The why, what, how did we end up in Moscow and what did we think about going to Russia in the first place?
Honestly, we had lot’s of thoughts and ambivalence going to Russia. I mean all the anti- gay awful laws, homophobic violence and other strange idea’s of human rights and the trouble going on with Ukraine to mention a few but also consider all the history combined with the news we get in Sweden about this huge country isn’t exactly happy, good or fun at all. But what would have happen if we boycotted the whole trip? Nothing. I mean come on we’re not Lady Gaga or Obama! At least now we live to tell our story.
We where also curious – there must be more than what meets the eye even tough we don’t agree with the regime of the country. People are mostly like people – all over the world – right?!
Our friend Jennifer from Bag-All.com had somehow got connected with a really fun, cool and creative magazine called Season Project, based in Moscow. Jennifer now lives in NYC and she recommended Nastasia From Season’s to contact med when they got to Stockholm. Well, Nastasia and Geanie came to do a house tour at my place (it’s now printed in their magazine as seen above) in February and we just clicked. They where super cool and fun and we had a short but very good time. And I kept on telling them how I now wanted to go to Moscow someday and if I would go could they help me? I just had an idea that Moscow is one of those places that would be much more fun knowing someone. Well I guess most places are but you know Moscow with 15 million official (but they think more likely 18 million) residents and with still lot’s of never been heard of places would be better with a street smart know-it-all that lives there. We talked about it, they went back home and I kind of forgot about it.
A couple of months later I got a mail from Nastasia with the title – Welcome to Moscow! I was invited to give a talk and workshop in Moscow. The Seasons Magazine have a Design Festival every spring – Called Seasons Subbotnik Festival. Subbotnik used to be some sort of Spring Cleanse – like when all Russians came together and planted, painted and fixed stuff after the winter. The magazine has it’s headquarters on the ground of an old perfume factory Flacon. There are now all kinds of shops and work spaces for creative people. Seasons doesn’t only produce the magazine from there they also give lessons in drawing, painting, work shops for kids etc. all year around. So me and Jenny went – above she is pointing at the big festival posters – it’s says something about Swedish crazy persons giving talks. And we gave talks, had workshops and went to peoples homes so that Jenny could photograph them – we will show them soon here on the blog.
Also invited and giving talks where very talented Alexis Holmqvist & Cristiano Pigazzini from Note Design studio & Frida Eriksson from Furniture. Cristiano and Jenny thought it was the worst idea ever – jumping on top of the roof… But I just can’t help myself. But as you can see I’m not jumping- I’m flying!
Happy people listening to our talks. It was weird being translated with an interpreter after each sentence but I think it worked out great.
The What did we think:
Well after meeting all these lovely people and experiencing everything that we now have, we must say that it was in a way nothing like we thought. We are aware that we hung out with a minority of Russians, creative people who looks, acts and thinks like much like us. And going to some parts of Moscow was like parts of New York. The thing is that we had been so warned about many things. Things that people normally warned about before knowing anything. That it wasn’t safe on the streets, that the credit cards would get skimmed all the time, that people wasn’t friendly. I mean just read this report from the Tripadvisor site. We thought the police & all the stately affairs would be much more present in the daily life but somehow it felt very far away. The city was also much more colorful than we thought and the food was great. And for a Swede it wasn’t that expensive. But without our Russian friends as guides I guess it would have been harder to see and enjoy the town. It feels like there is a lot of things happening. And about politics – it seems that no – they are not totally happy but at least right now there is a better way of living for many people than in a long time and also somewhat stable which most people truly appreciate. And we totally get that.
Here they are – our fantastic Moskowitsi crew. When Jenny was taking her photos our lovely friends just hung out. We are amazed over the way that they took care of us. And how they took care of each other. So much love! Thank you so much!
After lunch Chocolate cake and milk! And Yes of course coffee for Jenny.
Go and see this city yourselves! We’re doing a best of Moscow list soon. Contact someone from there and let them guide you.
And keep an open mind. Always!
Isabelle & Jenny
Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.
Thank you for a colourful and inspiring post!
I grew up in the Eastern part of Germany, Russian was my first foreign language and I so much love the soft and melodious sound of it. For many of us (in the absence of freedom to travel) Moscow was our New York. Those thrilling moments when someone brought us Alyënka chocolate, colourful children books or those giant tulle hairbows bought at GUM. Reading your post truly brings back some childhood memories…
Despite the political situation, Russia has always been and still is a fascinating melting pot for art and culture. Your post makes me want to pack my suitcase immediately to spend a week or two on the banks of the Moskva river.
Thank you for sharing!
Juliane, thank you for sharing. I want to know so much of how it was for you growing up. I never really thought about Russian as a beautiful language before going there like I didn’t think much about Russia and excuse my ignorance have been thinking much about how it was in the eastern parts of Germany or Russia. It’s like all the focus here always is on Usa or maybe Thailand. Like we learned all about it in school but then never thought about it again. Very interesting. Than you!! xx Isabelle
Oh wow, That’s really interesting, I would love to go to Moscow! Definitely would have had the same sense of trepidation as you though. Can’t wait to read your best of list :) Zoe
Zoe – Go! I truly recommend it! And I’m happy you understood what I meant with the text!
I think you truly have a gift of telling stories in a simple, honest and very real way. Also, Isabelle, you have the incredible ability to jump like there is an invisible trampoline under you!
Thank you Tatiana! and the jumping – well as you can see I practice A LOT!! ;-)
It’s interesting to read your experience about Moscow.
Photo of chocolate tablets made me smile because I framed one (only the paper, not the chocolate…) on the wall of my kitchen (a friend went to Moscow last year and brought me the same chocolate).
And I thought the packaging was better than chocolate …. ;)
Thanks Elsa! And you know I totally agree the chocolate looks way better than i tastes! I think my kids ate them all and unfortenently trew the papaer in the bin.
You know, when I first saw the posts about going to Moscow, I was a bit surprised. I thought, “Oh, ok… this is interesting timing. How do I feel about this? Do I even have a right to make a judgment call about the travel choices of a foreign website that I read (for free)?!” I ended up being really glad to see the pictures and hear your perspectives. I’ve always been interested in Russia — I’ve wanted to take the Trans-Siberian Railroad — but don’t feel comfortable enough to visit quite yet so this is welcome and a taste of something different than what the media presents. :-)
I also thought about the years I had lived in Europe when George W. Bush was president of the US, where I live and am proud to be from after being ashamed for many years. As we know, the US — like Russia — is a country known for flexing its muscle and invading other countries in the name of “democracy,” etc.
Unfortunately, the imperialism continues but the Bush years were especially bad for transatlantic relations. While living abroad then, it always made me feel bad to hear people immediately disparage my home country rather than first get to know me as a person. And then to please see me as a different perspective rather than some exception to their stereotype.
Indeed, there’s a certain ignorance that even very liberal people can have and I certainly know I’ve had to improve myself in this regard. The people bringing about positive change in difficult situations are usually those on the inside, and validation and support from allies outside is important — and both sides have a lot to learn. And I loved learning from friends and acquaintances from eastern Europe (former GDR, Russia, Bulgaria, Albania, etc.) what life was REALLY like “back then” and now. :-) (Btw, thanks, Juliane, for your comment!)
Ultimately, that’s how I ended up viewing your visit, as a chance for two sides to share and then to share again with outsiders — even before this post — and am extra grateful for not only the pictures but also the chance to think.
P.S. As an American with roots in NY, I’m frankly tired of seeing Brooklyn be the gold standard for cool these days. Sure, Brooklyn is great but seeing design in Moscow (or Skåne or Dalarna for the matter ;-) is way more awesome, which is exactly why I read this blog. Thanks!
Oh Lena – I hope you relaize how much your comment mean to me! Thank you! This is what I truly love about blogging – sharing thoughts and ideas like this. And I get you! I think that the ignorence or the prejudgements are so far etched in our genes some how that for me at least they pop even though I know they are wrong. And I love hearing about how other people think and react with these things. And we will still have them but I think it’s so important to keep on challenging them. And if you think about boycotting things – I heard that it’s way better to speak op about things than simply ignore them… Lots of love!! Isabelle
[…] year I went to Moscow to do a talk & workshop like I was telling about the other day. Jenny tagged along and we ended up doing a piece about […]