SHOPPING in Moscow:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The dream of every graffiti artist: The Artel subscribes to graffiti, neglecting old traditions. Already at the front desk you get a feeling for the hotel's spirit: Bricks and a slogan sprayed casually onto the wall welcome the guests. The hallways are laid out colourfully and there's modern art on the walls. But is the room as great as the hallway promises? If you have booked a design room you won't be disappointed: There's graffiti art on the walls and the small rooms boast fancy interior. While the room is kind of small (20 square metres), you sleep amidst Argentine spray art, something in between comics and religion, psychedelic dreams and folklore. Other rooms are more Expressionist; even Andy Warhol served as inspiration for the art on the walls. In all the rooms you feel like checking in a fancy club - and that's not so far-fetched as the hotel houses a trendy bar featuring Russian underground live music on three evenings a week. And what about a good night's sleep? Well, you can still go down to the restaurant and have some vodka with your meal - then you'll be able to sleep for sure. Double room from 120 euros per night.
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.
SIGHTS in Moscow:
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.
The metre-high walls of the Kremlin are of little use today: More than two million visitors flock there every year, waging a photoflash war against the fortified city palace. No wonder: The Kremlin is Moscow's centre and origin; it is the centre of political and religious power. And you can even see a couple of Fabergé eggs there. But those who think they can just stumble inside, are wrong: Security checks are tough, larger rucksacks and bags must stay outside and many parts of the Kremlin are taboo for tourists, the arsenal, the Senate (only politicians have access) and the Kremlin towers among them. But you will need a day to see the rest anyway: the sparkling gold nuggets in the diamond chamber, the Fabergé eggs in the armoury, the onion towers of numerous cathedrals and churches. And if you still have not inhaled enough of Russia, you take a walk to the Tsar's bell, the Tsar's cannon or the Tsars' graves at the Archangel Michael Cathedral. Conclusion: The admission of 17 Euros is worth its price.
Oil on canvas, ink on wood, crayon on paper: IRIDA doesn't care at all about how art comes to be - the essential point is that a woman has created it. The association on the promotion of women's art exhibits any art without defining it. We see colourful portraits, landscapes, photos or still lifes. Tradition and modernity go hand in hand with one another, and there are religious motifs as well as illustrations of children's books. Whatever you want to draw, you may draw it but you have to have the right gender. Apart from regular exhibitions, the gallery also organises workshops for students, participates in charity events and engages in networking with the international market. The gallery's programme also includes discussions on the position of women in modern Russia or on the economic crisis with reference to Gender Mainstreaming and other topics wildly discussed all over the world.
EAT in Moscow:
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.
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.
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.