Monday, July 14, 2008

A Cafe Culture in Moscow?

Yes, at least for the two months or so that it's warm enough in Russia's capital city to sit outside. According to this N.Y. Times article:
“Summer in Moscow is only two months,” [local resident] Nargis Gulyamova said. “We don’t often get a chance to be outside.”

Finding a glimpse of human-scale beauty — a patch of green in a courtyard, a 19th-century gargoyle — can be a challenge in this city of monumental architecture and busy construction sites, especially during the winter when no one wants to linger on the street.

. . . With the temperature hovering in the low 60s on Friday and heavy rainstorms rolling across the city, the outdoor cafes that have become a Moscow summer tradition, built with awnings and roofs for just such contingencies, did brisk business.

When it comes to enjoying the outdoors, Russians have always been adept at taking what they can get: sunbathing standing up beside frozen rivers or growing a year’s worth of vegetables at their country houses during the short, bright summers.

But outdoor cafes have taken on a special importance in Moscow, where over the last decade people have slowly colonized street spaces that once offered little in the way of coziness.

Cafes have filled in the architectural nooks and crannies away from the city’s wide avenues — behind apartment houses, in park buildings. And, like New Yorkers willing to squeeze into tiny cafe tables next to dry cleaners or even garbage cans, some Moscow diners happily sit outdoors next to 10-lane boulevards.

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