< SWITCH ME >

With its women repeatedly listed on rankings of the world's most beautiful women, its history of prostitution and the stereotypical image of Eastern European women, Russia, as a country, is a symbol for sex itself - and that is the first half of our S-Snapshot this issue. In a place where sex seems to be all around, love becomes the more exotic concept of the two. How sweet it is then, to find a tree of love amidst all the stories of strip bars and "tochkas" in Moscow. The Moscow Love Tree is the second half of the story.

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Photo: Qlis (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Padlock tree of love on a bridge in Moscow

It is not fair to say that everything is about sex in Moscow. Of course there are many other sides to this metropolis, with its almost 12 million inhabitants. History, politics, art, ballet. But a lot does orbit around sex, too. The Moscow News picked up the results of a survey carried out by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which revealed that on average, Russian women have sex 12.7 times a month, which makes them the most sexually active women in Eastern Europe. Their partners should count themselves lucky, as Russian women time and time again rank as one of the world's most beautiful nationalities.

Alexander, 23, lives and works in Moscow. "For an ex-pat, Moscow is all about sex! You see "luxury wives" everywhere in Moscow, slim, wearing fur and "perfected" with plastic surgery, standing next to their rich, old husbands. And if you go to the really exclusive, trendy clubs, you have to spend insane amounts of money in order to get attention from women. Very often, there are topless female dancers in these clubs too, so it's close to impossible to have a night out without being reminded of sex."

Alexander admits there is much more to Moscow than sex, but says that his first impression of Moscow is what he calls an Eastern Sin City.

"Another peculiarity that I've only seen in Moscow is the concept of "sponsor girls". Girls offer certain services to men, anything from going with you to a cocktail party as your date, to being your bedroom bunny for a weekend. In return, they expect to be sponsored, which basically means that they want you to provide them with luxurious gifts: jewellery, travel, fancy dinners, cars. A friend of mine met a girl in a club, they were chatting all evening and at one point during the conversation she mentioned that she really loves the new iPad. He thought she was attractive and wanted to see her again, to which she agreed. When they met for their first date a few days later, the first thing she said when they met was 'where is my iPad?'

"Not everything is about sex in Moscow, but when it comes to the night life, it is safe to say that sex is the main ingredient of every encounter."

Bizarre as this may sound, when she found out that he hadn't bought her an iPad, she was devastated and burst into tears - not because she didn't get the gift, but because by not buying one for her, he had indicated that she was not attractive enough to spend money on. He didn't know she was a sponsor girl, but seeing how sad she was, he ended up spending the value of two iPads on champagne and oysters that night. She forgave him and ended up going home with him. Sure, not everything is about sex in Moscow, but when it comes to the night life, it is safe to say that sex is the main ingredient of every encounter."

KEEP YOUR LOVE LOCKED DOWN

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Photo: verygreen (CC BY 2.0)
St Basil's Cathedral, Moscow

So according to statistics, these gorgeous Russians get their fair share of hanky panky, and according to Alexander, the night life is tainted by money and sex. But this is only one side of Moscow. Romance is another. Sweetly enough, Moscovites have a very romantic way of cementing their love for each other. On the Luzhkov bridge in the centre of this enormous capital city, the global trend of love padlocks has grown roots - in the form of a padlock tree, symbolising love and all the good things that come with it, be it sex, marriage or children.

The love padlock epidemic is not uniquely Russian, in fact, love locks can be found in cities all over the world, from Paris and Rome, to Riga and Pécs, supposedly making an entrance to Europe in the early 2000s. In Moscow, lovers engrave their names to the padlocks and throw the key into the river, a symbolic act to show that their love is ever-lasting.

"When daylight breaks, it is nice to be reminded of all the beauty in Moscow, like when you stand on the Red Square looking at the impressive St Basil's Cathedral. The love tree on Luzhkov bridge is another of these places, although much smaller in size, it is a great symbol of beauty and love," says Alexander.

Cover photo: absorbb (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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