Wednesday, 21 April 2010

a city of yards

As the weather improves (this is an old photograph!) I have been increasingly taking shortcuts through the courtyards or dvors/ двора between buildings. These feel like a defining feature of Moscow; not just back gardens as in England, or central courtyards within blocks as in much of Europe, but a unruly set of confusingly linked spaces, flats, houses, factories, offices and misc. sheds interspersed with paths, tunnels through buildings, alleys, greenery, small parks and playgrounds and car-parking (of course).

It takes a bit of reconnoitering to work out how to cut through; the first time was at Christmas when a friend from London showed me how to shave the journey time of one of my 'standard' walks in half. I understand from a Russian colleague that taking these shortcuts has got harder as more and more new housing is fenced off into 'exclusive' enclaves. There is a also the problem of ownership and maintenance. Where I live, as already mentioned, the maintenance people are obviously paid in a way which means they are always looking for jobs (even when these don't really need doing) to justify their existence. But there are also places where nobody is doing anything, producing a patchwork of extreme neatness and relative squalor.

I like the yards. Makes for nicely random and unexpected walking, if and when you have the time to explore.

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