Today is the last day in Moscow before a speedy trip to St Petersburg. It is also May 1st which is Workers Day and under the old regime was the day when the ballistic might of USSR was paraded in Red Square for the world to marvel at and it’s people to salute. These days May 1st is still a holiday – in fact Russians see it as the start of summer, but the parade in Red Square is a simplified affair with no tanks (those will be put through their paces on Victory Day (May 9th) – the day that Russia remembers her WW2 dead – all 20 million of them). I wake and look out of the window to see many happy people walking back to the metro with red white and blue balloons and patriotic flags. It feels a little like a day in London when a Royal has a birthday or gets married.
Here the orange street cleaning lorries are out in force as they ever are but last night they put in an extra spritz to make sure the streets were perfect for this morning and now that the event is dissipating they are again putting in an extra turn to restore the city to its default pristine condition. Actually, people here don’t lend to litter but the odd thing that slips out of a hand or a sleeve does not stay on the floor for long and neither does the muck naturally created by so many beefing cars on its mega-highways.
Two Brains sleeps on whilst I watch (the street not the sleeper), do a little work and potter in our home suite home. Eventually the husband wakes and we wander up to the patisserie for lunch – it is heaving with ladies lunching as respite from the rigours of shopping and customers coming in to buy the exquisite cakes and chocolates to accompany festive suppers later in the evening.
Afterwards we take the Circle Line to experience each of the splendiferous stations our theory being that this holiday day will make them quiet and easy to photograph without the visual disturbance of too many people. Ignorance is not always bliss and in fact the subway is very very crowded. We manage 6 out of 12 before aborting at Bellarusskaya and walking back the mile or so to the hotel, on the way passing John Lennon looking happy enough to be Back in the USSR.
Edward, who was Two Brains first PhD students and now one of his senior staff is joining us for supper. We had planned to take him to the Armenian restaurant but he has other ideas. Armed efficiently with a guide-book (we are both chancers and tend to fall on things rather than plan as you may have gathered) he has two choices for us – one a Russian Restaurant, the other Georgian. I enter into the spirit of this novelty called organisation and enthusiastically choose Georgian (which was on my list of must-do’s before we arrived here). We stride up Tverskaya almost back to Bellarusskaya before Edward realises we are going the wrong way. Marching back, I feel rather as though I am parading which is apt given the day. Past the hotel and my sore feet are screaming for mercy but none shall be granted. The increasingly determined Edward (who incidentally is extremely slender and looks as though a sweet zephyr would blow him over) refuses to relent and is rewarded finally with the golden prize – the restaurant his guide has told us gets their award for best in the city. It’s terribly busy and the waitress is terribly direct ‘No – don’t have that it is horrible, have this …. you must drink Georgian wine and the double cheese bread would be what you want’. The net result is a glass of white wine for me that looks and tastes like very dry sherry and is easily as strong – I resort to the teeniest sips (visualising Hinge and Bracket in order to achieve this alien restraint) to combat the belt between the eyes as I take my first swiggette, horizontal on a busy restaurant floor in downtown Moscow not being a look I favour. The much better starter is not much better or rather if our own choice was worse then I wouldn’t have eaten it, and the bread is not the Khachapuri I expected but more like a white pizza. Notwithstanding all those things and the fact that we have had to sit in the smokng part of the restaurant and that the enormous pizza imposter is placed next to Two Brains who can’t tolerate the smell of cooked cheese, we have a lovely meal. Back at the hotel and Edward kindly points out the cashpoint and in-house bank which we have both failed to notice for almost a week …. he is kind about the fact that we have been chasing down Sperbank which is the only Russian Bank which will accept the 6-digit pin of Two Brains’ US cards (and yes, we do insist on giggling like naughty children as we call it Sperm-Bank) but it is clear that despite the fact that we arrived 3 full days before him, Edward is infinitely more sensible than we are, more prepared and more observant. He is also tremendously kind and offers to keep our superfluous luggage in his room so that we can take just what we need for our weekend excursion – therefore we hastily pack for tomorrows departure to St Petersburg …. I am preparing for cultural gluttony and unfortunately have slight indigestion.
PS: I haven’t lot the plot completely. I do know where I am in the world and I do know that Ray Charles was singing about Georgia USA but I love the song and the title seems to fit