Wednesday, 25 April 2012

How to find a Moscow address

On my first day in Moscow I was told to go five stops on the tram from where I lived to find the school. The trouble was, once you got off the tram it was impossible to find out the names of the streets, because most of them didn't have signs, and the numbering system appeared to have been put together by someone who couldn't count. Without a map or internet on my phone, I was reduced to asking random passers-by:

Me: Excuse me. You don't happen to know, by any chance, where no. 24/35 K-- street is, do you? (polite questions in Russian are generally phrased as negatives, so rather than "could you tell me" it would be "couldn't you tell me" etc)
Local: There are a lot of streets round here with that name, so really, it could be anywhere.
Me: Oh.

Actually, as is almost always the case, the girl I stopped was incredible nice, and stayed with me whilst we asked a series of other people, none of whom knew either. After I'd recruited four people to my cause, we eventually found someone who had heard of the school. Guess where it was? Right across the street from where I was standing, of course. Ho hum. Sometimes I forget that I am supposed to be smarter than the average bear.

The reason I got confused is that Moscow uses a different method of building numbering from the UK. There is a similar system in Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia), where I once spent three increasingly frustrating hours trying to find a hotel, despite the fact that there are only two roads in the entire city. The problem, of course, is that there aren't REALLY only two roads in Ulaanbaatar, it's just that there are only two roads on the map (because these are the ones with names). To use a Moscow example, the address of my school is 24/35 K-- street. It is on a street corner, so it has two numbers, one for each road. BUT there are five other buildings which are also 24/35 K-- street, and most of them have multiple entrances. Even within one entrance there are often multiple businesses. Obviously, not all six buildings can be on the corner of two roads - they together cover an area roughly the size of a city block. So there are small roads criss-crossing the interior of this block. These, however, are not counted as roads and are not named on maps.

This system has two results. Firstly, distances between numbers on streets are much longer than you think. If you are at no. 27 and you need number 37, this is likely to be quite a walk, not just five houses down. Secondly, if you want to find an address, you need to know the street name and number, the building number, which entrance you need, and then the number of the apartment or business. Basically an address will not do - you need a description of how to find the place. Or alternatively Google maps, which knows everything.

Anyway, I am off to Tokyo for a wedding tomorrow, so I won't be updating for a few days. Moscow weather has finally caught up with the rest of the world, decided to skip spring entirely and go straight into summer. A couple of weeks ago the temperature jumped 15 degrees in one night, and has been 20 degrees or so every day since. Since this is almost exactly the same as the temperature in Tokyo at the moment, this is ideal for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment