Bolshoi in Russia: Driving like it is the last time ever. It could just be.

Greetings from Moscow! Bolshoi in Russia is my variation on Big in Japan. (Bolshoi means “Big” in Russian. Get it?) Stay tuned for my live dispatches from Russia this week.

A few things to know before driving a car in Russia: avoid it if you can. The traffic is terrible. I suppose anytime you have a country where half the people own fast, luxury cars and the other half owns piece-of-junk Ladas, it’s not a good set up. They have to somehow share the same roads, you know.

The funny thing about driving in Moscow is that you have to know exactly where you are going. The city is filled with one-way highways which do not give you many opportunities to turn around if you end up going in the wrong direction. This is true for taxis, too. Know which direction you are going before you flag one. Not doing so could result in a lot of extra miles on the meter.

The other bizarre thing is that their highways are built so that they could be used as landing strips for aircraft, I’m told. Honestly, every highway here looks like it was built for tanks, not cars. It’s not that they have more lanes than US highways, it’s just that Russian highways seem extra wide because they do not use a median to protect you from on-coming traffic. People drive fast and they look like they are driving right into you. I took this photo from the car I was in, praying to God for no head-on collisions.

Onto more driving tidbits. Check out these cars.

Painting kitchy images on one’s car is a Russian specialty. Apparently, it’s popular mainly because you get a discount on your car insurance if you “mark” your car with, say, a big wildlife theme. Car theft is very common here.

You see wildlife images, Andy Warhol pictures, and even entire city skylines painted on people’s cars. I guess it makes sense, in a weird kind of way. Who would want to steal that?

From Russia, with love.