Despite What You May Think, Russians Drive Some Pretty Normal Cars

Car Culture

At least in Moscow.

I write this from a Moscow airport hotel room, the victim of a missed connecting flight to Seoul, South Korea for the 2019 Kia K900 media launch (read the full review here). I’ll get to my final destination. Eventually. But since I had some time to kill until my re-booked flight to the Korean capital, I took the train into the city, specifically to Red Square. I’ve always wanted to see this place, so I’ll consider my missed flight a happy accident. Taking the train was the only mode of transportation I considered, even though Uber and taxis were available.

But I’ve seen too many crazy Russian dash cam crash videos. I know what could potentially happen, and I really want to get to Seoul intact with all of me functioning normally. The train never sounded better. It was during that train ride when I began wondering what kind of cars I’d see in Moscow. Along the train route there was very little of interest to see, unless you count some ugly old buildings decorated with charred bricks and graffiti, trash floating in ditches, and a random goat. Welcome to Russia. Surely some weird, so terrible they’re actually great, Soviet-built Ladas would be waiting for me in glorious capital, dah? Net. Too many years ago than I care to remember, I studied in the former East Germany for a semester.

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Plenty of Ladas there, so why not here? As I exited the train station there were BMWs, Opels, Fords, and Hyundais. Literally every fifth vehicle was a black Mercedes-Benz. Not quite the Moscow I was expecting. There wasn’t even one guy walking around with a dead animal’s skin wrapped around his head (it is April, mind you). But okay, what if I ventured further into the city, towards Red Square. That’s when cars would get crappy and weird, right? Net again. There was more of the same and absolutely zero cars in the square itself. Aside from a few vendors selling leftover Russian Easter gifts, it was all tourists, like myself, on foot. Everything was so.... normal.

Lenin’s Tomb? He’s still permanently parked in there. Other famous sites like St. Basil’s Cathedral are stunning, but my brief time in Moscow wasn’t really what I expected it’d be. Am I disappointed? Not really. I was happy to see that, today, Russians have wisely ditched the horribly unsafe, death-will-arrive-at-any-moment Ladas of their parents and grandparents. Globalization is for the best, I guess. Red Square is insanely cool and about as Russian as you can get, save for the lack of Ladas, of course. It was surreal watching the news later in the day about further Western government and corporate hacking courtesy of the Kremlin (allegedly – ED, aka Russian censor), a massive complex I stood next to only hours earlier.

Vladimir, the current president – not the embalmed one – even gave me a friendly wave from his office window. The train ride back to the hotel was again, sadly, void of anything unusual, vehicular speaking. The random goat was gone, replaced by a random duck swimming in a puddle beside the tracks. Or perhaps it was an overflowed sewer? There’s no place like Russia. Dah.

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