EAT in Moscow:
Opulent is not enough to describe the Baccarat: There, you experience the successful fusion of crystal and design, of French cuisine and Russian influences, of ancient nobility and state-of-the-art interior. Baccara is well-known: It once was the manufactory of crystal chandeliers for the old Tsars. Today, there is lustre still, but money is made on crystal costume jewellery as well, a Russian Swarovski so to speak. And when Baccarat meets Philippe Starck, the result is a perfect combination of chic and elegant, of sparkling chandeliers and white designer furniture. The best of glamour is accompanied by the best of season meal from the kitchen. In between sparkling crystal and under luxurious stucco you enjoy Foie-Gras tarte flambée or sea snails, and when you are through with dinner in this glittering dreamland, a crystal aquarium awaits you on your way out. Only a fairy is missing to make the fairytale complete with the tip of her wand.
The Pushkin is as elegant as amber and as old as Moscow itself. If you come here you eat at a museum. High ceilings, pillars and carved wood provide the basis for an exquisite meal but there's more to it than that. The restaurant is packed with antiques that are well worth to take a closer look at. What's that? A 19th-century coffee pot? And that? A 19th-century bronze clock? And that over there? A ship cannon dating back to the Swedish War in 1806. And that's still only the beginning: At the Victorian Library you can browse through 18th-century first editions; the cellar once was a chemist's lab, and at the fireside lounge crystal chandeliers compete with golden wall decorations as far as their sparkle is concerned. Hungry already? The menu is of course made up of traditional ancient Moscow cuisine but there are French and Italian influences as well, surprising guests with Foie Gras and Tiramisu. Honey, however, reigns supreme here: A variety of 20 types of honey make it hard to choose. But those who manage to taste all of them through Champaign Breakfast can take them home.
Warwary is Barbarian. At least the restaurant translates Barbarians. However, the cuisine is far from wild; guests do not throw chicken bones and belching is probably just another taboo. The Warwary is Russia's first gourmet restaurant. The cuisine is as bold as its name, banning the usual dough buns from the plates. There's plain ice instead of fat, and there are small spheres tasting of Borscht instead of Borscht. Instead of brown bread you are served brown bread in liquid form. You've already guessed? And you are right: the Warwary is the figurehead of molecular cuisine. And this cuisine is somewhat different - it splits up food in its ingredients and serves something at the table that looks strange to us but tastes much better. The restaurant itself is a surprise as well: slightly decadent but friendly. While being noble, it is uncomplicated and does without five sets of forks and spoons. As refreshing as its atmosphere is, a gourmet dinner has its price. With eight courses at 120 euros, you best calculate the hourly rate yourself.
SIGHTS in Moscow:
The architecture alone enthrals all fans of space travel: The Cosmonaut Museum looks like a giant stream on which a rocket, at an altitude of 107 metres, is soaring into space. The whole monument is titanium-clad, sparkling in the sun. But don't worry: Once you are inside the white spots in front of your eyes will disappear again. Inside it becomes clear to you why the Russians are pros in the field of space travel. In honour of the first space flight by Gargarin the museum exhibits technology, history and personalities of Russian cosmonautics. The main hall features sculptures sunk into the floor. While they don't seem to make much sense they are beautiful anyway. Moon rock, perhaps? No, it's glass, for sure. But let's start our tour now. Here, the space suits from the sixties are exhibited and over there you see parts of Gargarin's landing capsule. If you pass Sputnik you see the moon robot Lunochod. A film documentary tells you the whole story. After all, Russia was not only the first to send a man into space but also the first dog. The dog Laika was the first living creature in space, however, she did not return. Belka and Strelka, who also undertook a trip, were luckier. They are exhibited at the museum today.
Lubyanka: Many Russians get goose bumps at the mention of this name. The KGB headquarters was once the venue of hundred-thousand tortures and those who survived the Stalinist terror were either executed or sent to a Gulag. The KGB Museum often tries to hide this fact, rather focusing on the strange side of espionage today. If you are interested in the Cold War, you will like this place. And don't worry: You won't disappear. Sticking to the principle of Glasnost Russia today is very eager to reveal to tourists anything that was top-secret before: bugs, for example. There are cameras in lighters, so we ask ourselves whether all Russian spies had to smoke in the past. The secret remains unanswered, so we continue to the coke cans with explosives and the loot that could be taken from the hated Americans. An American spacecraft is the main attraction of the museum. The KGB has long since resolved but the building has remained. Today Lubyanka is the seat of FSB, the Russian secret service. It was headed by Vladimir Putin for one year.
Lenin never wanted to be exhibited like that, but Stalin asserted himself: He knew how to attract the crowds and built the mausoleum, then still made of wood. As it decayed fast, a newer and larger tomb was built. Today, the mausoleum is made of dark-red granite, for eternity, so to speak. Also Lenin was prepared to last for ever: 12 scientists check his embalmed body twice a week. In Soviet times even a whole laboratory was occupied with the task to conserve Lenin. In the beginning, the dead man wore his uniform but times change and as Moscow is always en vogue in matters of fashion, the revolution leader changes his suit and tie every three years. That has its price: In order to maintain the mausoleum and Lenin, a private fund spends more than one million Euros per year. Conclusion: There can't be more cult about a dead man.
STAY in Moscow:
Cheap accommodation in Moscow? Well, there are not many options. You either reside in the centre at high prices, or you reside on the outskirts, which means one-hour travel to the sights and sleeping in the outdated ambience of Soviet times. We have found an alternative, something in between so to speak. The apartment New Arbat Pearl Suite is located close to the centre, it's newly furnished and rather cheap. Seen from outside the grey building offers nothing to get enthusiastic about but inside a surprise is waiting. The holiday apartment has everything you need: a washing machine, a fully equipped kitchen, bright and friendly furniture and a beautiful bath. But there is only one room, so forget about your friends and just come with your spouse. There's a supermarket just around the corner but if you feel like eating visit the district that comes next. The New Arbat Street is brimming with noble boutiques, casinos and pubs. One night at the apartment cost 149 Euros.
If you step into the hotel you wonder whether the rooms were furnished during the fitted-carpet era. Or is this en vogue again? You can't tell from the furniture as it is classical and of finest design, as new as stripped from the plastic cover only recently. And there are modern warm shades, there's underfloor heating in the marble baths and there are Bulgari amenities wherever you look. Being in line with tradition and therefore authentic is always en vogue, after all. But the hotel features state-of-the-art technology as well: remote controls for the DVD players, the flat-screens and the curtains. If you feel disconnected now, you luckily have W-Lan available, but if you get too confused just ask your butler! He will help you press the right button or plan the perfect day at the spa for you: hot-stone massage at 10:00, fitness centre at 11:00, rain shower at noon and fresh calorie uptake at the Restaurant Caviarterra thereafter. And don't miss enjoying the view of the Kremlin on the terrace - you won't need a butler for it.
Quite astonishing what hides behind the 19-century facade. Instead of redundant opulence the hotel impresses with apple trees. Inside, the hotel features avant-garde elements. While the colours of the rooms are rather masculine, stylish stools and designer lamps set colourful contrasts. The bathrooms are laid out in marble, there are accessories by Philippe Starck and the Loft Suite even features its own kitchenette. You don't need the latter though, not being able to compete with the international restaurant anyway. Here's our suggestion: Come for dinner in the evening as the restaurant will have a special surprise for you then alongside with Russian cuisine. In the evening, the blinds will go down and the apple trees will be projected onto the blinds. Our conclusion: With his minimalist style, the Canadian designer Raphael Shafir has created a boutique hotel of chrome and much colour, attracting a clientele with a preference for trendy styles. Double room from approx. 200 euros.
SHOPPING in Moscow:
We all know that people from Moscow are show-offs at times. But this deli tops it all, impressing above all with its stunning architecture. There is no time left for shopping. If you step into the store, you're almost crushed by Baroque: Imposing sculptures, powerful pillars and giant chandeliers dominate the main hall. Additionally, there are magnificent Art Nouveau elements and as much gold to make Scrooge McDuck green with envy. If you manage to tear your eyes away from the richly decorated ceiling, you will be overwhelmed by all the delicacies on offer at sales counters made of polished wood. How will you ever be able to get all that in your luggage? You won't, but even with prices above your annual salary it will be hard to resist the temptation. Here an aquarium with delicious fish, there a Russian-style gourmet sausage and exclusive vodka over there - the question is where to begin? The Jelissejew, after all, is not the usual supermarket but a first-class gourmet Mecca. Here's my tip: Bring many shopping bags along!
Have you also asked yourself already why everything costs three times as much in Moscow? Here's the answer: The store rents are as astronomical as the palm grease at the border. That's why designer stores have to sell at much higher prices if they want to make profit at all. Yet Russian fashion victims don't care: They want to buy whatever it costs - and now. To keep up-to-date they flock to the GUM department store, its location alone being quite impressive. Located in the immediate vicinity of the Red Square, the GUM offers luxury shopping in the purest sense. Those who have a shop here have made it, next to Armani, Jil Sander and Max Mara. Already when looking in the shop windows you are filled with wonder and awe. Inside, you get anything that is noble and exclusive: chronographs by Chaumet, leather by Ferragamo, jewellery by Dior. If you don't get bankrupt here, you're either a millionaire or a thief.
TSUM. Tsentralnyi Universalnyi Magazin. Sounds old-fashioned, but it's not. You only find the best of the best in this department store near the Bolshoi Theatre. In this sense, it's a big competition for the dignified GUM at the Red Square. In contrast to the latter, the TSUM is not a stringing together of single stores but a department store in the whole with various areas. On a surface of 60,000 square metres more than 1,000 brands are presented in the building which was designed by the known architect Roman Klein. No matter if it's Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, Roberto Cavalli, Dior or Jimmy Choo: all the big designer brands are to be found here, not surprising as shopping is the most popular leisure activity among Moscow ladies. If you're tired of clothes, shoes and fragrances you can have smaller plastic surgeries on the second floor. Or you buy some culinary treats in the 24-hour luxury supermarket on the ground floor. Or you have a drink in the Ice Vodka Kauffman Bar, the only ice bar in Moscow. Sa starowje!