Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Summer arrives

I have recently returned from 3 weeks in the eastern USA. Wendy had a meeting in Washington for a few days, so I added a week on either side to visit New York and have a look around the Appalachians and Niagara Falls.  

This might seem a little extravagant so soon after a fortnight in Turkey, but seeing these places while we are in Russia makes a lot of sense. I have always wanted to visit New York, but the journey from Australia takes about 24 hours and is considerably more expensive than the 9 hour flight from Moscow.

It was also pleasant to spend some time in an English-speaking country. It can become a bit isolating, spending one’s days in a city where most of the conversation is all but incomprehensible. Though the speech of some Americans can be as difficult to understand as Russian. I gave up trying to order at one salad bar in New York – the youth behind the counter was using an almost unrecognisable dialect of English.

I returned to Moscow last weekend and have been struggling with jet lag since. I find it much harder to go from west to east than the other direction. Heading in the same direction as the sun, one simply gets a longer day (or night). 

But going west to east is like going against the grain of time. I woke in the morning, caught my flight, journeyed through a short sleepless night, arrived in Moscow the following morning and then had to stay up until the evening. Two short days, a short night and a completely confused biorhythm. 

Moscow is transformed. There had been just a hint of spring before I left. But spring seems to have been and gone while I was away and the city has already moved into summer. Rather than a gradual transition between seasons, it is as if a coin has flipped. 

All those trees I had become convinced were dead sticks are fully leaved, the snow has gone and cafes have put tables out on the footpath.  

Yesterday I took a walk in a large forest park a little northwest of the city called Timiryazeva. Plenty of people enjoying the sun. Some have dusted off their bicycles. A couple of sunburnt backs beside the lake. This is a pleasant park, but probably not one a visitor to Moscow should bother with unless they have plenty of time on their hands (I’m talking months). 

Walking track in Timiryazeva Park. With the burst of green and accompanying tee shirt weather, Moscow is suddenly a different city.
 The northern end of the park, where the lake is located, is the most visitor friendly. Here most of the happy family activity occurs. 
Part of the lake in Timiryazeva. Just a few weeks ago, this would have been frozen.

Towards the south, tracks deteriorate into muddy pools and there are far fewer people about. This end of the park is probably not the sort of place I would go for a stroll in the evening. 

The ubiquitous bird feeding house. I see these in most parks. They may help the few birds that hang around during winter to survive. After 6 months of seeing nothing but ravens, pigeons and sparrows, I am now seeing more varieties.

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