A Dispatch from Snowy Moscow

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GUM Department Store alight against an inky December sky

It’s February in Moscow and the snow is upon us. We’re currently in the middle of a two-day snowstorm, not that you’d know it from all the people out and about. Nothing stops Muscovites, especially not the weather. There is no such thing as a snow day here. This city is clearly not intimidated by winter.

From plows like these:

To shovels like these:

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Often I see a simpler version with two pieces of wood and a piece of flat metal between.

Here’s a little advice for surviving the Russian winter…

  1. Get outside whenever the sun dares to shine – no matter how cold the temperature.
  2. Have the right gear ready – what would I do without my Sorels?
  3. Cultivate a good group of friends – Happy Hours, book clubs, do what you will but always get out and about to socialize. Laughter keeps the grey away.
  4. Use a blue light everyday + take Vitamin D regularly, too.
  5. Hop a plane to the nearest sunshine whenever you have the chance. Professional development in Oman? Sign me up! A long weekend in Cyprus? I’m there! Those kind friends in Dubai? Prepare to find me on your doorstep! (Seriously, Ward and Leslie, any day now!)

In taking my own advice, I embraced a frozen but sunny day last week and walked the half hour through the forest to the metro station.

I am not kidding when I say nobody embraces winter like Muscovites! In the forest I found entire families on cross-country skis, mothers and daughters sharing sleds, and old couples strolling the seemingly endless paths with no particular place to go. And it was 15F out! Everyone is bundled, appreciating the beauty of the forest after a snowfall. It was a gorgeous and peaceful walk, I will give them that.

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Pokrovskoye-Streshnevo Forest

Another fun winter activity in Moscow is the theater. Ballet, folk dance, musicals – Moscow has it all. I had the chance to take in a show by the Igor Moiseyev Ballet Company recently and it was incredible. Igor was evidently the inventor of something called character dance, close to folk but more exaggerated. The bright colors and spirited dancers certainly lit up the stage. How high they could jump!

Fun tidbit – in Moscow you wear your boots to the theatre and switch into your nice shoes when you arrive. You check your boots and your coat together. The long coat check line after the performance is worth avoiding freezing toes and turned ankles outside!

Another must-do in Moscow this time of year is the Christmas Market down at Red Square. The neon lights of the carousel and the children’s shrieks of laughter light up the night (below and top, outside GUM department store).

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Festivus outside St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square

Of the many lessons I’ve learned here in Moscow, I think Kerouac captured it well when he said, “While looking for the light, you may suddenly be devoured by the darkness and find the true light.”

Take care and stay warm, everyone!