Monday, 7 September 2009


I have tried hard not to mention the traffic here, but in the end you have to. There are truly terrible jams, especially on the massively wide ring roads which encircle the city (the boulevard ring, the second or garden ring and the ‘other’ more outer one which for some reason doesn’t seem to have a name). The driving is also almost all dreadful. Transport varies from bashed-up Ladas through to huge shiny black-windscreened 4 x4s, and nobody takes much notice of anyone else (the saving grace being that it against the law to sound your horn except in an emergency, so the chaos happens more quietly than, say, Italy). Cars break down or have accidents and are left abandoned by their drivers. People zigzag across lanes and refuse to let anyone in. Trams and trolley buses get knotted up. Cars are parked everywhere and anywhere. And because, as everyone knows, the traffic police are corrupt, many people buy their driving licences. In fact, it is hard to pass the test without a bribe, even if you try, so many people just don’t bother.

The other quaint aspect of this massive addition of cars to Moscow is the ongoing principle of waving down a private car for a lift. You just stand at the edge of the road and put your hand out, in a rather absent-minded fashion. Sooner or later someone will stop and a fare can be negotiated, usually around 200 - 300 roubles (4 – 6 GBP) depending on distance. Having experienced this a few times, the strange thing is that drivers never seem to know where they are going. This is partly to do with Moscow’s incredibly byzantine one-way system, but it also seems endemic to the arrangement, that things should take a long time and involve complication.

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