Mayor Sergey Sobyanin is essentially a Putin apparatchik, but he has assembled a staff of young reformers and paved the way for change in the city. Here, he attends a meeting with cyclists in Moscow. The city is building new bike paths across the Metropolis. – REUTERS
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Moscow was long in the hands of criminals and the nouveau riche. Today, Europe’s biggest metropolis is undergoing rapid change. It is becoming more open and more cosmopolitan, despite Putin’s nationalism.
Lebedev may be an eccentric, but he isn’t exaggerating when he talks about the Russian capital. Moscow has never been as modern and cosmopolitan as it is today. There is free WLAN in subway cars, parks, restaurants and cemeteries, and you can use your smartphone to pay for parking spaces without having to walk to a parking meter. When you drive away, the main traffic office calculates online the exact number of minutes you parked. If your car was there for 53 minutes, you pay for 53 minutes.
Dozens of streets are being converted into pedestrian zones, there are 300 automatic bike rental stations, and movies are shown on outdoor screens in the city’s parks, even after midnight. And Moscow is constantly setting new records. Last summer, for example, it overtook Paris and London with the total square footage of shopping malls.
Vibrant, Noisy and Booming
All of this is happening despite the economic crisis that has gripped the country, and despite the sanctions Western Europe and the United States have imposed in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine.
Moscow is vibrant, noisy and booming. Its newest landmark is “Moscow City,” a city within the city, located next to the government headquarters on the Moskva River, and visible from an airplane. The 374-meter (1,227-foot) Federation Tower, Europe’s tallest skyscraper, is almost finished. The building will feature a spa with a swimming pool on the 61st floor, an exclusive restaurant on the 65th floor and penthouse apartments with up to 750 square meters (8,072 square feet) of living space and breathtaking views of the vastness of Moscow.
The city is still seething at 2 a.m., and traffic never stops. People are sitting in restaurants that can hold their own with the gourmet temples of New York and Tokyo. The White Rabbit, for example, with renowned chef Vladimir Mukhin, was ranked 23rd among the world’s best restaurants last year.
He has been tasked with providing Moscow a new infrastructure. “We surveyed 60,000 people and asked them how they envisioned their future lives in the city,” he says, and now he is basing his work on the results. The subway system now serves up to nine million passengers a day, and the intervals between trains are often less than one minute. Moscow’s metro is considered the world’s most effective and attractive.
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