It just so happened that my pal and ex-housemate Luke was in Moscow on Friday night, so he gave me a call and I ventured out into the city to meet him and his pals for a bite to eat. The original plan was to eat at a place called Gogol near the Marriott Aurora, but that turned out to have some gig or possibly football going on, so we wandered off to find somewhere else.
Wandering around Moscow is strange. It's quite chaotic of course, and I'm getting used to that, but we came across some weirdness. There was an elephant in the street at one point, with lots of balloons. There was obviously a reason for it but there didn't seem to be a crowd or anything. Strange. Anyway, we went to a bar that was a favourite of Luke's friend Esther. I can't remember the name, but they served very sweet Russian 'champagne' and tasty food (although in rather small and randomly delivered portions). My suspicions about Russian customer service was confirmed throughout the meal. The waiter was a bit abrupt (stopping just short of being rude), and he warned us that his shift was finishing so we'd better pay up now (or words to that effect). Can't be missing his tip can he? It was an enjoyable evening though, and on the way back I had my first experience of a car home the way most Russians do it, i.e. sticking a thumb out and hopping in one of about 5 cars that instantly stop. For 500 rubles we took a very fast trip through Moscow in a knackered old Lada with a smashed windscreen and no seatbelts. The gearbox was also making alarming noises on every gear change - apparently it failed completely soon after I got dropped off at my hotel. Fantastic.
Today I met the others near the same spot and we had tea in a cafe before heading to the bus station on the Metro to see Luke off. Luke had forgotten to bring any rubles so I performed a handy currency exchange (I knew that carrying cash and not depending on my card had to be useful one day). They were lucky to get a relatively modern bus rather than one of the many Soviet-era black-smoke-spewing ones. It actually looked like it would make the six hour journey in one piece. We then wandered back to the Metro and I did a short tour of the grander stations... you know, the ones with the mosaics and chandeliers. They are indeed very grand, but it's not quite like all of the Metro stations are like that, as I had heard. Worth seeing though.
Now it is nearly 8pm, or 5pm GMT, so the England-whoever game must be on. People care less here now that the Ukraine are out, but it's actually quite nice to be away from all of the football hysteria. A quick check of the BBC website reveals that it is half time and 0-0. Good to keep up with these things in case I bump into another expat in the hotel who can't really talk about anything else!