SHOPPING in Moscow:
Hot Tipp: Come with an empty stomach. At the chocolate factory you will get enough sweet stuff to mess up your sugar levels for a lifetime. But never mind as a glance behind the scenes pays off in any case. German Ferdinand von Einem brought the chocolate to Russia in the 19th century. Then, he employed five people in his small pastry shop. Today the chocolate empire produces 60,000 tons of chocolate - no wonder that they feed you some on the tour. You will taste cherries and almonds, dark and milk chocolate, the legendary Mishka waffles with the bear on top and plenty of confectionary. Help yourself, please, you are in best company. Rumour has it that even Gorbachev loved the cult chocolate when he was still a child. And if you have survived the sugar shock you can order your own chocolate figure at the shop: a bowl of strawberries, a soccer ball or a business man bathing in money at best. The tour costs 16 Euros, a box of confectionary included in the price. Compared to the past this is a good bargain: In earlier times the noble chocolate cost as much as a cow.
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.
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!
EAT in Moscow:
At Correa's they know how to turn walk-in clients into regulars: The fact that the menu changes every week attracts curious gourmets again and again. What doesn't change are the regional and seasonal classics conjuring up light meals from the otherwise so heavy Russian cuisine. Fresh mint, fresh lettuce from the garden and fresh fruit juices are the cornerstones on which culinary pleasures thrive - in addition to a restaurant that is as basic as its ingredients. The Correa's has done away with all redundant stuff and kept only what's really necessary. Instead of superfluous pomp visitors are confronted with a plain modern ambience in the style of an American trend café. Any occasion fits - be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. And while the menu is changing, you will also find the one or other fixed element in it. Here's my suggestion: The chocolate cake goes completely without flour and still has a heavenly taste!
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 Red Square doesn't deserve its name having been white once. But what's its real name? The Red Square (Krasnaia Ploshchad) has a plurivalent name meaning both red and beautiful in Russian. It is red because the former market place was not only the venue of chicken slaughter. Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great have executed hundreds of their enemies here. It is red also because Lenin lies buried here and because in Soviet times the Red Square was the venue of regular propaganda events. Stalin had workers, farmers, tanks and soldiers line up here to demonstrate his power. Today, the square is less red but the more beautiful. You have to take a day's time to visit all the magnificent buildings on the Red Square. You are spoilt for choice: Lenin Mausoleum, Kremlin, Saint Basil's Cathedral or shopping at the exclusive GUM department store. In whatever direction you turn and wherever you take a picture, it will in any case depict an architectural masterpiece. But you are not alone, of course. Where once heavy boots marched in step millions of tourists in flip-flops stroll around today. But still you've got to see it: the beautiful Red Square.
You might need to get used to the name but it fits the concept. Since 2007 the Gallery.Photographer.ru in the art temple Winzavod offers space for contemporary photographers of the local art scene. A gallery as an agent - so to speak. On sturdy brick walls the individual perspective onto the word is presented. The reduced interior strengthens the personal impressions of the artists. The fact that the director is a women rounds off the overall image. The 15 minute car ride from the Kremlin is definitely worth it and the way through the city will pay off. Not only in order to discover aspiring local newcomers but also because of the already nationally and internationally known photography artists. If you want to track down trends, than this is the right place. But not only viewing is allowed, you may also purchase vintage prints and collector's pieces from limited editions.
Moscow's winters are long and bleak but Russians make the best of it: They carve ice sculptures. The best pieces are exhibited at the Museum of Ice Sculptures, most likely the coldest museum on earth. At minus 10 degrees centigrade you will for sure need a handkerchief, and red noses are guaranteed. A visit is worthwhile anyway as the sculptures represent the high art of winter. Here, Poseidon hovers on a wave of ice, and over there Father Frost peeps around the corner of his ice house, while ice squirrels are collecting nuts for the winter. The collection is a successful mix of ice, music and colours, often focusing on mythological figures or Russian fairy-tales. If you like to play ice princess you will be disappointed: Right at the entrance visitors are clad in shapeless parkas, a combination of space suit and complete-body condom, protecting you from freezing to death and protecting the sculptures from melting due to your body's heat. The exhibition is open through the summer though. So you can either flee from the heat or warm up in the winter. Just another hot tip: Don't lick the ice, it won't do you any good!
STAY in Moscow:
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.
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.
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.