Before coming to Moscow, a friend of mine told me that it was quite an experience to visit the home of a Moscow resident. I’ve not had the chance to do that – to my chagrin – but the story had a theme that echos through Moscow. He said that when he arrived at the friend’s apartment building, it was horribly dilapidated on the outside. Inside, he was taken up a dark and discomforting stairwell to the apartment. When the door to the apartment opened, his mind filled with concern about the squalor he was worried surrounded his friend, the world inside resembled nothing of the world outside.
The apartment was at the very least, well kept, a beautifully furnished and quite painstakingly arranged and lovingly assembled apartment. Books, beautiful ornate decorations, and antique furniture adorned the place. It was a beauty inside with a deceptive decay on the outside.
My own experience, and that of my friends, is that you cannot judge the Moscow book by its cover. Some places look exquisite, but are mundane or even squalid on the inside. On the other hand, a friend of mine is moving to a hotel and his experience resembled exactly that of the friend mentioned earlier. What I take from all of this is the following: for whatever reason, be it due to the cultural transition or history, Moscow is a place you cannot judge by its cover. For all reasons, you have to go below the surface and experience it firsthand.