Monday, February 14, 2011



Whenever I need to be driven anywhere in Moscow I always make sure I have snacks, water, and a good book, or a computer with me.  Even better I like to take a friend or two along to help  pass the hours that are sometimes spent in the car commuting.  A 25 mile commute can take as long as 4 hours, especially if it’s rush hour and it's snowing.  A simple trip to the store often turns into an all day event with hours of commute and hours of shopping, in just one store. 

We often share our drivers.  Since I share our car and driver with Brian I often go with my friend Shelly.  She has a van at her disposal all day because her husband has his own car and driver.  The van is also nice because then we have room enough for our groceries when we go grocery shopping.  Sometimes as many as four of us will go together, it makes the experience much more bearable.

Sometimes we loan our driver out to someone else if we’re not using him.  The drivers usually work full time for us so if we are not in need of a driver on certain day we will offer his service to someone else who needs him. Shelly is always very generous with her car and driver. We use him a lot for our YM and YW activities. Not everyone has drivers. Those who work for the church drive their own cars and some are not comfortable driving in Moscow.  Elke is comfortable driving their van and will often drive for us when we need to do something more local to Rosinka but she doesn’t care to drive in  Moscow if she can avoid it.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Most Russian drivers are very aggressive and need very little space between them and the next car (we/re talking a couple of inches).  I’m amazed at how fast they will drive within inches of other cars.  The same applies when parking cars.  They will find the smallest openings, make the car fit and it can face any direction.  The drivers are not courteous when it comes to letting you in and seem to have the ‘every man for himself’ mentality.

Parking in Russian can be very difficult and frustrating which is another reason why having a driver is so helpful.  During the Soviet Era very few people were allowed to buy cars.  When businesses and apartments were built they did not take into a account the need for parking because most everyone used public transportation.  There are hundreds of apartment buildings in Moscow with very little parking.  There are also no parking regulations in Moscow so people will park anywhere they can find space.

There are, on average, 1200 accidents a day in Moscow.  They are not usually serious; the traffic rarely gets going fast enough with the congested traffic.  But all these little accident add to the traffic problems.  When you are in an accident in Moscow you must not move your car AT ALL until the police arrive and investigate.  It doesn’t matter how many lanes of traffic you are affecting you cannot move.  I asked Alex how many accidents he had been involved in and he said 100 or more.  He does drive for a living but that’s still an extensive a number.  

 The police in Russia are notorious for their corruption and will pull you over for anything or for nothing at all.  They stand by the side of the road and wave their baton to pull you over.  In my first two months here I was in three different cars that were pulled over. The drivers had done nothing wrong and got out of the car to talk to the policeman.  They then ‘discretely’ give the officer 1000 rubles ($32) so they can go and not have to go to the police station.

I was talking to some Russian friends about driving here because we were considering getting a car to use for our local needs.  I mentioned that I would like to drive but that I didn’t like the idea of getting pulled over.  They told me that when a policeman has me come to his car it’s a good sign because it means he’s up for a bribe.  If the policeman doesn’t speak English I can call our driver and he can negotiate the amount for me over the phone.  They won’t do any negotiating if stay in my car because they’re afraid of being recorded.  They said that in Moscow everything and everyone has a price, you just have to decide if you’re willing to pay it.