Once we got into the terminal we had
to clear immigration. A very simple concept that just doesn't
work in Russia. A dim and grim looking room at the bottom of a
stairwell is where the green booths are located. The line went
up to the top of the stairs and would stay like that for a while
- only one booth was open. As I walked to the men's room behind
the stairwell, I could see the additional immigration officers
having a nice smoke break. Why should they worry about the line
rolling up the stairs. Of course as soon as another booth opened
up it was like the doors being opened for a general admission
concert. This happened 3 or 4 times as more booths opened up.
Somehow we still managed to be one of the last ones through the
booth, even though we were one of the first to arrive.
Once we hit the booth, a bright fluorescent light would highlight
your face in a very green like plutonium way - and the beautiful
Russian woman behind the glass who decided whether you got to
come in or stay out wasn't about to shed a smile on anyone.
We finally cleared the airport and were soon on our way into
downtown Moscow. You immediately get the feeling that things probably
haven't changed much since the wall came down. The buildings all
looked identical and it was obvious that there wasn't much money
to maintain these places. The structures were linked together
with cables running from roof to roof. No ground wiring, just
a heap of big black cables.
The airport lies about an hour outside of Moscow. The roads are
huge and always filled with cars. A good of number of the roads
have no lines painted, but somehow traffic manages to flow evenly.
The cars wouldn't even have been mentioned for the CA smog test.
You see a few BMWs and Mercs, but for the most part, the car of
choice is the Lada. In case you have never heard of it, it's a
simple metal box from Poland about the size of a Ford Festiva.
It was a very common site to see these cars on the side of the
road with the hood in the up position. No roadside assistance
at the ready.
Police cars vary from flashy BMW's to little Lada's with a tiny
police light on top. Seems like if you know the right person you
can fly through town with a blue beacon.
If you're a pedestrian trying to cross the road you are certainly
living on the edge. Stoplights for the walking folk doesn't happen
very often, and there's only a few places where tunnels cross
underneath the huge roads.
The city of Moscow has around 10 million people spread out over
a very large space. Only a few people speak English, the younger
generation are a better hope if you need help. The city is very
polluted, you can see and smell it in the air. We arrived at the
hotel around 10:30pm and the sun was still high in the sky. A
complete sunset doesn't happen until around Midnight.
Before we went to Russia we were told that it's a very dangerous
place, and to be very careful when you leave the hotel. In all
honesty I never felt that. I traveled on the Subway, walked through
the city at different hours of the day and night. All I could
see was people minding their own business. I even had a camera
with me, and certainly wasn't shy to use it. I asked people for
help, and they were more than helpful. I should actually correct
that by saying that it was more of a homemade sign language. Hey
The subways are museums. Each one is different in design. Old
wooden escalators take you deep down into the ground. Beautiful
murals, chandeliers, arches, and statutes fill the stations. If
you are looking for local merchandise, the tunnels are the places
to look. I found a beautiful, handcrafted painted wooden bowl
set for nest to nothing in this underworld. The subway system
can be challenging, especially since there is no western alphabet
to be found. So you get a subway map, find a friendly looking
Russian who points on your map and then puts you in the right
The only chance we had to see Red Square was at 2 a.m. It immediately
struck us as amazing that this old cobble stone square carried
tanks, nuclear missiles, and thousands of soldiers through on
parades. I asked one of the locals if the parade still went on.
He said that it still happens, it's a tradition. Parents bring
their kids to see and experience what was once the center of attention.
The statement that everything looks bigger on TV is definitely
true here. The square was tiny compared to the amount of military
traffic that goes through on a parade.
There are a number of statues, squares, and churches in the city.
Most of the statues are related to the military. The churches
are beautifully colored. Some Golden, others bright red. I did
notice quite a bit of restoration going on.
Our gig was at Gorky Park. It was an old amphitheater that was
once used for straight theatre. Open concrete standing room only
in front, with old wooden benches the rest of the way back. This
venue may well have been condemned in the States. Weeds were making
their way through the ground in the back. The Grid above the stage
was an old wooden roof, and the fly system was electric. Of course
not all the parts were in working order.
The lighting and sound companies were both very helpful. The
gear was pretty decent. Language barrier wasn't too bad, and for
the things that didn't come across, we had an interpreter named
Tim. His band was the opening act. He was trying desperately to
get him and his wife to the States. As positive and enthusiastic
as he was, there was still a feeling that any attempts were just
of no use. Even big recording artists in Russia don't live that
well. There are no major laws on piracy, so it's tough to get
good sales. It's also a market that stays within the country.
Some international recording companies tried to bring bands from
Russia, but none have been successful.
When they were ready to open the doors, lines of soldiers entered
the venue. Not much smiling going on there. All green outfits
with what looked like bullet proof vests. They all carried aluminum
sticks for crowd control. I must say after much jumping and laughing
I actually got two of them to break a smile - but they still wouldn't
pose in a picture with me. Apparently these guys make $150 a month,
which isn't a lot even by Russian standards. Although I was later
enlightened that most of them don't really starve, blackmail is
a very popular way of getting perks on the side.
During the show one kid jumped onto the stage. He didn't get
far though. 3 soldiers grabbed him, one of them dragging him by
his hair. I later found out that the aluminum sticks came into
full force on this kid backstage. There was a mixture of soldiers
and guys in suits who acted as security. Not sure where the guys
in suits came from.
The Russian kids definitely love their rock n roll, but for promoters
it's not easy to break even. The weather was beautiful, but the
$15 concert ticket just was too high for a lot of the younger
When it came to leave, we should have known that our early departure
to the airport wasn't because of distance. In all my travel experiences,
I have never gone through customs on the way out. We spent 45
minutes in customs just to get to the check in desk. After that
we then had to clear immigration. Once again we saw the mad rush
happen as soon as another booth opened up. Thoughts of trying
to get out of this country before the wall must have been depressing.
That is if you were allowed to leave.
Once on the plane we started our long taxi to the runway. Zigzagging
around the dead planes, some without engines in them.
It seems to me that the people in Moscow I met would rather leave
their country and travel to the new world that we so often complain