Monday, May 2, 2016

Moscow Zoo As It Is and Its Similarity with Other Places

The Moscow Zoo is one of the most popular tourist attractions, especially if you travel with children. On the surface it doesn't look as some ugly place, claiming to be one of the top European zoos. Unfortunately, it is not as good as it pretends to be.

A common trait of numerous municipal services in Moscow is that they are not meant for people. Of course, their main declared purpose is to serve people, and all those parks, alleys, zoos are not for made for people, they are mostly built for press and for reports, to make a good impression. The Zoo is an especially good example.

First, it's overcrowded. I don't know why it cannot have a bigger territory or move somewhere or be split into several branches, but it's too tight on a territory. Then, it's layout is just not good. Zoos should be designed for people with children as most people visiting zoos use them to acquaint kids with animals. In the Moscow Zoo, there are numerous problems with both walking with kids and showing them animals. First, ramps are not everywhere, and you need to leave your stroller somewhere to move on. Your kid either walks on his on being in danger to be trumped by the crowd or be carried by her parents like their backbone will say thank you for that. Second, it's quite hard to actually see animals. Walls are too high to children, and standing on granite parapets is forbidden. So, the only option to show children animals is to carry them (again!). If it was the only problem... Animals are separated from people by several high fences, each having different mesh sizes. When it comes to water animals or terrariums, both things obscure the views, the glasses are dirty and the water is murky.  I would understand it if it was for animals' sake, but animals are scooped up in small compartments and don't look happy at all. I don't understand what troubles the administration has, but it seems that the flow of money is quite big. There are too many citizen and tourists visiting, and the entrance fee is high.

The zoo is not unique in its lack of quality service. We recently walked through the wonderful Tsaritsyno park. The park itself is gorgeous. However, I don't understand one thing. Paths there all have different pavement types, from gravel to cobblestone. It seems illogical that the same path keeps changing its surface type every dozen meters. When you walk without a stroller, it seems okay, but cobblestone is bad for strollers - it's too bumpy, so people tend to pass such sections trampling the grass nearby. Another bad thing can happen to you is when you encounter a staircase all of a sudden. So, you have two options: to carry your stroller or to circumvent the staircase trampling the grass around again. I don't understand the difficulties in building ramps and using such surface types that provide smooth riding considering there are a lot of people with kids walking in the park.


Sunday, July 5, 2015

Modern Russian TV

After several years without having or watching TV, I eventually watched it for some time during my two-weeks vacation. It was an interesting experience. I didn't anticipate how much Russian TV changed for these years.
I want to share some peculiarities I noticed.
1. Some content is made to entertain. It consists of numerous talk shows, cheap TV series (mostly criminal dramas).
2. There are oodles of psychics and other charlatans on TV, just like in the 80 - 90s.What is even more strange, now there are a lot of priests on all channels, in almost all contexts. It's bizarre. I understand that the Church is important for modern Russian ideology nowadays, but I didn't think that it rooted so deep recently.
3. The news is told with a very disgusting intonation. Before speakers spoke in a neutral official tone. Now their intonation is lifeless, absolutely identical for any type of news and similar across all channels, but it's not neutral anymore. I can describe it as simultaneously forcible and dramatic which irritates a lot.
4. All the news circulate for several days, maybe to prepare the audience for something.
5. All the news about Ukraine makes an impression that the country is in ruins. For example, there was one report about one accident on a refinery near Kiev. The wording was like it was worse than Chernobyl and it was likened to an "ecocide".
6. The USA are full of oppression and criminal people according to the news.
7. Europe is likened to Sodom and Gomorrah considering their mores. Great attention is paid to any small opposition rally or to bad consequences of their economic sanctions to Russia.
8.International news necessarily includes peaceful and "wise" remarks of our Foreign Affairs Minister and other politicians on almost any question.
9. The news about Russia itself is now very similar to the Soviet ones. They include reports about new achievements of Russian agriculture, about new technologies made in Russia and a lot about Russian military. 
I can say that all the content is much like it was back in the USSR, but with more criminal and sensational news and entertainment.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Capital and the Province

After three years living in Moscow and a year without seeing my hometown I visited it again. During that visit I noticed several things that make the city different from the capital.

First of all the city is much, much poorer. Mercedes and Lexus are common in Moscow, but they are quite rare in Chelyabinsk. Vice versa, cheap Russian cars like Lada are rather rare in the capital, but abundant in my hometown. The contrast was evident when our taxi driver noticed a Mercedes nearby with admiration and a remark like "I don't know how they got a car like that". For us, however, it was just a common car, which is seen a lot on the streets of Moscow. Another thing that shows this is that in Chelyabinsk many buildings even in the city center desperately need renovation. Their facades are in a very bad condition. A lot of tasteless banners and signs hung unsystematically even on old and beautiful buildings showing that the city is poor as well.

Air quality in Chelyabinsk is worse than in Moscow. You feel it right after getting off the plane. It is literally harder to breath there. 

The last but not least difference worth mentioning here is the people. In Moscow it's hard even to ask for directions on the street, because almost everyone is in hurry and is locked in their own personal bubble. Too many people living in one city always creates an atmosphere of unfriendliness and insecurity. In Chelyabinsk, people are friendlier and more open. For example, three passersby started conversations with me without any visible reason. Once an old man asked, where I bought my bike and how much it cost, then one woman asked me near a stall why I picked that flavor of ice cream, and if it's good or bad. Small talks like these are possible in Moscow, of course, but they are not common place. In Moscow people can be friendly inside their own circles, but not on the street. Another difference is that Muscovitians care more about material things. They think and speak often about their vacations, clothes, cars and other material or practical things while people from Chelyabinsk have less resources and speak less about them. 

There are a lot of shops selling exclusively alcohol in Chelyabinsk. Visually there are a dozen times more shops like this and cheap bars than in Moscow. I think that is because people drink there much more than in the caplital, though there are a lot of alcoholics in Moscow too.

To wrap up I would say that both cities have their bright sides, but Moscow is, nevertheless, a much more comfortable place to live than a usual provincial Russian city.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Love for Signs and Other Sins

It is hardly a secret that Russian authorities adore prohibitive signs and announcements. And sometimes their passion for them leads to funny and absurd situations. 
It is deep in the Russian soul to shift responsibility from yourself to somebody else. A smart way to do so professionally is to write numerous rules, guidelines, and signs, instead of actually fulfilling your duty. You see it in swimming pools, hospitals, parks and on playgrounds. The restrictions are both, omnipresent and totally ignored. It is forbidden to do a dozen things in a pool, but hardly anyone is aware. You can't smoke in a park. Neither can you make barbeque or walk your dog there, but everybody does so anyway. In one park, it's forbidden to use a certain slope as a slide in winter time; and occasionally that slope becomes the children's favorite slide! Authorities think that if they wrote something, then it's not their responsibility to monitor the adherence to the written rule anymore. Instead of taking preventive measures or improving their service, they just write.

Recently, they wanted to implement separate garbage collections for different types of garbage in one park. So they've installed different-colored trash cans and a lot of signs explaining why it's so important to sort the garbage. You can see the results in my photos here. There is a photo of one prohibitive sign in the park as well. Do you think anybody read it to the end?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Moscow Free

We often think that we should inevitably pay for our entertainment. But thankfully it is not always true. If you happen to live in a big city or even better in a capital, then you have oodles of options to spend your time without paying anything, probably with an exception for food and transport. I would like to share my experience on how to spend your time in Moscow

1. Parks
Winter in a park

Parks are good form all perspectives. First of all, they are healthful. When you walk, you breath in clean air, while enjoing birds singing and amazing landscapes around. Second, they provide you with free stuff like gym apparatus. Then, there are a lot of things going on there, specifically on weekends. There are concerts, competitions of any kind, promotion actions. Some  parks are really awesome. They can be historical sites like Kolomenskoe or Tsaritsyno, modern public spaces like Gorky park or Sokolniki or nature preserves like Bitsevsky park. So, you can easily pick one that suits you.

2. Book stores
Another good place to visit is a book store.

Monday, August 4, 2014

October Sky

If I were to rate the movie, I would give it three or four stars out of five.
It's a typical Hollywood movie about the American dream. This kind of movies can be called "motivational". Of course, it doesn't lack a happy end. It's quite interesting and good. However, I recommend it for family watching or just to kill time, as the plot devices are quite predictable and the plot itself is quite typical. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Paradise (trilogy) by Seidl

I have promised to myself to start writing about all books and movies I've read. I 've done it several times and every time I broke the promise. Now you see another attempt to do this. As the last movie we've seen recently is named "Paradise", I'll try to write a bit about it.

The movie consists of three parts which are cold "Love", "Faith" and "Hope". Actually each part generally sticks to the proclaimed thema. Though they are all about absolutely different people in unsimilar circumstances, they all revolve around the same idea. that is, every strong feeling can be fake, and true reasons behind our behavior can be hidden so deeply that we can't see them even in ourselves.

Sex tourism doesn't give a true love to an Austrian sex tourists, Catholic beliefs don't soothen pain from the sufferings of your husband, and attempts of one starlet to win love of herr doctor while that cannot raise herself-esteem. Different stories, but the same disappointment in methods. All about deception of your own brain and disillusionment. In my opinion there are too many too realistic scenes in the movie, they don't add anything to the idea. It is obviously worth seeing, but a bit protracted.