Blog: Simon WarburtonWinter thaw sees Moscow shine

Simon Warburton | 16 March 2015

Moscow is sprucing itself up ahead of May Day Parade

Moscow is sprucing itself up ahead of May Day Parade

It really is Spring sat here in Moscow and while not exactly scorchio, the sun is beating down on this most vibrant of cities, which seems to have rid itself of its once oily, heavy air.

I'm here for tomorrow's (17 March) Russian Automotive Conference and had a chance yesterday to walk around the city centre and see if the rouble depreciation really has had an effect.

Well, apart from over-priced hotels, there is no doubt, even from last year, that there is a real and noticeable difference for non-Russians visiting Moscow. Taxis and eating out are substantially cheaper.

What that means for Russians, however, is - of course - that it makes life much more expensive and translates into those grim car sales numbers outlined by the AEB earlier this month.

That doesn't appear to have dimmed Russians' enthusiasm for taking to their cars however, despite a very good and cheap public transport system, which makes driving about Moscow an exercise in huge traffic jams.

Apart from Sundays though, as Muscovites take full advantage of a relative lull in traffic to roar about in huge SUVs, with my taxi driver seemingly giddy on the speed he was able to do.

There's been a lot of talk concerning the whereabouts of Vladimir Putin, who hasn't been seen in ten days, but walking past Red Square yesterday, I saw a remarkable lookalike who happily posed for photos, although the fact a dead-ringer for Lenin was also beside him, perhaps confirmed it wasn't actually the Russian President.

Coming from the UK, we like to think we have a long winter, but frankly, it's nothing compared to the dark, freezing months the Russians have to go through.

Emerging from the deep freeze into this weekend's glorious sunshine starkly shows the enormous amount of grime accumulated on seemingly each and every car, bus and taxi. The crunch of what seem to be winter tyres is a constant audible backdrop as is the unique sound of Russian police car sirens, which leave you in no doubt that you should get out of the way.

Politics is never far away in this city and half of Red Square was cordoned off as it's being spruced up for this year's May Day Parade, which also commemorates the 70th anniversary of the ending of World War II.

David Cameron and Angela Merkel have now said they're staying away, but that isn't stopping Russia putting on its best bib and tucker for what is sure to be a tub-thumping display of military prowess, despite all the undoubted economic pressures currently gripping the country.

I'm looking to go on the Moscow Metro later - a totally unexpected series of artworks that defies conventional ordinary underground systems - although I'm going to need a guide as the cyrillic alphabet is - for me at least - impenetrable. Time to learn some Russian.

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