I travelled to Moscow on Monday. It was 10C on arriving according to the pilot.
Going from Dubai to cold European countries every week is really strange – getting on a plane when it’s warm and sunny and 28 degrees and walking out into 6 inch deep snow and freezing temperatures can feel odd. The summer should be great though; leaving 48C behind in Dubai and going off to enjoy a break from the humidity in some European city will be very welcome.
I’m visiting the Russian desktop and mobility team and am impressed with the work they’ve done around Sun Ray. We should be seeing some interesting stuff coming out of this region soon.
I’m staying at the Grand Marriott, which is very grand, as the name suggests. It’s also pretty expensive. I’ll be enjoying the ‘Health Club’ tonight. I really need to get more disciplined about exercising when I’m away. It’s just too easy to get back to the hotel room and slouch around.
Every office in Dubai has a so-called ‘PRO’ or ‘public relations officer’, whose job is not to write press releases, but to get visas and generally deal with the bureaucracy everyone living in, or travelling to, a foreign country has to face. As a British citizen wanting a single visit visa to Russia, you need your hotel to courier the original documents detailing your stay – a fax is not good enough in Dubai, although Russian embassies elsewhere often accept this. Once these had been DHL’d, Tony, our PRO, then went to the embassy and somehow managed to wangle getting the visa in a day. Quite an achievement apparently. Two pages are now taken up in my passport with a nice beige sticker covered in Cyrllic.
The girls in passport control had an interesting uniform – normal jacket, coupled with short skirts and stilletto heeled shoes. Bizarre.
I was last in Moscow in the summer of ’97. First impressions are that the various businesses you see appear to advertise themselves much better. In 1997 restaurants and the like often just had a door in a wall, or a blank window. Hardly the best way to entice passers by. The prize for the most lurid street signs goest to the various slot machine places, who are pretty inventive with primary colours and coloured light bulbs.
Another observation is that there are a lot more midrange Western cars on the streets. From what I remember last time it was mainly Ladas and Volgas, with Western cars usually being high end Audis, Mercs and BMWs. Now there are plenty of Skodas, Volvos, Fords and other ‘normal’ stuff. My taxi this morning was a Volga. It had no rear seatbelts at all, of course, but somehow I find that less annoying than the many taxis I’ve been in places like Morocco and Turkey where the cars have seatbelts, but no clips, or the seatbelts are helpfully pinned back out of use behind the rear seats.

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