What image do potential tourists have of Moscow? According to Moscow officials, it’s one of corruption, prostitution and the dark side of life. And it’s all the fault of the Lonely Planet Guide - the backpacker’s bible.
Today’s UK Guardian says Lonely Planet has been blasted on Russian TV for slagging Moscow, but hardly springs to its defence. I know my (borrowed) Lonely Planet guide to Moscow has a chapter on ‘Dangers and Annoyances’, but it runs just half a page in a 50 plus page section. If anything, the skinny on Sin City is understated. True, it warns against flatheads and xenophobic drunks but you’ll find these in any English pub.
So I was surprised when the Guardian article puts it all in perspective by adding some ‘Moscow Facts At A Glance’. Here you learn that ‘drive-by killings are common‘.
Really? How common is common? Some lengthy googling found no crime statistics to support this. It was fascinating to discover that more dead bodies turn up in Moscow (95) than missing persons (64). And that public drunks (3,922) outnumber dead bodies - assuming you can tell the difference. I thought I was on to something when Google matched the phrase exactly with: ‘drive-by killings are more common than butter’. Disappointing: this only linked to a detective novel I’d already read.
Finally, though, my patience was rewarded, and the whole rationale for the Guardian’s story came out. One wonders why it wasn’t correctly attributed to Pravda:
Open Season On CrowsSo there you have it. There is no point in ordering a balcony, street-facing room at the Ukraina or the Metropole. The drive-by excitement may fall short of the Guardian’s promise. And if a crow lands on your balcony it could be nasty.
Crow-killing as a popular movement of city bird hunters took shape in 2005. A few hundred crow killers shoot the birds in Moscow and vicinities. Most of the hunters are the well-off types who shoot out the windows of their cars. (Drive-by shooting.)
Just for good measure, I ran a last check on Virtual Tourist dot com. No eye-wtiness reports of drive-by killings there either but still a handy tip about prostitutes: Quote:
Moscow is crawling with ‘working girls’ and just because she doesn’t charge don’t mean she ain’t one’Virtual Tourist doesn’t explain how the visiting American woman came by this deep insight but certainly not from Lonely Planet, which is careful to point out that all prostitutes in Moscow are in Western Hotel lobbies. Of what use this is to backpackers, who can’t afford to sleep in a hotel lobby never mind the trimmings, isn’t clear. Or maybe it does explain why those on the Lonely Planet are lonely.
Quite why Moscow Tourist Officials picked a fight with Lonely Planet is also a mystery. Lonely Planeteers are a loyal clan and there is bound to be Backpacker Backlash. They might just all up and take their nits and thermos flasks to Prague or Kiev. Or was that the idea?
[composed and posted with ecto]