MOSCOW – I’ve grown into adulthood in Moscow, one of the few places in Russia where the living is pretty bearable.
The city’s center appears ostensibly civil. You may sense surroundings breathing with feigned prosperity. The remaining old buildings add a European touch and pavements are wide and clean.
Tourists rarely visit anything outside of the center. I get their point – outskirts are nothing like the heart of the city. And I’m saying this without any contempt. I find them lovely in their own way.
My affection for Moscow is associated with emotions I experienced in different parts of it. We all have special places we keep visiting time after time.
It’s reasonable to start with the area where I live.
I grew up in the nearby district of Alexeyevskiy. It’s prominent because it showcases many of the astronautic achievements of the former USSR.
All the neighborhoods around the center are called spal’niki, which in Russian means “to sleep.” That’s because these areas are convenient to spend the night and pretty much nothing else.
I regard my spal’nik as unique, although all other ones seem just about the same. Mine is not infested with duplicate gray blocks of flats. The buildings are not too crowded and there are some sights which would definitely catch a stranger’s eye.
The only way out of the subway to my place is a gorgeous alley accompanied by a power line that disappears over the horizon. Its poles remind me of the Eiffel Tower. You can turn your head back and spot a real Ostankino television tower. I can observe it glowing and peeking through the night sky even from my room.
Assorted trees and bushes thrive here and it is gratifying to watch them blossoming. Right across my balcony grows an apple tree which is beckoning me with its fruits in the summertime.
I recall one party when my friends and I were finally conquered by this temptation. We collected the harvest using a broom with a can tied to it. My best friend, Ser’yozha Pashinskiy, held on to me so I didn’t fall.
I cannot forget to mention the view. It may occur ordinary to someone, but it deeply touches my heart. Even in the winter, leafless trees create astonishing mazes of branches. Wires gently cross the sky, making it easy to notice how fast are clouds moving behind them.
I can’t stay at home for too long. I am a passionate wanderer, often looking around my neighborhood for new sights. You can always discern something you never before paid any attention to.
I am lucky to have Sokol’niki Park forest nearby. You can’t get bored with it, unlike the urban part. The forest unwinds you from the city’s fast rhythm and causes you to savor its effect when return.
Red lights on distant tenements complete the magnificent scenery.
To be frank, this is my place of power. I used to ramble there with my father when I was very little. Now I come to enjoy nature and bring some peace back to my soul. Trees might be the most calming thing on Earth.
On every occasion, I’m wondering how old are these oaks and pines? What scenes from my homeland have they witnessed? What wisdom do they carry? I gaze at them and then the stars cling to my eyesight. All this drives me moony.
There are also three ponds with a flock of ducks splashing in them. Someday you may attend an airstrike of seagulls. They holler and raise a ruckus, taking food right from under the noses of the melancholic drakes.
Like a squadron of fighter aircraft, they are chaotically dissecting the peaceful sky and nosediving at unawares. Their impressive show makes me chuckle. Few joggers circle the battlefield along with spry dogs. The last ones usually intend to run up at me abruptly and play. I pet them and throw a bashful smile to the owners.
Despite all my love for the outskirts of Moscow, I want to say a few words about the center, too. It is a playroom where boys and girls are getting wild. This is where we stroll on long summer nights, where we get together and where the magic happens.
Most of my best memories are rooted in the core of Moscow. We go out raving to unravel. At the clubs where we go, they play the kind of music you’d hear in Chicago clubs in the late ‘80s to mid ‘90s.
But ours is not a common way to party, it’s more underground. These mad DJ sets we listen to are only provided by mates of mine.
Sadly, it’s the way things work in Russia – you want to get anything, you have to network.
Dancing hypnotizes you and fishes out all the hidden joy and happiness from deep inside you.
At 5 a.m. when the city awakes, you grab your friends and foot it to the subway. Metropolis is noiseless so far, but the rhythms of the night are still ringing in your ears. I like to pretend that we are in some teenage tv show or movie.
Sometimes we stop talking to catch the silence. We examine the striking architecture and it complements those audible flashbacks. This is why the center gives me club music vibes.
One song that really reminds me of Moscow is “Tretyakovskaya,” by Nikita Zabelin.
These memories are so clear and bright that I believe I will still have them in my old age.
As soon as the academic year ends, I have a thing about moving out of the city and spend a couple days in nature visiting Ser’yozha. He is settled just outside Moscow in the microdistrict of Kupavna. You have to take a train ride to get there, which is almost an hour long.
On the train, take a spot near the window and peruse the passing walls for spectacular works of graffiti. Narrating the youth aesthetic, some of them rebel against the oppressive regime or police brutality. Other ones vote for weed legalization or directly inspire you to feel the moment. It compels me to think of creators as the most attentive citizens concerning politics and sociology.
The city is gray. Russia is even more. To summarize, artists make prospects brighter and more pictorial. They bring the light, the warmth and the kindness.
Ser’yozha usually meets me at the rail station and we take off to his place. We call our friends and get ready for a swim. We grab blankets, snacks and a portable speaker. The path lays throughout the forest. It’s a long walk and we tend to sing songs and fool around to pass the time.
We may pick logs or large branches from the road and toss them in the field. And you may see a multitude of my beloved trees, only they are looking wilder here. There are many more species and less influence from the big city, so trees grow higher and more sumptuous.
Humankind stepped so far away from nature through our many innovations that it’s hard to comprehend that plants are alive, breathing and eating.
Yeah, I went far off the plot, but let me notice something. People can never simulate nature’s beauty by making art. Every painting or picture, every song inspired by the landscape is still a replica. But that earthborn diligence is glorious.
An hour later we find ourselves in an unbelievable paradise.
There is a quarry filled with emerald water. Our oasis is covered from the outside by a blanket of meadow-clover flowers. The water and the flowers make an outstanding duo of hues.
We carefully make it down the sandy hill to the beach and scan the impressively wide and unwrinkled water surface, turn on some music and relax.
Look up! Clouds are drifting slowly across the sky and it looks so immense. Your head unburdens. Then stare at the water again. Frogs are floating serenely. They stay motionless with their eyes closed and bellies turned up to the sun. Don’t scare them away while you are swimming closely.
Simple pleasures appreciated afresh. Frogs make you realize all your worrying doesn’t matter. This is a pure delight. Just chilling with your team in a captivating outdoor experience. Laying in the sand, sunbathing. Feels great, especially after a long and hectic year.
I know, you may be tired at this point. So let me finish this love letter.
I sincerely have a passion for Moscow. I do like to explore it, feel it.
On the other hand, I’m not comfortable with our government. They only desire to imprison all of us. They don’t want us to enjoy our lives. They just want to steal all our natural resources and sell them abroad.
They want to be crazy wealthy forever. I want them to choke on their material values. We should get rid of these betrayers. I dream about the world coming round from this gas and oil frenzy.
This is my shout out to all the decent people in Russia. Your struggle will never be forgotten. Our country is going to be free.
Sasha Shingel is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.