I just came back from a two day trip to Moscow where I was meeting some of my old friends by high school. I say “some” because most of my friends didn’t make it even though many were going to. At the time I went to the school I lived with my parents in Chukotka, Russia. It is a region in far east Russia, very close to Alaska. Sara Palin could probably see my town from her backyard :)
We met during the first day and then I went to my friend’s house for the night. He lives with his wife and a 2 y.o. son in a 2-bedroom apartment on the 9th floor of a high rise building in the northern Moscow suburbs. My friend is currently unemployed but soon after he got laid off he started a small motor oil distribution business which fairly quickly picked up and currently pays his bills. My friend’s wife doesn’t work.
A terrible accident happened during my visit. At the night I was staying with my friend he got a call from the town where his father-in-law lived. The police was on the other end and they said that the father-in-law died in his apartment. He lived alone and was 70 years old. This summer has been extremely hot in Russia and older people who don’t have air conditioning in their houses (which is probably around 99% of population) is susceptible to strokes and other types of heart malfunction. I suspect this could have been the cause of the death.
I felt uncomfortable staying with my friend after the news broke off, so I left as early next day as I could. The next day I met a couple more of my friends and spent the remainder of the day browsing the Red Square and Kremlin.
This was the first time I had been inside Kremlin walls. The complex wasn’t open to public when I was in Moscow last time. I also visited the Diamond Fund which is an exposition inside Kremlin featuring expensive gemstones and jewelry. The most remarkable item was the Shah Diamond which Russia got as a gift from a Persian Shah after Russian diplomat and writer Alexandr Griboyedov was murdered in Tehran in 1829 by a mob. A pass inside the Kremlin walls cost 350 rubels (around $12) and Diamond Fund ticket was 500 rubels (around $17). I wanted to visit the “Oruzheynaya Palata” armory but got too tired.
Moscow is a very expensive city. When I was meeting my friends we stopped by a few coffee places and I learned that coffee prices vary from $2 to $5 per cup of brewed Americana. A bottle of water at the train station cost me around $2 and the subway ticket was $1. At the restaurant I met my schoolmates the beer was around $6 per 0.5 liter mug (16.9 oz). Property prices are at New York’s level and cars are twice as expensive as they are in the US. I believe one needs to have at least the US level of income to be able to live in Moscow.