STAY in Moscow:
Ararat Park Hyatt
Let's talk business: The Ararat Park Hyatt is the dream hotel for all those big on business. The location alone makes top managers' hearts leap. The hotel is located in the centre of the business district, close to the Kremlin and the Parliament. The clientele is thus defined, the rooms accordingly furnished with large desks. Apart from them, there's nothing that will distract you from your job. The rooms are large but dominated in office colours: brown and beige. Only the bathrooms are slightly more impressive. Some boast Italian marble, all of them Blaise-Mautin toiletries. There's underfloor heating and there are walk-in showers. Who wants to work at a desk then? Three telephones get you back to reality - time to turn on the W-Lan and to take a look at the morning paper. If that's a shock for you, you can hold a meeting with colleagues at your own living room, or stage an emergency meeting at the conference room. And if all of you are once again working round the clock, I recommend the Presidential Suite. 227 square metres offer ample space for you and your staff. Whoever still has energy left works out at the hotel-owned fitness centre or relaxes over Armenian specialties at the hotel's restaurant. Have fun with your job! Double room from approx. 615 euros per night.
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.
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.
SIGHTS in Moscow:
Moscow's most creative workshop accommodates all those that make art and fashion or want to learn making both. The Winzavod is definitely a place to be. In the past the red factory produced wine but now the visitors get intoxicated on the art shows. The Winzavod houses four renowned galleries, after all. Where once the glasses were refilled, you can experience Russian art today. Photos, videos, installations, multimedia, performances and sculptures invite you to a discovery tour. The site of 20,000 square metres offers ample space for any type of art. The galleries introduce young artists; a photographer's studio, an artist's studio, an advertising agency, an avant-garde boutique, a bookstore and an art café make the offer complete. And if you have seen enough artworks you should make a detour to Cara & Co: Here, shopaholics' cravings are satisfied by Ksubi, Tim Van Streenbergen and Paco Rabanne. And then we recommend a magazine, a CD, a perfumed candle and an espresso at the Café - you won't be disappointed: Furniture from Napoleon's era meet illumination from the forties in industrial ambience - you can't be more stylish. You simply can't.
Fashion Week in Moscow is like a movie in the movie. Besides, Moscow is a catwalk in itself anyway. Even when squeezing yourself into your most elegant LBD you will realize on the Tweskaja Uliza the latest that you can't stand the test: The people from Moscow have for sure more style and more money and the gift to combine both. Two times a year the capital's fashion hype reaches a fashion crescendo when new and old designers present their art during Fashion Week. In October more than 50 shows are launched and designers come from the Ukraine, from Lithuania, Italy and even Peru to be present where fashion is alive. Milano? How boring! When Vivienne Westwood presents her latest collection there, it has long since been worn in Moscow. 45,000 fashion gurus and more than 1,000 journalists flock to the World Trade Center two times a year to see the event of the season. But also the young wild ones get their share. Fashion Week gives fledgling designers a chance, so that Moscow remains the fashion Mecca of the East also in the future.
The Novodevichy Convent owes its riches to cronyism. The daughters and women of noble families were sent to the convent, eagerly donating to the honour of God. Some of them did not come on their own accord though. Peter I sent his half-sister to the convent because she had an eye on the throne. The tsar also did not trust his first wife and sent her behind convent walls. How convenient! But on your own accord or not, living behind these strong walls is not half as bad as it sounds. The buildings were constructed in the style of Moscow Baroque, with gold-trimmed iconostases, onion towers and magnificent interior. In addition, visitors may find salvation in several churches and cathedrals. The spacious area includes the Cathedral of Christ the Savour, the Ambrosius Church, the Protection of the Virgin Gate Church, the Cathedral of the Dormition and the 16th-century Smolensk Cathedral. And if you have inhaled enough incense you can cross yourself three times at the beautiful graveyard - in honour of the daughter of Ivan the Terrible who is buried here in the good company of Nicolay Gogol and Boris Yeltsin. Our tip: Have a dictionary on you; otherwise you will discover the famous ones only by their busts.
EAT in Moscow:
What sounds like a second-class porn is actually Russia's most popular classic: The movie White Desert Sun was THE culture hit in 1969. Here's the summary: A Red Army soldier on the way home to his fiancée is forced to take care of six women freed from a harem. You can anticipate what comes next - or visit the theme restaurant of the same name. The film look of the restaurant makes you feel right in the middle of the movie. The ingredients of the film - action, drama, comedy and music - are part of the restaurant as well. At the entrance Petrucha, a character from the movie carrying a rifle, welcomes the guests and shows them to their tables. And the latter alone are worth a visit: Handmade carpets from Syria and Uzbekistan, ancient weapons and musical instruments make up the set which is highly devoted to depicting the characters as precisely as possible. One table resembles the hulk of a ship, in another room guests find themselves in a dream of 1001 Nights. The look of the restaurant is as wild as the film itself. And meals are a colourful mix of Uzbek, Chinese and Arabian influences, perfectly matching the interior, the stunning atmosphere and the evening's program: There is belly dance for dessert.
House of Writers
No doubt: Russians have made history in the fields of literature and thinking. If you also want to be kissed by a Muse one day, don't miss visiting the House of Writers, where the illustrious guest list reads like a Who's Who of Nobel Prize winners. Boris Pasternak was here and Leo Tolstoy enjoyed the atmosphere as much as Solzhenitsyn or Mikhail Bulgakov. At the panelled dining room already the Free Masons enjoyed their supper, and at the next room the writing youth of the Sixties convened, leaving their autographs and sketches on the walls. Today the regulars include those who can afford the place as prices might get you close to bankruptcy. Hot tip: The buffet in the basement of the Art Nouveau building is cheaper and lets your fantasy run wild with unconventional paintings and furniture and well-assorted book shelves. The service is typically Russian though: slightly arrogant, a bit slow, somewhat gruff. But never mind the service and be assured that after a delicious European-cuisine-style meal, an excellent cigar and a wonderful coffee you will be the one to write the next bestseller.
Moscow is nouveau riche. And catering to the tastes of the well-to-do, modern gourmet restaurants are mushrooming. They often ignore ancient chic and set new standards with modern design. The White Café serves as example: With warm shades, noble fabrics and the design of style icon Anna Muravina it gets you in the right mood for a Fête Blanche. Moscow has long since stopped to be old-fashioned which is proven by this noble restaurant. Together with international flair guests are offered an international cuisine that leaves nothing to be desired. Those who have a craving for Asian food get sushi, those with a craving for Italian food get Carpaccio and those who have a craving for Russian food get dough buns as well. When in the end dessert is served, the business partners are full - and top managers return happily to their offices with a signed business deal in their pockets.
SHOPPING in Moscow:
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.
For a long time Russia didn't have its own designers. Fashion was limited to grey wool fabrics and uniform clothing but that's different today. Apart from Slawa Saizew, the star of the Russian designer sky, another Phoenix is rising from the ashes, creating eccentric and very colourful fashion. Valentin Yudashkin has made it: His fashion is not only famous in Moscow but also on the international catwalks. The store in Moscow has become a real institution for all those that work little and spend a lot. Especially Yudashkin's accessories are hardly suitable for the office. It's pretty hard to lift a file with a jewellery-studded watch on your wrist. Typing is impossible if you wear a knuckleduster on your finger. And while the extraordinary high-heels are incredibly chic, you can hardly walk more than ten metres on cobblestone in them. Be it as it is, the Haute Couture by Yudashkin makes every woman feel like a princess.
Arbat & Tverskaja
If you come to Moscow for shopping you have to keep two names in mind: Arbat and Tverskaja. They're like a spell once spoken they you will be on the brink of bankruptcy. In the 19th century the Arbat was the district of the nobility. After the great fire in 1812 they built their villas and city houses here. It is Khrushchev's fault that this beautiful old district is not as magnificent any longer as it used to be. The latter had parts of it destroyed. Where in the past the villas were located, there is today the 70 metre-wide Nowyj Arabtk, a popular shopping street. Parallel to it you'll find the Arbat street, Moscow's first pedestrian zone with neat cafés and shops. During the summer you can sit outside and watch the souvenir sellers, musicians and street artists. Along the pedestrian zone beautiful old buildings line up - the residences of the newly rich in town. No wonder - not everybody can afford this expensive district. Here comes my suggestion: Stick to the street artists and keep away from the enticing shopwindows. Or don't give a damn and walk to the Red Square. There, the Tverskaja Uliza starts, where the concentration of sparkling facades will finally take away what's left of your willpower. And you will start a high-heel race with the Russian elite.