Arriving at 3AM, I breezed through Russian border bureaucracy in record time. I was picked up by my host and his companions, who treated me to a late-night blue-cheese burger and home-made horseradish liqueur.
Three hours of sleep, and out we went to see Moscow.
I had prepared for weeks to brave the terrible cold I expected, but on my arrival the temperature had suddenly and unexpectedly risen, turning all of Moscow into slush.
We breakfasted on salt soup (delicious) and ryebread beer and, thus armed with hearty calories, we traipsed through the city on a whistlestop tour. We visited the Kremlin and Old Arbat, the premier high street, but mostly I enjoyed just walking through the city, soaking in the architecture, the people…
Muskovites women were universally well-dressed and the men were tough and lively. The buildings were grandiose and shone brilliantly in the bright sunlight.
The city drowned in puddles of slushy, melted snow. It was treacherous going, as my shoes were warm but had precious little grip. Our final adventure was a trek up a long, steep hill, a so-called ‘shortcut’ that brought me to the brink of a sliding, tumbling death more than once. The last twenty meters were almost vertical, but I clawed my way through the snow to the lookout point.
And finally we closed the evening in an exclusive, secret tea-house hidden in a bookshop. Good music, quiet conversation, great tea and even better ice cream.
Moscow is a hell of a town.