Welcome to our Soviet-era apartment in Aeroport, a northern suburb of Moscow. As you walked the 2 blocks from the Aeroport metro stop, you probably noticed that the whole street is lined with 5 – 8 storey apartment blocks, most of which have tiny shops along the ground floor. Our apartment block is 8 storeys high, and has 4 entrances. Each entrance has 32 apartments, 4 on each floor. We are at the very end of the block, on the corner of the street, and there is another similar apartment block next door, at right angles to ours. The 2 blocks are joined by a concrete slab on each of the 8 floors, half of which has been enclosed to become another ‘room’ in our apartment.
Housing in this area was built when Khrushchev was in power, in the late 1950s and early 1960s. They were built in a hurry and were only meant to last for a couple of decades, but here they still are, 50+ years later. They are known as ‘khrushchoby‘, after ‘trushchoby‘ (slums). The outside of our building is pretty depressing – shady, weed-infested gardens, graffiti on walls, rubbish on paths and when it rains the road and paths are awash, until the puddles evaporate.
To get into the building, you need a security key. The entry way is a small, dark, dank place. Walk up a short flight of crumbling terrazzo steps to catch the lift to the 5th floor, or continue walking up the steps (all 86 of them!) to our apartment. The lift is very slow and holds either 4 people, or 3 people, 2 backpacks and a large duffle bag. The only time we have used the lift was the day we arrived, and I guess we’ll use it again tomorrow when we leave. As you walk up the steps, you’ll notice the smell of stale cigarettes mixed with general decay. There are nearly always cigarette butts on the steps, and I suspect the smokers live on the 2nd and 3rd storeys as there usually aren’t any butts higher than that. You’ll also notice a couple of rubbish chutes on landings between floors. The one nearest to us has a long-handled shoe-horn for pushing rubbish bags further down the chute.
Each floor has 4 apartments, 2 on either side of the lift. As ours is at the corner of the building, we have windows looking out over the street and also over the ‘courtyard’ …. shady overgrown area where people park their cars on the paths. There are 2 hefty doors into the apartment – an outer, padded door that is key-locked from inside and outside, and another padded door that we lock from the inside plus there’s a chain on that one as well. Lots of security here, but we have only seen other people in the stairwell a couple of times, and hardly hear any noise from neighbours.
The actual apartment consists of a small lobby which houses the washing machine, a bathroom off the lobby, a small kitchen, one large room and an enclosed verandah. The kitchen and bathroom have been updated within the last 10 years, most (if not all) of the furniture is from Ikea, because how else does one get furniture up 86 steps if it doesn’t fit in the tiny lift? The kitchen and main room have old radiators under the window sills, and there is a more modern radiator in the enclosed verandah.The windows in the kitchen and main room have been replaced with aluminum-framed windows, but the original, rotting timber-framed windows remain in the verandah. Just going back to the washing machine for a sec, it’s only half the size of a normal front-loading machine – same width, but only 30cm deep. We can wash a couple of changes of clothes in it at a time.
The bathroom has hot and cold pipes in the corner, and an interesting tap arrangement where the same tap is used for the shower and the handbasin. The water pressure is good, and there’s plenty of hot water. The kitchen has a small table and 2 stools, a fridge, a gas stove and oven, plus a microwave. We have cooked a roast chicken & vegetables in the oven, and several meals on the stove. And now, it’s time for dinner …. pelmenyi filled meat dumplings and Russian beer that we buy in 1.5L plastic bottles!
This will be our last post for a few days. We’re catching the train tomorrow and will be offline until we get to Irkusk, on Lake Baikal, late on Sunday night.