When my housemates asked me what was different about Moscow, I actually found it pretty hard to answer – it’s a big developed city, and they’re all a bit the same, and the combination of Budapest a couple of years ago and Tblisi and Yerevan this year meant I’d kind of got over the post-Communist stuff. So beyond ‘well all the signs are in funny letters’ I was a bit stumped.
When I thought about it, though, the main thing I’m struggling to get my head around is the sheer scale of the city. A lot of the time you don’t notice – after all, if you just go from your apartment to the metro and then from the metro to work it doesn’t feel that big, and the metro is much faster than the London underground, so even going right to the outer ring doesn’t take that long (yes, I have done – to go to Ikea. So I’ve now shopped in Ikea in three countries. Oh yes.)
But the thing is, that Moscow is MASSIVE. At least 12 million people in the city itself, and 20 million if you count ‘greater Moscow’. And everything in the city is bigger than it is in London. The main roads aren’t 2 or 3 lanes each way, they’re 4 or 5 lanes each way. The buildings are a bit bigger – I live on the 12th floor, and I’m not in a big apartment block. And even in the centre of town, the metro stations are a really long way apart – but you don’t realise till you try and walk, because the scale makes them look close together on a map. The shopping centres are huge. The parks are huge. The monuments are huge.
Conclusion: Moscow is like London, but on growth hormones.