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Moscow: the City that Never Sleeps

I spent a summer semester at the Higher School of Economics, one of the best universities of Moscow, and it’s an experience I won’t forget. The city, the culture, the art and the lifestyle mesmerised me. I fell in love with them and I am as surprised as you are. Everybody knows that Russian culture is different, they can be cold and closed off, and we all know the history between us, but it almost felt like home for me.

I stayed in the university’s accommodation, which date the soviet period in their style of living. When I arrived I was shocked and I almost turned back, but I like a good challenge. I shared a room with two other girls, and the bathroom was shared between five of us. It was weird sleeping in a bunk bed at 21, but it forced me to accept a type of intimacy with my roommates, that I had never felt before. For the whole building, which housed 473 students, there was a single kitchen with three stoves, one oven, two sinks and a small table. For me who likes cooking, it was just not feasible. So we ate out most times. Expensive?! Not really! If you know where to go, you can eat two tasty meals for less than 15 pounds!

If soviet accommodation are not your taste, don’t worry, there are modern hotels too! Moscow is one of the great capitals of Europe, but there is an exoticism to it, that marvels all. It is the second largest metropolitan city with more than 12 millions inhabitants. It is gigantic, much bigger than London or Paris. And Moscow offers to satisfy every taste: from famous theatres to modern galleries, to astounding palaces and cathedrals, to parks and markets, to the wildest nightlife and the trendiest restaurants and cafés. Walking is an option, but short distances in Moscow are relative to our understanding. The metro is the preferred mean of transport, other than driving. It is very cheap in soviet style (0.71 cents for a single ride), it runs incredibly well and all night, and it is also one of the cleanest public transports I have seen, better than London, Paris or Vienna. The beauty of it is that some stations are work of arts: with frescoes, mosaics, bronze statues and gold detailing!

I find that Russian culture is a mix of German, French and Italian cultures with sprinkles of Over-Urals influences. The Tretyakov Gallery collects Russian art from the XI to the XXI century and you can see how European movements influenced their art, but kept the ‘otherness’ intact. And there are many more museums: the Pushkin Museums and galleries, the Kremlin treasure rooms and palaces, Glazunov Gallery, Art-Play District where young designer come together to show and perform their creativity, just to name a few.

There is a love for parks that is unmatched by no other city. Gorki park by Mosckva river, offers social events, sport activities, stands, festivals, nature and an escape from the city. It’s not that there are trees everywhere in the city, but there are over 100 parks in the city limits ranging from historical to wildlife and nature to leisure and memorial parks.

There are so many restaurants, places to eat at or cafés that the choice is overwhelming. But I really enjoyed the Russian chain Varenichnaya N°1 that sells one of the best Russian dishes: varenichi, little ‘dumplings’ with different fillings served with smetana. Or you can try Georgian cuisine and shisha in family-run restaurants, or blinis with salmon and cheese in food stands.

But the city has so much more to offer, the clubs are incredible but same as ours; bars and cocktail lounges serve whatever you desire, but there is something in the air, that just gives it a surreal feel. It might be the glamour or the powerful history or the exuberant life they show in summer after freezing winters. You get swept by their rhythms and energy because Moscow really never sleeps. The party, and the drinks, are always on!

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