I have been in Moscow for the past few days on business and have cemented my opinion of the city. It’s big, hard and completely impenetrable to somebody like me. That being said, amid all of the rabid consumerism, stern faces and horrible traffic, the city still has a trick or two up its sleeve. On this trip, the first trick was a beacon of Moscow’s future – in the form of a digital clock. The clock shines futuristically on the side of a building in “Moscow City,” the new, skyscraper-laden area of the town. For awhile, much of the progress on this part of town seemed doomed by the economic crisis. However, on this trip, work seemed to continue apace and witnessing a digital clock (not blinking 12:00) seemed to reinforce the notion that progress continued.
Despite all of the new construction in the city, reminders of Moscow’s czarist past remain. The opulent Yeliseyev Grocery Store (renamed “Grocery Store I” when the communists took over) looks more like a palace than a place to pick up cold cuts. However, once inside, the store reveals typical upscale grocery store fare in a palatial setting. The gilded arches, columns and chandeliers tower over smoked fish, caviar and even jars of peanut butter. Additionally, in the “souvenirs” back room, there is the most interesting selection of spirits [READ: vodka] that I have ever seen. I had never heard of Red Army Vodka, Black Vodka or Matrioshka Vodka. But the bottles and not necessarily the spirit inside, were the selling point. For all I know, what was inside could have been completely rotten.
So it seems these bottles that line the shelves may be the perfect metaphor for the city – striking and opulent on the outside, while the inside remains a mystery. And, as with any mystery, there is a real possibility that to sample what is inside may subject you to a very unpleasant flavor.