Being driven into Moscow and already trying to locate it in and against other European cities. My image of Russia has been so blurred by that sense of the otherness of communism, that I really didn’t expect it to feel so normal. Much like any large German or Eastern European city, but crossed with Nordic light and colours (ochres, sky blues, mint greens). Sprawling monumental neo-classical blocks, wide boulevards rattling with trams and trolley-buses. Cleaner and less shabby then Budapest. Hints of Instanbul (easy to forget that Russia has borders with the Baltic, with Europe, but also with Asia, China, Japan, the Artic.)
And then just when I was settling into a city like Berlin/Helsinki, we reached the hotel. Which for reasons that were not quite clear, seemed to be in the centre of a military barracks. It also has an interior with peculiar interests, fluctuating between an off-key attempt at bling –bronze statues, waterfalls and flounced curtains (by the lift) - art celebrating heroic aspects of the locality (some weird displays in the foyer); and grubby plush crimson and gilt chairs in the restaurant, oh and a grandfather clock that is also a fish-tank. So, of course, I love it.
Except for the mosquitoes.