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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

LEISURE: Muscovites See Bright Side of Dark Winter




If all you can see is black slush under your feet and gray skies over your head, listen to these Muscovites, who find charm and inspiration in Moscow's winter. But if you are a die-hard sun-worshiper, you'll also find company with Vladimir Pribylovsky, who somehow hopes to turn Russia into a subtropical country.


Yelena Pelevina, a fashion designer who creates bright colorful clothes of rags which sometimes bear images of Moscow:


I pay attention to places where the soul has rest and the eye rejoices -- the artist thinks with his eyes. One such place where all the futility disappears and you see Moscow as a whole is the Sparrow Hills. I love ancient monasteries such as Novodevichy and Donskoi. Recently my son Platon, who is a big philosopher and artist at 12, dragged me along for a ski trip around the lake near the Novodevichy. That's the place to think about love and the meaning of life.


Willy Melnikov-Storkvist, 35, photographer who specializes in urban pictures, and polyglot poet who claims to speak 87 languages:


From my very childhood I have hated summer. That goes without saying -- my father is an Icelander. All winter Moscow is great except for places where the old buildings have been gracelessly destroyed. My favorites are Kitai-Gorod, Ulitsa Maroseika, Ulitsa Solyanka and the Boulevard Ring. Small lanes around Ulitsa Sretenka have a nice homey feel. I love the only island on the Moscow River, not far from the British Embassy. These places help me find inner calm and give inspiration for poetry and pictures.


Nikita Zobov, 26, was riding a snowboard attached to a snowmobile driven by his girlfriend over the frozen Moscow River on a recent weekend in the dacha town of Nikolina Gora:


Snowmobiling has become incredibly popular now -- even [President Boris] Yeltsin rides it. We occasionally have races here. Don't worry -- the ice is very thick and nobody has fallen through yet. I think the snowmobile is a modern equivalent of a troika ride for Russians. The dogs run barking behind you and you whisk away with your girlfriend into the sunset.


Tatyana Skiba, 68, director of Moscow's felt boot, or valenki, factory:


On a weekend morning, my husband and I sometimes go for a walk in Neskuchny Sad, Sokolniki or Izmailovo parks. These parks remind me of real woods, especially when we come across a clearing where people feed squirrels and birds wintering in the city. My husband has been getting together regularly with his friends at Botanichesky Sad, where they play chess and dominos at the wooden tables. I came along once. It was a very cold and sunny day, a rare chance to wear valenki in the city. The snow was so bright and crunchy under our feet, and nearby a group of women danced and sang ditties to accordion music. It was so peaceful there, away from the traffic, and felt like good old Soviet life.


Victor Madubuku, 26, native Nigerian who has lived in Moscow for six years and owns two African barber shops here:


You might be surprised, but I actually enjoy skiing. If not for my girlfriend Sveta, who taught me how to ski five years ago, I would never have made myself do it. On the first day I was so cold, but the next time I dressed warmly and enjoyed it. Usually we walk from Smolenskaya, where we live, to Moscow [State] University, change there and ski for nearly two hours. There are so many trees near the university you forget that you're in the middle of a big city. For me, it's a romantic adventure; an essential Moscow winter experience.


Sergei Mityushin, 40, president of Telord Russian Naturists Association, a nudist group:


My favorite places in Moscow are related to my way of life. In summer it is definitely Serebryany Bor. In winter, some people keep going there to take a plunge in an ice-hole. ... but I prefer banyas and saunas. I would highly recommend the Sanduny -- not the luxury department but the first class. There is a chance you could sit on a nail, but the steam there is superior. You might say that it's all-season entertainment, but in winter it feels much more sharp, comfortable and refreshing at the same time, particularly when you come out to the cold from the steaming hot.


Tamara Ivanova, 55, taxi driver:


I love the place where I live, near the canal named after Moscow close to the metro Rechnoi Vokzal. The canal's left bank is almost a semi-island with trees, and people always have celebrations there. [Mayor Yury] Luzhkov has lighted all the parks -- it was scary to walk there before -- and there are always enough snack stalls. [Russian pagan carnival] Maslenitsa is coming soon, and there will be huge samovars, bliny and sleigh rides everywhere.


Valery Gerasimov, 54, deputy director of the Losiny Ostrov national park:


I love Losiny Ostrov. It's a unique place. I not only work but relax here. There are many parks in Moscow, but this is not just another park; this is real woods just five kilometers northeast of the Kremlin. It's Moscow's green lungs. It was the tsars' favorite hunting grounds starting from the 14th century. If you go skiing there, you have a chance to see traces of wild animals -- moose, boars, foxes and hares.


Nikolai Chernykh, 27, real estate agent:


[Open-air swimming pool] Chaika is the coolest place in Moscow. I have a membership and swim there every other day. The water is too warm, so I can't get very much of a workout, but I enjoy the atmosphere. There is a lot of steam coming out of the water, and it gives you an impression of swimming in a hot spring on Kamchatka or early morning in a river with heavy fog hovering over the surface. Most of the time I swim on my back staring up -- when it's dark, sometimes you can see the stars and the moon. The best is when it's snowing and snowflakes melt on your face.


Vladimir Pribylovsky, 42, leader of the Subtropical Russia movement conducting a tongue-in-cheek campaign to raise the average temperature in Russia up to 20 degrees Celsius and reduce the higherst temperature to 50 degrees.


All I do in winter is wait for summer to come. There are no places in Moscow that are worth the risk of freezing to death on the way there. I prefer to sit on my warm couch in front of the computer and protest against the bad weather -- mostly in writing, because it's too cold out on the street.