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.
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.
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.
SHOPPING in Moscow:
Yulia and Inga are twins. The two Muscovites have a passion for travelling and meet dozens of people around the world. But it's not just anybody they meet - it's young designers whose creations they provide a platform for in their store Twins Shopp in the historic part of Moscow. At the same time they tell their story there: it's about discoveries and expectations, but also disappointments. Apparently, the lively sisters have also been travelling to alpine regions: the massive wooden wardrobe in the store looks like a rustic alpine treasure chest. The friendly living room atmosphere is part of the twins' concept - the green velvet fauteuil also fits perfectly. In between there are the racks with the pieces: garments for women and men, shoes, bags, and accessories. Delicately presented in front of a white brick wall, put into the right light by orange sphere lamps. By the way - the building in which the store is located is also quite impressive - from an architectonic point of view. And after your shopping spree you can keep your new clothes on and go to the in-house club or the restaurant.
At first sight you might think that the dresses, jackets and pants at Traffic+ all pretty much look alike. Lots of black and white, a few dashes of colour. But such an impression is wrong for every piece is unique. The art- and media-loving clientele of the Muscovite store appreciates that. They come because of the 40 international labels that cannot be found elsewhere in the city. Amongst them: Baum und Pferdgarten, Hache, Royal RepubliQ or Lilith. Traffic+ also has a big sister, her name is Traffic and she's four years older. The shelves at Traffic are also packed with designer clothes that are selected by the store owners from all over the world. Every piece has its own story, otherwise it wouldn't have made its way into the line of goods. Where the ideas for the dressing rooms made of plastic tubes, the garden gnome at the shoe rack and the factory lights come from couldn't be found out. What a pity.
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!
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.
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!
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.
STAY in Moscow:
While Kempinski is a German company, the hotel has a typical British demeanour. It is reserved, always obliging but surrounded by royal luxury. The location is alone is terrific: The Kempinski is within an Earl Grey's reach from the Red Square. You can almost touch the onion towers when opening your windows. Numerous artists used to have their studios in the rooms of the hotel, the view from it immortalised on canvas. Today, guests enjoy the fantastic vista without an easel. The interior of the luxury hotel boasts exquisite fabrics, marble baths and warm shades. W-Lan, flat-screens and English dailies are useful add-ons for manager. But do relax and recreate at the spa as well: In the indoor pool you can leave the daily grind behind. Your personal trainer will help you reduce your stress level at the fitness centre and a massage will make you forget all worries. And do eat! After having killed so many calories you may well treat yourself a hearty Japanese, French or Russian dinner. Have a tea and two scones thereafter and you will feel like a Briton again. Double room from 510 euros per night.
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.
Historical or not, if you stay at the Hotel National you will need a good insurance. Or else you move with extreme caution amidst the sumptuous antiques. The 19th-century china is not as stable as it looks. And better not touch the precious paintings. The candle holders are made of bronze and for your eyes only. You're lucky: The giant fresco on the ceiling is too far away and you can't do anything wrong with the whirlpool in the bathroom. If you sleep at a museum you must be prepared for broken pieces. But don't worry: Nicolas Sarkozy, Silvio Berlusconi and Jacques Chirac have also managed to avoid that. Besides, you can still hide in the exclusive ambience of the restaurant and fight your fear of compensations with molecular cuisine. We recommend a decent bottle of wine and the fantastic view of the Red Square and the Kremlin. Double room from 300 euros per night.