Sunday, 24 June 2012

Episode 30: Saturday Super Sale

The hot bus was packed and wheezing down the dual carriageway. We were on our way to MEGA - a monolithic shopping complex on the outskirts of Moscow - and, by the looks of things, so was every other person in the city. After taking an hour to cover about 15 minutes of roadway we eventually emptied into the car-park of the huge mall. It was 10:55 pm and in 5 mins the Saturday Night of Super Sales would begin. I think I said this once before in this blog, but no one knows how to spend like Muscovites...
(1) River Island Aztec-like short sleeve shirt

MEGA spans three separate, giant buildings and contains just about every Russian and Western clothing outlet. There is also a massive IKEA inside half of one of those buildings, which I think gives a good idea of just how big we are talking. There is a massive food court where you can eat anything from sushi to mushroom risotto and you are given a map on entry by one of the attractive and strangely uniformed employees. 

This night was bizarre. DJ's played loud euro trance in the main hall and the escalators ran overtime with shopping-burdened consumers. Every couple of seconds someone would bump into someone else or set off the store security systems. The queue inside the New Yorker outlet was 40 minutes long with people trying to bribe those at the front of the queue to buy their items for them and save them the agony of standing in line. (My flatmate and his friend were totally suckered in this way by a trio of girls in club makeup with dyed hair.)

(2) Loud Zara Collection T-shirt 
Over the course of the night, which ran until 4am, we needed three fresh air breaks and several beers to keep us going. Exhausted customers outside the complex turned shopping trolleys onto their sides to create makeshift benches. 

We were exhausted, but overall the experience was worth it. Even the massive chains like Zara, Topshop and River Island offered 20% of nearly everything in store (including current season stock) and Russian clothing firms like Colin's and Sela had nearly 50% off all stock. We never even made it as far as the electronic section where perhaps we could have found ipods, cameras and games consoles with similar savings.

Standing in the midst of the bustle and rustle of shopping bags, I reflected on how unlikely it now seemed that this country ever was communist. This centre is a temple to capitalism. The art of the Super Sale itself is pure economic deception and even with the reduced prices, we were completely savvy to the fact we were still buying the goods at a tremendous mark up. These moral and psychological conundrums aside, what a show it was! I have never been to a superstore of this size in my life and, my clever purchases aside, just the experience of being out and about on a somewhat alternative Saturday night was amazing. Well, it beats clubbing in Torquay anyway... 
Me and what looks to be a brand-new Lenin Statue

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Episode 29: Spring time for Moscow

In marked difference to the weather I experienced from January to April, Moscow spring has been lovely. Huge thunderstorms gather occasionally and disperse the gathering heat and mugginess with warm rain and shaken trees. Most days there is a present breeze and a manageable temperature. The has been shining nearly every day and my flat-mate and I have made good use of our balcony, mainly for wine drinking and bitchy conversations with our neighbour Katya.

Our Balcony and the trademark, Russian birch 
In Spring, the dress of Muscovites changes. Gone are the black-leather jackets and flat-caps on the men. Gone are the dreadful, patterned windbreakers on the women. Out come surprising splashes of colour, brave white shoes, plaid, stripes and nonsense print t-shirts. Even the shifty gangs of Caucasians on the metro brave the trends of fashion and whip out a pair of Aviators and some sock-less, purple loafers. In short, the city is transformed.

Roads you used to slip down are now in bloom. The trees are dressed up too and the air is filled with blossom, pollen and all sorts of treats for the hay-fevered. Markets have popped up more frequently along with street vendors selling corn-on-the-cob, fresh kvass and fizzy water. The families are out too. Parents push prams and toddlers sing and scream nursery rhymes on the boulevards.

The parks are open now, the smell of kebabs drifts over them. Businessmen sit on benches trying their best to not drip ice-cream onto their Armani suits and groups of student sit with guitars and textbooks. Two old men, probably rivals of 60 years, sit in front of a chess set and duel.

Someone told me that Moscow was lovely in Spring, they were right.