|Moscow nightlife is, um ... legend|
I gathered a buddy from the hostel and we headed to a bar halfway between our hostel and Red Square on the main drag called Pokrova. Moscow is actually pretty easy to navigate: it's laid out in a series of concentric rings with Red Square in the very center. Pretty much anything that is interesting is within the center ring, so that makes things easy. The metro runs around the center ring and a few lines criss cross through it along the main streets. In other words, it was a piece of cake to get from our hostel to the bar, a mere 2 stops.
We walked in, sat at a table and ordered some beers. Across the room were two cute girls who gave us a look. Now, I have to admit, with my beard and long hair, I either looked like an Eastern Orthodox priest or a homeless man. I mean, compared to the standard issue Russian buzz-cut I could have been Gandalf.
After our second beer, the two girls came over and sat down.
"You speak English? Where are you from?" said the brunette with long hair and highlights.
|Good to see locals are not frightened by the beard|
We put them down. It was actually quite sweet, with a strong black licorice taste. And... wow. Very strong. A few drinks later, funky chicken dance restored, I tried to find the brunette on the dance floor. Instead I found myself face-to-face with a stunning tall high-heeled blonde (do I even have to say that anymore? High-heels are a given here). We started dancing. And danced some more. And things were looking promising when a large hand suddenly appeared on her shoulder. The hand belonged to a man with a face that could have just won the middle heavyweight on Ultimate Fighting Championship. He was perhaps in his late 40's, built like a tank, in a crisp soldier's uniform. But not just any uniform. Judging by all the bars and ribbons, this was a BFD. His face was twisted into a glare, which fell straight on me.
|And somehow I end up with General Orlov's girlfriend|
I popped out into the cool night air, and suddenly felt very alone. It was very late and very dark. Garbage littered the street. Across the way a group of men stared at me. I walked faster, looking over my shoulder. The candy glow of St Basil's in the sun seemed like a distant memory. This was a different side of Moscow altogether. Then, up ahead, a golden glow appeared, with a crowd of party-goers lined up in front.
Never had I been so happy to stumble into a Makdonalds.
|It's funny how shots make you grow a fedora and red sunglasses|
The beating continued, with people continuing to walk by, and me frozen in indecision. It was terrible, seeing this man getting hurt and no one stepping in.
Then the spell was broken. Someone honked their horn. In a moment, all the passing drivers started honking. The three men looked up and realized the gig was up. They ran down the street, turned a corner and were gone just like that. The police would never find them.
I walked over to the man on the ground, but he was already up and walking away. Blood streamed down his face. And in a moment it was all over as if it never happened. Why he had been targeted no one would ever know.
My body was lit up like a Christmas tree, almost shaking. I walked back to the hostel, wondering what kind of place was Moscow. There were clearly gangs and mafia running around the city. And yet, there was no graffiti, anywhere. What an odd paradox. On the surface this an open welcoming capitalist society, teeming with gorgeous sights, dancing ballerinas, wonderful music, flower-filled gardens, glittering gold-domed churches and palaces. Hell, even the metro was a work of art. But yet, underneath it also felt alien. The hard-faced men all wore buzz-cuts and track suits. No one smiled or said hello in passing. There was an edge to the place, especially outside the main tourist areas.
I spent the next day seeing the sights, but also looking a bit closer at the people who lived here. But my poor little brain came up with no grand conclusions. And I've found by far the best way to meet locals is to meet them intoxicated and dancing on tabletops. So, that night, I decided to step it up and hit a big-time night club. I took the time to wet my eyebrows, brushed out all the knots in my mane, and even decided to comb my beard. Best not to take chances.