In Russia, you need a specific document to enter many places. If you go to the university or to your office for example, you have to show, most of the time, a paper named Propusk that allows you to get in. This is quite normal, even if it’s a bit more extended than in France.
What is more unusual for me is that you need this document to enter the city centre of Moscow! Of course not all the time but during the celebrations in May, I couldn’t access the streets I wanted to go to, lacking this precious paper! For the rehearsals of the 9th May’s parade many streets were closed during five half-days!! 4 half days for the rehearsals of the parade and the last one for the parade itself. The Red Square was closed almost all the time from the 1st till the 9th of May. So to get in the city centre, you needed a special “propusk”!
I think most of the newcomers in Moscow are surprised that a whole part of the city can be closed so often and so easily. In France when a road is closed, there are secondary itinerary planned for cars and usually pedestrians can always go through. In Moscow (and I guess in Russia) there are no such plans. It’s closed, that’s it! You have to find another way yourself (also for pedestrians) and sometimes you simply can’t reach the place you want to go, you have to wait till they reopen the road. This fact is very representative of the Russian administration mentality, they do what they have to do and they don’t take into consideration the consequences for their fellow citizens! It looks quite rude for non-Russian and it’s one of the things that you might hate about living in Moscow.
Even tough it was my second 9th of May celebrations, I wasn’t very careful to the fact some parts of the city were closed and I got tricked two times. The first time, the 5th of May, I had to meet with some friends in Mayakovskaya, I was a little early so I decided to go by foot part of the way. I stopped at Kitai-gorod and from there I was told that I couldn’t get anyway near Mayakovskaya by foot, and that I had to take the metro again. Cost of the operation a metro ticket and half an hour, the time to try to find another way that doesn’t exist!!
The second time I got tricked, this time with friends, was on the 9th of May, we wanted to go see the fireworks from “Vorobiovie gori”, one of the best view points of Moscow. We had the choice to stop at the metro station “Vorobiovie gori” or “Universitet”. Despite the advices of a Russian friend who told us to stop at “Universitet” because the first one was crowded, we chose the other option. The fact that there are a lot of people doesn’t bother me! But what I must have understood was that because it was crowded, it was impossible to get to the view point directly and that policemen would make us take another path. We reached the wanted place in 40 minutes instead of 15 (using the direct way) and almost missed the beginning of the fireworks!
You get used to it of course, but here are some tips to (try to) avoid getting tricked. Look on Internet first for information and try to go to the closest metro station of the place you want to go. If you hesitate between two, ask your Russian friends for advises, they are already used to it! And remember, sometimes you just can’t go to the wanted place of the city…