Walk on the Wild Side

Moscow is a city of extremes — gaudy and sedate, sleazy and refined, the sort of place where you can spend $50 to get into a striptease club or $6 for the best seats at a concert in the Conservatory. The brashness of post-Soviet Moscow, combined with venal officials and long immigration lines at the airport, put off many first-time visitors. Don't let them. Moscow is one of the most unusual and atmospheric cities you will ever visit. You just need to get under its skin.

One way is to dump the guidebooks and read Mikhail Bulgakov's novel The...

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