Last week I was asked what is my favorite place to go to in the Spring. My answer might seem frustratingly vague, but here it is: my favorite place to be in the Spring, in Moscow is…an outdoor cafe. It doesn’t matter where it’s located, or the kind of food it serves, or how good is the service. As long there’s fresh air, a seat and refreshments to be had, I’m there.
Spring in Moscow is fickle. Following this year’s record-breakingly warm February, early March saw temperatures rise up to +20C for several days in a row to the delight of just about everyone. Nature and people seemed to have awakened overnight, eager to shake the remnant grayness of Winter: warm rays gave every surface a golden tinge, bright blue skies played hosts to fluffy white clouds, sidewalk fences got their fresh coat of cheery green and yellow paint, and black puff coats were replaced with brightly-colored rain jackets. Just when everybody got excited about the prospect of an early Spring, the whole thing stalled out. In early April we were gifted with a snow shower after a snow shower. For the rest of the month morning temps hovered barely above freezing.
Yet, you could still feel the relentless changing of the seasons. Hours of sunshine brought comfort on chilly, windy days. Nighttime failed to claim even 8 hours. Loud chirping of the birds filled the air. Tree buds got full, then fuller, till they cracked and set free the tiny bright green leaves. Nature has awakened — and it was calling my name.
Like many Russians, I am borderline obsessed with “going out to nature,” year-round. Like most sane people, however, I choose to sit out most of the winter in the comfort of my warm apartment. Still, however pragmatic this voluntary confinement, with the first signs of Spring the call of the countryside rings particularly loud in my ears. Unfortunately, “nature”, while eternally enticing in spirit, happens to be least hospitable in November, March and April. In springtime, new greenery takes much longer to emerge outside of the country. The footpaths are muddy, the meadows — spongy and wet. Even without the cold and the snow, bareness of Winter persists through early May. So, city-bound I remain, if only for a couple more weeks.
Anticipating the likes of me — Muscovites more starved for the great outdoors than a great meal — any Moscow cafe that boasts a terrace, an open rooftop or at least a wide-enough sidewalk finally opens up these areas in mid-April.
It doesn’t matter that it’s still a bit too chilly to stay in one spot, or that sticky seeds from the nearby poplar tree risk permanently ruining my clothes. I feel such lightness and joy when I sit down to have my first outdoor pint of the season, even as my hands shiver holding it. I revel in the envious looks of the passersby rushing about their business — who wouldn’t want to trade places? I breathe in the crisp air, my mind filtering out the reminders of its urban surroundings, leaving only the musk of melted snow and the sweet notes of newborn leaves.
Spring is here.