The first 36 hours in Moscow

Queues, melodies and guns – a first full day in Eurovision city 2009

I’ve had an interesting first 36 hours in the Sin City of Europe 2009.  Moscow is indeed a city of contrasts.

We arrived after a 6 hour journey from a sunny Birmingham, to a dark and unexpectedly warm Domodedovo airport.  We knew we had 75 minutes to make the last cheap express train into the city centre, but we were informed that due to a certain flu outbreak, the Ministry of Health had to have their way first.  This involved checking temperatures of random people on the plane, by inserting a probe into their ears.  As luck would have it, I was one of the lucky three on our plane.  So at least I know that I definitely don’t have swine flu, even if everyone else may have!  

Once through the rugby scrum of immigration, we managed to grab our cases and make the last cheap express train to the city centre with a minute to spare.  Then fortune smiled on us as made one of the last metro trains to our accommodation in the Tverskaya area of Moscow.  For the price we’re paying, it’s all nicely compact and bijou.

The Metro in this city is extremely efficient.  The trains come along about every 2 minutes, and once you know a little Cyrillic, it’s pretty much plain sailing, and very fast.  Sorting out our accreditation was another adventure.  We encountered a security guard who knew we didn’t speak Russian, and then proceeded to try and extort a bribe out of us.  Forty-five minutes later and with that all important accreditation badge around my neck, I was able to view the wonders of the press centre.  No 20 minute walk between press centre this year – the arena is at the end of the press area, a real bonus.

Many of the usual faces are here, and are quite happy with the set up.  Plus we’ve been given no end of promotional Belarussian ice creams and Curd Cake (which is an acquired taste).

But all the talk is who will win.  Sadly I missed the first day of rehearsals, but arguably the better songs were in this second half.  Among the highlights, Iceland came over well, although she was perhaps holding back a little.  FYR Macedonia’s song appears to be suited to the cavernous venue that is the Olympic Arena here, and may spring a surprise.  Finland was, unfortunately, a little disappointing.  But the acrobatics and pyrotechnics should see it through anyway.  Portugal’s pleasant song was performed really well, with a candy-stripes backdrop.  Bosnia’s song is well fancied, but may need some work on the camera direction.

With the rehearsals and press conferences over, we joined some friends for a bite to eat in the Arbat area.  Moo-moo (spelt My-My in Cyrillic) is a cheap buffet restaurant, where they pile the tasty food high.  So you can eat very well for 600 Roubles.

The highlight of the day came later.  We were discussing the day’s events in a friend’s 18th floor apartment, when we heard rumbling coming from below.  On closer inspection, the site of several dozen tanks in formation was not quite what we expected.  Due to the Victory Day celebrations on 9 May, they have to rehearse.  So 20 minutes of serious military hardware – tanks, personnel carriers, even inter-continental ballistic missiles made an interesting sight.  We thought we had seen it all, when an hour later they all came round again. 

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