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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Globetrotting




Travelling the world has never been easier. From the clamorous markets of Vietnam to the quiet haven of a Tatar mosque, from African barber's shops to Indian national heritage, from Japanese sushi bars to Latin American salsa clubs -- the whole world lies within Moscow's outer ring road. Forget the 80 days to circumnavigate the world. With half a dozen metro tokens in your pocket, you can see five continents in 24 hours. If only Phileas Fogg had lived in Moscow.


04:19. Paveletsky to Tatarstan


Ababukar Mutsolgov is late for fadzhr, the first Moslem service of the day. He reverses his BMW into the yard at high speed, removes his trainers and sinks into the carpet inside the Historical Mosque in silent prayer.


"I usually come to the evening service," says Mutsolgov, who left Ingushetia four years ago to set up in Moscow selling medicines. "But today is my birthday."


Built in 1828, the Historical Mosque was a present from Muscovites to the hundreds of Tatars who helped to defend the Russian capital from Napoleon's marauding army. "It is the oldest mosque in Moscow," says Ali Velitov, the assistant to the imam, who looks after the building. "In 1937, it was closed during Stalin's clampdown on religion. First they turned it into a military headquarters and then a printing press. But in 1991, with financial help from Saudi Arabia, it was reopened."


As the dawn begins to break over Paveletsky Vokzal, Mutsolgov climbs back behind the wheel. "I hope today will be a good day," he says. "Inshallah."


08:00. VDNKh to China


Most of the residents of this Chinese hostel in Moscow's northern suburbs have already left for the day. "The majority of them work at VDNKh [exhibition center] selling leather jackets and jeans shipped over from China," said Alexei, the guard who sits at the entrance all day watching cartoons. "But there is a shop on the fifth floor where they sell noodles and rice."


The dark stone staircase, a broken lightbulb on every other floor, has been hung with silk hangings and pictures of giant pandas. On the fifth floor, one of the rooms off the narrow corridor has its door standing open.


Outside, a Chinese lantern hangs above 30 black suitcases in descending order, the largest the size of a dog kennel, the smallest just big enough to hold a box of matches. Inside, the shelves lining every wall bulge with brown-paper packets of prawn crackers, mysterious bottles full of dark red liquid and giant sacks of rice. There is a warm smell of soup coming from the tiny kitchen next door.


The beautiful Chinese girl who runs the shop speaks no Russian. "Most of them don't," said Alexei. "They mind their own business, and we mind ours."


11:30. Yugo-Zapadnaya to Nigeria


Viktor Madubuko, better known as Mr. Toks, draws back the white curtain in his hairdressing salon. "On Tuesday, when the government license comes through, this will be the manicure and pedicure room," he says.


Madubuko has been in Moscow for five years. He studies civil law at the Russian University of Friendship in Moscow's southwest, but when he isn't reading about land codes, he spends his time at the barbershop he set up in 1993.


"We do tints, dreads, plaits, relaxing," says Madubuko over the sound of Bob Marley and the Wailers. "And we do Russian haircuts too."


Last month, Madubuko and his team won second prize in the first Moscow Hair Design championship. When Madubuko graduates next month, he says he will most likely stay in Moscow.


"Last year, I did a course in New York in hairstyling, relaxing creams and cosmetics," he says. "I think I will be here for a while yet." 14:00. Dmitrovskaya to Vietnam


The Russian customer drumming his fingers on the cash desk says he needs advice. Fam Chong Tkhieu stops ladling noodles into bowls to listen. "It's rather important," says the Russian. "When I buy soy sauce, should I get the Korean kind or the Taiwanese?"


By day, Tkhieu's cafe serves Southeast Asian fare to the hundreds of shoppers who come to the clothes bazaar near Dmitrovskaya metro station. By night, the stalls come down, and the market turns back into a hostel for 1,600 Vietnamese. Most of them came to Moscow in the 1980s, when the Soviet Union was offering employment in the ZiL car factory.


Only half of Tkhieu's customers are Vietnamese. "The other half are Russians who love the taste of my cooking," he said. His extensive menu offers khoai tay dui ga, or fried potatoes with chicken, thit nuong voi khoai tay huao com, or kebabs and rice, and bakh bao, or bubliki.


He also sells rice and meat parcels, wrapped in leaves and tied with string, which he boils for 12 hours and serves on Vietnamese national holidays. "But for some reason, the Russians haven't yet acquired a taste for them," he sighed.


17:00. Prospekt Mira to Japan


The Japanese community in Moscow has been coming to Japro in hordes ever since it opened in 1992. But now, about 60 percent of the Japanese supermarket's customers are Russian.


"That's New Russian," says Ai Otsuki, the deputy general director of the store. "They love Japanese food. They buy sea cabbage and Japanese rice and all the ingredients for sushi, not to mention the chinaware and traditional dolls to decorate their homes."


It all comes down to iodine, she said. Russians, desperate not to suffer from iodine deficiency and painful bouts of goiter, are flocking to the store to get their seaweed fix, which contains high levels of the mineral.


The store is currently out of nori, the dried seaweed sheets used to wrap sushi. But as soon as the container arrives from Japan after the holiday season, the Russians will be back. In the meantime, they can enjoy as much nakitori, tempura and miso soup as their swanlike necks will allow at the Saporo restaurant next door.


19:00. MGU to India


Halfway down Lomonosovsky Prospekt on the way to Moscow State University, two statues stand unobtrusively on either side of the road. The first is a monument to Mahatma Gandhi -- the prominent politician, philosopher, leader of the national freedom movement and an inspiration to the Indian nation, according to the plaque on his right. His bronze feet are bare, and his slender body, dressed only in a dhoti and shawl, leans almost imperceptibly on a cane.


Opposite him stands former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who established closer relations with the Soviet Union in a bid to curb the long-standing conflict between India and neighboring Pakistan.


The children inline-skating at her feet are oblivious to the import of the statues. "I think she was some sort of communist," says Oksana, 14, whose jacket hangs from one of Indira Gandhi's toes. "They built the statue because she helped our country. And so that we have somewhere to practice stunts!"


21:00. Neglinnaya to Uzbekistan


Anvar Makhmudov insists that he serves the only real lepyoshki in Moscow. "It's our oven," he explains, indicating the giant clay ball full of burning coals. One side has been cut away so that the baker can press the soft dough onto the walls of the oven, where it turns into Uzbekistan's most famous bread.


Uzbek cuisine at the Beloye Solntse Pustiny (or White Sun of the Desert) restaurant isn't quite the real thing. "We've had to modify the taste to suit the Russian palate," says Makhmudov, "although the plov is almost exactly the same as you would get in Tashkent."But the four Russians at the center table, their backsides sunk into the crimson silk cushions, were at a loss to know what to order. "I think we'll just have the pelmeny," said the one with gold teeth.


23:00. Timiryazevskaya to South America


It is an unlikely place for a salsa bar. But that doesn't stop Peruvian Gonzalo Laso trekking out to the concrete colossus on the way to the northern wastelands every Saturday night to shake his bones.


The ground floor of the Mezhdunarodnaya Hotel has been converted into a Latin American oasis, where girls in sombreros and plunging necklines serve pinacoladas and tequila sunrises. For two hours, hopeful Jos?s can limber up with a professional salsa instructor before the disco is opened up to the general public.


"It is best when they have live bands," said Laso, 28, who prides himself on his mincing merengue. "Russian girls don't dance too badly," he said, "but they should definitely leave the lambada to the specialists."