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.
Those who come in the summer will ask themselves right at the entrance what the wild birds will do during the winter period. Before you start knitting shawls for them, be assured: The pond doesn't freeze in the winter because it is heated by a compressor. Also the wild cats don't get cold - they have their own fur and if temperatures go below zero, the white tigers, panthers and lions have a protected indoor area at their disposal as well. The spectacled (or Andean) bear is used to the cold. It comes from the Andes but is almost extinct there and so seldom that he is the main attraction of the zoo. The dolphins are also drawing visitors galore, staging up to eight shows per day and enthralling kids with their performances. Also the beluga whale has to work hard for his money, performing numerous jumps for visitors. Ticket sales start one hour prior to the show. But there are smaller animals as well. If you don't dare to go close to the whale you can also watch a wide variety of spiders, bugs and butterflies at the Insecttopia. Got an itch yet? Go to the zoo!
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.
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.
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.
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.
EAT in Moscow:
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.
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 three girlfriends Anna Bichevskaya, Aliona Ermakova and Liya Mur select 20 guests once a week to put on their guest list. Chosen from a pool of members of the closed Facebook group Stay Hungry. Also the cook who devises the culinary aspect of the evening in a grand, yet modern apartment is carefully selected: a food blogger, a friend or Elena Zaeva, an amateur cook who brilliantly prevailed against a professional cook on a Russian cooking show. Apart from a delicious dinner Bichevskaya, Ermakova and Mur - founder of iknow-travel, PR consultant at icon-Food and owner of a catering company - especially bet on the social aspect of the event: counteracting the solitude of the metropolis, introducing friends to friends, having nice conversations and afterwards adding friends on Facebook that you actually know in real life.
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!
Here's another bloodsucker: While the Transilwanija sells its CDs at top prices, you are confronted with pure nostalgia here. But first you have to find the store as it is well-hidden in the backyard of the Crab House restaurant. The search pays off as you will spend at least as much time there (you can't get through 50,000 CDs that easily). But don't worry: the stuff is well-assorted and you won't search long if you know what you want. The system is based on countries, so look for New German Music, Old German Music or Very old French Music. Above all fans of old CDs will get their share. Scandinavian World Music and Old US Rock complete the musical roundtrip and get us to the titles. The Transilwanija's offer includes hits from the GDR as well as Japanese pop, rare electronic music as well as very rare electronic music - and if you get lost, you can still ask the profound shop assistant for help.
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.