. His cat can’t come into the bedroom during the night to sleep on the bed, ‘cuz the door is closed, but it makes everyone acknowledge his presence by taking a dump by the door so the smells comes in under it. Email is the same: it comes to the boss swiftly bypassing the secretary, who used to filter phonecalls.

I agreed and went to sleep.

Moscow Day Three. Breadless

In Moscow there are several “Central Someone’s Houses”. I already mentioned “The Central Composer’s House”. There’s also “The Central Artist’s House”. It’s a big gallery outside Gorky Park. Yet again i felt how small Moscow became when i grew up: Gorky Park is on the Circle Line of the Metro, which is, like, really far away from the center – but that’s what i thought as a kid. Apparently the Kremlin and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior can be seen from Gorky Park and if one is not in a hurry, it is within walking distance.

So, back to The Central Artist’s House – we didn’t go in. We are stupid Israelis without any patience for serious art, museums, galleries and all that crap that those old boring European cities like Paris and Moscow are so full of, so we had more than enough art in the underground pedestrian crossing, where private dwellers tried to sell pretty paintings of dachshunds, horses, babies, churches and Putin. Some even had character. Hadar is not so much into modern avant-garde and all that silly stuff that they put in the fancy bohème galleries, so the realism of these peddlers’ merchandise was perfect for her.

The goal of the trip was the “Salon” – in Russia by “Salon” they usually mean a large shop dedicated to something, in this case – art, of course. Hadar bought herself colours, brushes and stuff. Nice selection.

Outside the Salon i saw a disassembled Moskvich.

Than we moved on to a garden of sculptures on the Moskva embankment on the way to the Kremlin. More art, but in a quiet green setting. Some old statues from the communist era were brought there. I liked the impressive thoughtful Stalin with a pipe. Whoever put the plaque there felt obliged to say that the statue has an artistic and historical importance. It’s like an apology; Like, otherwise they’d simply demolish it just like they erased all memory of Stalin from everywhere else. I don’t like this. He was a dictator, an antisemite and a war-monger, but he did some good things for Russia. And he beat the crap out of Hitler (and yes, if he was smarter and more moderate, he could have prevent the war altogether, but nevermind). They could, for instance, keep the name of the city of Stalingrad – now it just remained as a name of a famous battle and nobody knows where Stalingrad is. OK, ’nuff said about that.

In that park there was also a cute modern statue of Einstein and Bohr with pipes. Do you see a pattern?

Then we heard bells. We thought that they’re coming from Christ the Saviour’s, but then we found that it was a show. A guy on a long green gown played on hung metal plates. It was nice, but i could play them just as well.

We’ve seen the world famous “Red October” chocolate factory on the other side of the river. It smelled good.

On the way to Christ the Saviour’s Cathedral there’s a Soviet office building, with a name that Hadar really liked: Моспромстройматериалы. Whether by coincidence or not, this organization was one of the contractors that built the cathedral; No wonder the cathedral’s so fucking huge. Outside of it there’s brand new statue of Alexander II. The engraving on the statue says: “Murdered in a terror act”. I’m not sure they called it terror back in 1881. And the funniest part about Alexander II is that the modern Russian liberals and not the monarchists are his greatest fans that supported building the statue. Weird, weird country.

All that time we didn’t eat. We talked to Roma, and decided to meet in the famous “Filippov” bakery on Tverskaja street. It took me too long to realize that it was not longer a bakery, but just a “Coffee Bean” place. What a disappointment. We ate too much sweet things there. Hadar and Roma spoke about black and white analog photography. I was happy about one subtle thing, though: Most of the coffee shops in Moscow are called кофейня (kofeynja) and not кафе (kafe) as they used to be in Soviet times. Кофейня has an older aroma – pun intended.

Then Roma drived us around the city, but Hadar was already tired and hardly noticed anything. Roma told us about the Moscow bikers – apparently many of them are wealthy businessmen, “New Russians”, who are so bored they drive around the city, holding dangerous races on the not-so-empty streets. We actually saw some of them, too.

Good night. Let’s hope for better bread tomorrow.

Moscow Day Two. I Don’t Have a Smart-Ass Subtitle for This Day

We took the metro to Borovitskaya/Biblioteka imeni Lenina. The Kremlin was closed. So we took a walk around Alexander’s Garden, the Eternal Fire monument and the Red Square. A miliţia-man asked us for our passport and registration. Olga said that she handles the registration and he had no choice but to believe her and live his sad life for a few more minutes without any bribe income. All this registration business is just some way to rip off tourists in every possible way under the excuse of preventing illegal immigration. Or as we say in Russian – пиздёж.

Looks like Marx and Lenin impersonators make a pretty good living here. Also, many people are still willing to stand in a very long line to see Lenin’s rotten mummy. Poor Vladimir. The gift shop there is insanely expensive. And Hadar was disgusted by the stuffed bears.

Walking on the Red Square pavement is now forbidden for some reason and only a sidewalk by the GUM is open. There were painted cows there. Like the penguins and dolphins they put once in Tel-Aviv and the lions in Jerusalem. Which proves that the world really is ruled by a secret government, but probably not of Freemasons and Jews, but of pubescent large-scale-flashmobbers and sociology and liberal arts graduates having their revenge at friends who told them they won’t find a job with this degree.

GUM looks nothing like it used to. Too rich and full of brandnames. Boring. The waitress at the coffee shop made a mistake in the bill. Olga said that she tried to rip us off and didn’t want to tip her, but i did anyway.

Then we took a walk around the streets near the Kremlin. It’s all so flashy and full and people of cars. Whether it’s good or bad i haven’t decided yet.

Then we met my other sister Zhenja (which is the same thing as Evgenija, in case you’re wondering) and her Subaru-driving-banker husband Roma and ate in a tasty Italian place.

Then Olga went home and we took more walks around the city center. Suddenly i saw “The Central Composer’s House”. It’s like the composers’ trade union, with a big concert hall inside. I recalled that i played there on stage in front of a huge lot of people when i was ten years old. I suddenly realized that i don’t have to dream about being a rock star and playing on stage in front of a lot of people, ‘cuz i sorta already did.

In the Chabad synagogue there were more Tanias than Bibles. If you ask me, it’s disgraceful sectarianism. But it smelled good.

The Soviet answer to American skyscrapers – “The Tall Buildings of Moscow” – are much more impressive than i remembered. I also realized that they look a lot like Latter-Day Saints temples, much more than Catholic cathedrals, as it is sometimes claimed.

Walking on the streets i saw that there’s a Paradise Lost show in Moscow. Hadar was totally happy and we got tickets.

In the evening we went to a jazz show. Igor’ Butman is a famous Russian saxophonist. By famous i mean that he played in a couple of old and very good Aquarium songs, so that allows his promoters to write “Igor’ Butman (Aquarium)” on the bills and keep living without any shame. But apparently my sisters knew him without the Aquarium connection and saw his shows and said they are good. One thing i missed though, is that it was something called “artist evening” – a weird Russian invention when the artist is talking with the crowd, answering the crowd’s questions. I tried to translate to Hadar, but she fell asleep after five minutes. He was blabbing for a whole hour but when his big band finally came on stage and started playing it was HOT. Ya mama. They finished with an ultra-cool Soul Bossa Nova (a.k.a The Austin Powers Theme).

There weather was prroifect.

Moscow Day One. It’s All Smaller

The Transaero flight was ok but they served us only one vegetarian meal. A mistake, they said. Antisemites. Hard the life of the vegetarian is.

Domodedovo looks like a modern airport, but it’s still quite small. Citizens of Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus have separate passport checks. The last dictatorship in Europe (not including Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Italy, Norway, France and UK) has its advantages.

Olga’s husband Misha has a Toyota Camry. He helped us with the bags.

The gas stations don’t look all the same as they used too, but have brand names now. And there’s competition! The insanely rich oil companies which i keep hearing about in the news – Yukos, Lukoil, SibNeft, etc. – don’t just drill the Siberian permafrost for self-recycled dinosaurs, but actually sell it as petrol.

Moscow is full of light. There was a huge neon-lit billboard at the entrance to my God-forsaken neighbourhood Birulëvo.

The neighborhood looks mostly the same. Just with a lot of advertisement.

The 16-story house where i used to live looks absolutely the same. Except the entrance hall, which looks even worse than it used to. The mailboxes are all ruined (it’s a shame i didn’t take a picture of them.) The last time i was there, i was 11 years old, so everything looks kinda smaller now, but that’s understandable. The elevators stink as they always did; we were lucky that no-one shitted inside them. That’s how it is when the municipality is responsible for everything except what’s inside the apartments.

In the corridor near my appartment i saw the father of Misha Shvedov (almost all Russians are called Misha, Sergey, Victor or Vladimir. Sorry, not my fault). Misha Shvedov was the neighbour’s boy. A year older than myself, Misha used to piss me off a lot. He wasn’t particularly violent or stupid, just very obnoxious. I remember his father as a pretty serious, albeit snobbish, man. He used to wear eyeglasses and sported a very cool bald spot. Now he looks not fourteen, but forty years older than he did back then, his hair is completely white. And he’s a drunk. He tried to say something to Misha (we’re back with Olga’s husband now – i hope you’re not too confused), probably asked him for some money, but Misha didn’t understand what he said, because it wasn’t really Russian. It was very sad and depressing. I hoped Hadar wouldn’t be to overwhelmed by the terrible look of the home.

Inside the apartment everything was different. Olga rebuilt it completely, with new furniture, bathroom, kitchen, wallpapers (Russians love wallpapers).

Olga’s son Nikita has grown up a lot since the last time i saw him. He’s thirteen and almost as tall as his mother.

Misha made lamb steaks. It smelled good.

Hadar was surprised to see that Olga and Misha are giving their bedroom to us.

The House and the Attic

So i’m flying to Moscow with Hadar tomorrow. The feeling is kinda strange, but could be stranger. It will probably be great fun. I hope that all the stories about the weird way they treat tourists will prove to be wrong. I’ll try my best not to look like a tourist, but i don’t really know how easy it will be. Hadar, of course, won’t even try.

I became vegetarian all the way. No meat, no fish, but i’m still ovo-lacto, as the veg lingo goes, which means that i didn’t dump milk and eggs and i don’t plan to anytime soon, as i love cheeses and omelettes and especially omelettes with cheeses. My parents don’t take it so well, but not as terrible as i thought. It will pass. Of course they dropped some funny phrases. Mama:

  • Well, you don’t eat meat, but if i prepare chicken, you will eat it, right?
  • But you do eat fish, right? Where will you get phosphor? You’re an engineer, you need to think, how will you think without phosphor? (Frankly – i don’t have the slightest idea how exactly phosphor is good for thinking, how much phosphor is there in fish, and what will be my other phosphor sources should it really prove necessary.)
  • Alexandra Fyodorovna, whom you’ll be visiting in Moscow, prepares wonderful osetrina (sturgeon fish). You won’t eat her osetrina? It’s so delicious! How can you do that to her?
  • So how will you go to sushi-bars now?
  • So how do you decide what not to eat? You don’t eat those that have eyes, that move, that have a nervous system?
  • I knew people who kept their vegetarian diets well and they died of cancer nevertheless. Yes yes!
  • Oh, i’ve seen that kibbutz girls at my job, they were vegetarian and they had to get vitamin B12 shots in their ass! Their ass, you heard me?! It hurts, don’t you know that?


  • Leave all that novelty stuff. You can’t be serious. You love meat, it means that you have to eat it.
  • Well, if you don’t want to kill animals … i’ve got an idea – don’t kill just Israeli animals. But it’s OK to kill Russian … why won’t you eat Russian pigs? What’s the problem with them, eh?
  • … I mean, forget about me for a second, but how can you do it to your mother? She is a scorpio, she’s really upset about it.

I’ll get over it.