I have now been living in Moscow for 3 weeks and thought I would share my first impressions. Firstly the Metro is excellent. All the signs are in both Russian and English, as are all the announcements on the trains. The different lines are all clearly numbered and signposted and so it is extremely easy to change from one line to another. The only slightly confusing aspect is that, where the different lines intersect, each line has a different name for the same station! As for the architecture it is even more amazing to see in real life than from photos. I will definitely be posting more about that with photos in the months to come.
I was slightly dreading food shopping. A few years ago Russia banned the import of European foods in response to bans that imposed on them and I had heard that supermarket shelves had suddenly become empty. However, much to my delight and relief, supermarkets are large and so far seem to have most of what I need, though sometimes one needs to search – I found the cans of chopped tomatoes in the crisps aisle, and herbs tend to come in tiny little sachets instead of jars. They also have lots of stuff that I don’t need – a whole aisle of salted dried fish! Mmmm. European cheese is one of the few things that are still missing from their shelves but the Russians have been working hard to develop their own versions and so you can now buy Russian parmesan and Russian gorgonzola – both of which, though not the real thing, are not bad. I have not yet tried their cheddar! Foreign wines are widely available but extremely expensive thankfully we have discovered that rare thing – a perfectly drinkable Russian wine, both red and white, at a perfectly drinkable price. In the large supermarkets, like many supermarkets everywhere, you have to weigh your fruit and veg before you get to the check out but on our first day here I learnt that in our local, small supermarket, you should not try and do it yourself. I was alarmed when the ‘helpful’ girl in the fruit and veg section snatched my stuff out of my trolley and marched off with it. In bewilderment I followed and discovered that she was weighing and labelling it.
We had heard that in recent years there had been an explosion of restaurants and cafes. And indeed there are a myriad of choices of venues and cuisine to choose from, most of which have menus with english translations (though not all) and so far our experience has been excellent. Our favourite place so far is a local Armenian restaurant.
Cant finish this opening post without mentioning the weather. Having arrived in early November we expected to land in minus temperatures and lots of snow. Well we have had some minus temperatures (a mild -8c) but there is no snow at all! Mostly what we have had is grey low cloud and absolutely no sun except for about 3 wonderful days when the cloud lifted and the sun came out. Apparently everyone here takes vitamin D, so a trip to the Apteka (chemist/pharamacy) is on the horizon.