Bolshoi in Russia: No hot water for three weeks…makes you stronger

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.

One of the joys of life in Moscow in the summer is that they turn off hot water for up to three weeks for maintenance. The energy company does this every year. They switch off hot water in different areas of the city as they carry out hydraulic tests, repair work and replacement of pipelines, the English-language newspaper Moscow News reports.

Switching off hot water for a while is not too surprising. Many parts of Europe still do this, including the Czech Republic. In my district of Prague, we get our hot water switched off in July for about 4-6 days. We know about a month in advance, so it is pretty easy to deal (my trick – hit the gym or pool and take a shower there). But three weeks???

I see several problems with this concept. Moscow gets very, very hot in the summer.There is no air-conditioning in the subways and buses. I cannot not even imagine the way it would smell in public transportation (or any busy public places) after about a two-week period with no hot showers.

OK, you could argue that the locals are used to it and tourists have no right to complain. Still, imagine being a tourist and paying, say $200 for a room (and we are talking hostel quality here; remember Moscow truly is ridiculously expensive) and getting no hot water on top of everything else (such as the toilet not flushing, the shower reeking like somebody died in there, etc.) Oy! Then again, you would get a pretty good idea of what life in the Soviet Union was like. There is nothing that screams collectivism quite like a cold sponge bath!

If you are not looking for that kind of experience, and are planning a trip to Moscow in the summer (starting now through the end of August), make sure you check out the schedule for the annual hot water holiday for the district where you’ll be staying. If you read Russian, the schedule is here. (Or, at least call ahead and make absolutely sure your hotel heats it’s own water.)

From Russia, with love.