EAT in Moscow:
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.
In former times she used to dine at restaurants in order to write reviews and evaluate the dishes afterwards. Today Svetlana Kessoyan runs her own restaurant. She knows, how to do it and therefore opened the DoDo in Moscow. Together with chef Alexi Kim, Kessoyan particularly pays attention to a varying menu. At DoDo on Petrovka Street, 15 minutes away from the Red Square, you don't order a regular Ceasar's Salad. Instead you'll find a salad with tuna and avocado or duck breast on the menu. You can also order beef steak and on Wednesdays and Saturdays you'll be served fresh fish. Throughout the whole day the former food critic serves the Russians' most popular breakfast pancakes, blinis and omelettes. The DoDo fans come in flocks and sit on the spacious terrace that is adorned with flowers. And in five minutes they are back in the city centre again, at the Bolshoi theatre or the department store TSUM. There's simply nothing to complain about the DoDo.
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.
SIGHTS in Moscow:
The architecture alone enthrals all fans of space travel: The Cosmonaut Museum looks like a giant stream on which a rocket, at an altitude of 107 metres, is soaring into space. The whole monument is titanium-clad, sparkling in the sun. But don't worry: Once you are inside the white spots in front of your eyes will disappear again. Inside it becomes clear to you why the Russians are pros in the field of space travel. In honour of the first space flight by Gargarin the museum exhibits technology, history and personalities of Russian cosmonautics. The main hall features sculptures sunk into the floor. While they don't seem to make much sense they are beautiful anyway. Moon rock, perhaps? No, it's glass, for sure. But let's start our tour now. Here, the space suits from the sixties are exhibited and over there you see parts of Gargarin's landing capsule. If you pass Sputnik you see the moon robot Lunochod. A film documentary tells you the whole story. After all, Russia was not only the first to send a man into space but also the first dog. The dog Laika was the first living creature in space, however, she did not return. Belka and Strelka, who also undertook a trip, were luckier. They are exhibited at the museum today.
While France invented them, the Russians are the true heroes in tights. If you go to Moscow, don't miss ballet. The Summer Ballet Festival, for example, proves over a period of two months that one can do anything on tiptoes. Only the best ensembles are admitted here: the Russian State Ballet, the National Russian Vozrozhdenie Ballet, too. And when all of them perform the dying swan onstage, the Symphony Orchestra plays the music in the time of the tutu. The aim of the summer ballet is to combine old classics with new choreography and thus attracting a younger audience. The audience is allowed to come in jeans, only shorts and flip-flops are taboo. The program is standard: Swan Lake is always in fashion in Moscow, the Nutcracker is an evergreen and during the Cinderella performance you can follow the plot even without a programme. What's the thrill then? The dancers are the absolute masters of their art, the pros in twisting, the dancing stars of their profession. So what are you waiting for? Get yourself a ticket!
Lenin never wanted to be exhibited like that, but Stalin asserted himself: He knew how to attract the crowds and built the mausoleum, then still made of wood. As it decayed fast, a newer and larger tomb was built. Today, the mausoleum is made of dark-red granite, for eternity, so to speak. Also Lenin was prepared to last for ever: 12 scientists check his embalmed body twice a week. In Soviet times even a whole laboratory was occupied with the task to conserve Lenin. In the beginning, the dead man wore his uniform but times change and as Moscow is always en vogue in matters of fashion, the revolution leader changes his suit and tie every three years. That has its price: In order to maintain the mausoleum and Lenin, a private fund spends more than one million Euros per year. Conclusion: There can't be more cult about a dead man.
SHOPPING in Moscow:
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.
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.
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!
STAY in Moscow:
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.
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.
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.