When we flew in, seven and a half weeks ago, Moscow was still in the throes of winter. Playing fields that we walked past on the way to our classes were shrouded in a foot of snow, still. The sun set early and the fashion that people were flaunting was one of coats, leather or fur and tightly fit. When I went out on runs, I was dodging patches of ice.
The snow thawed, slowly, and after a few weeks we could explore with only a light layer, but the earth was still carpeted with dead grass. By our fifth week here, in the few days before we went to Petersburg, buds had appeared on still brown trees and grass was turning green, but spring still felt like a far-off dream.
View of Moscow in spring from the top floor of MGU’s main building. Owen Yager photo.
Over the five days when we were gone, though, spring hit with unbridled strength. Our train back from Petersburg arrived in the morning and, walking to our dorms from the nearest metro stop, I couldn’t stop smiling. I couldn’t see the birds that were singing through the burst of green that had erupted in the trees, and flower stalks were hinting at further explosions of colors.
I’ve spent a lot of time out in the city since then, marveling at the transformations wrought by spring. Flowers appeared all over the city, some through natural growth and many through careful plantings, abutting sidewalks in spirals of purple and white. Walking itself has taken on a new joy. I spent a Friday evening – the sun is setting late, now – strolling along the river, passing lovers sitting on the embankments and being passed by kids on skateboards and hockey players roller-blading to pass the days until ice sets in again, one of a thousand people. In Park Kultury (or Gorky Park) one of Moscow’s huge open spaces, a few days ago, I watched a fountain, lit up from beneath in rhythmically shifting colors, dance to a score of classical music. On one side of it, a column of public ping-pong tables was in use while people sat one the edges of the fountain and chatted softly.
Spring on MGU’s campus. Julia Braulick photo.
Walking through the city has been changed, too, by the new opening of buildings. Music tinkles from inside of windows that have been thrown open and sidewalks are covered in tables. They, crowned in coffees and salmon-covered plates, invite you into the cafes that they sit in front of, and its hard to say no. Looking at the people around those tables, too, the arrival of spring is clear. In the wealthy neighborhoods at the center of the city (a favorite of mine to explore has been Tsvetnoy) they sit leisurely, just as fashionable as they were in March but with designer t-shirts instead of designer jackets. Dogs, mostly ones that could fit in a pocket, join them with some frequency.
I heard, when I was at Carleton, about the heat that falls upon the city in midsummer. That will come eventually, maybe by the few days that we spend in Moscow after our return from Siberia. For now, though, I’m rejoicing in this full throated spring, spending long afternoons wandering aimlessly in the city and making the most of the last few days that we have here.