Capitalizing on Russia’s growing economy, Moscow is embracing cafe culture (weather permitting):
When it comes to enjoying the outdoors, Russians have always been adept at taking what they can get: sunbathing standing up beside frozen rivers or growing a year’s worth of vegetables at their country houses during the short, bright summers.
But outdoor cafes have taken on a special importance in Moscow, where over the last decade people have slowly colonized street spaces that once offered little in the way of coziness.
Cafes have filled in the architectural nooks and crannies away from the city’s wide avenues — behind apartment houses, in park buildings. And, like New Yorkers willing to squeeze into tiny cafe tables next to dry cleaners or even garbage cans, some Moscow diners happily sit outdoors next to 10-lane boulevards.
Every spring, restaurants and cafes hammer together wooden terraces that they call, in honor of their short window of operation, summer cafes.
Prices are not cheap; it is common to pay the equivalent of $4 to $8 for cappuccino. Yet popular chains like Shokoladnitsa, whose name is Russian for chocolate girl, and Kofe Haus offer an accessible treat to the growing class of urban professionals, like architects, accountants and designers, who cannot afford the luxury goods marketed to the richest Russians but have made a little extra money from the country’s oil-driven consumer boom.
And for those who have not made a little extra money? Well:
Outdoor cafes underline the growing gap between rich and poor. Nastya Fomina, who was smoking with four teenage friends at Prime Star, a deli-like cafe near the Kremlin, said it disturbed her when passers-by asked for money.
I wonder if she’s read the relevant Baudelaire (link should go to pages 52-3).