Summer Snow & Do Svidaniya, Russia!

Moscow Travel Blog

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Kazan Cathedral, Red Square

Final day in Russia

Without being too graphic, I'll tell you that my toes are bloody stumps from walking so much! But I have bandaged them up, and taken to wearing my sandals with socks, to ease the pain. I walk with a limp, but it won't stop me from getting out and enjoying one last day in Moscow.

Food notes:
I tried to find a place selling the cabbage rolls, but ended up with something entirely different - GOULASH! It is sort of like beef stew - meat with potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and a sweet tomato sauce. And of course, I just had to have another bowl of borscht! Goulash and borscht - such a perfect last meal in Russia, don't you agree?

Summer snow
When I stepped out of the Moscow Metro station on the first day, I was shocked to see "snow" falling on Red Square! It has intrigued me ever since.

The delicate "snow flakes" come swirling out of the summer sky, wafting along sidewalks and piling up against doorways in "snow drifts." Children seem to love it. Tourists gawk and try to capture it with their cameras. (Usually unsuccessfully.)

But as you have guessed, it's not summer snow. In Cyrillic, it is spelled sort of like NyX, but in English it is closest to "pukh." Despite the gross-out spelling, it is not actually raining "puke." It is pronounced more like "pook." (Try to whisper it as you say it - almost as if you are trying to get the attention of a baby.)

What is it? Pukh is the fluff released by flowers of the poplar/cottonwood trees that seem to grow on every street in Moscow. It is incredibly delicate, almost like a ball of very fine spider silk. Remarkably, the puffy balls float by the millions across the city. The drift into eyes, noses, and morning cups of coffee. You can have an "afro" of Pukh in no time! It clogs drainage pipes and window screens and anything with an air filter. It is also blamed for allergies, asthma, and even fires. My nose has been draining since my first day.

Why does it happen? Well, Stalin ordered a face-lift for the capital just after WWII, which included campaign to plant thousands of poplar trees. In Soviet times, teams of city workers were sent out each year to trim the buds to prevent the invasion. But since 1990, the city government hasn't allocated any money for poplar pruning, so they've literally gone to seed.

And thus, for about two weeks each summer, a "blizzard" blankets Moscow in Pukh-y "snow." I just happened to be here at the right time this year to see the phenomenon.

Do Svidanya Russia!

 Now I say goodbye to Russia. With any luck, that is! I have been told that customs and immigration can be quite difficult when leaving this country. But more importantly, I am keeping my fingers crossed that the pre-arranged airport hotel will pick me up as was arranged. Wish me luck!

 The Troubles With Russia

As I almost predicted, the airport transfer from my Moscow hotel to the airport NEVER SHOWED UP! This, despite the fact that I had pre-arranged and paid ahead of time! I had to scramble to arrange an alternate - and then pay outrageous prices to get me there in time.

Now, that I am out of Russia, allow me a moment to gripe about one obvious problem - the total disregard for customer service. My experience with service workers in Russia was - without a doubt - the WORST I have ever seen in all of my travels. Hotel workers, restaurant workers, retail workers - just don't seem to give a damn. You can literally stand in front of a clerk or waitress, etc, and they will not even look up. And if you are expecting such things as "please" and "thank you" you can forget about it. Russia is not the right country for that, apparently.

Luckily, the rest of my journey out of Russia went very smoothly.

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Kazan Cathedral, Red Square
Kazan Cathedral, Red Square
photo by: eefab