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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As always, a good idea starts with the wish for a change. This time, a couple of guys getting together for a beer got annoyed about Moscow's deficiency in decent breakfasts - let alone decent burgers. That was 15 years ago. Today, Starlite Dinner is a Russian institution with four spin-offs and American background. The interior design was imported from Florida, the posters from Hollywood and the meals are as American as ketchup. Where 20 years ago one had to listen to forbidden jazz records under one's bedcover, the star-spangled banner is greeting you today. The restaurant is almost more American than a diner over there: red and white striped leather sofas, a jukebox and serviettes from a metal box conjure up the American dream, getting guests in the mood for a Cordon Bleu Burger, a Cowboy Burger or the Really Big Shawn Burger - for all those that are truly hungry. Breakfast is a real highlight: At a Starlite Diner you can enjoy your waffles 24 hours a day on seven days a week - only Fonzie is missing, serving the titbits.
SIGHTS in Moscow:
Fashion Week in Moscow is like a movie in the movie. Besides, Moscow is a catwalk in itself anyway. Even when squeezing yourself into your most elegant LBD you will realize on the Tweskaja Uliza the latest that you can't stand the test: The people from Moscow have for sure more style and more money and the gift to combine both. Two times a year the capital's fashion hype reaches a fashion crescendo when new and old designers present their art during Fashion Week. In October more than 50 shows are launched and designers come from the Ukraine, from Lithuania, Italy and even Peru to be present where fashion is alive. Milano? How boring! When Vivienne Westwood presents her latest collection there, it has long since been worn in Moscow. 45,000 fashion gurus and more than 1,000 journalists flock to the World Trade Center two times a year to see the event of the season. But also the young wild ones get their share. Fashion Week gives fledgling designers a chance, so that Moscow remains the fashion Mecca of the East also in the future.
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.
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!