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.
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!
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.
SIGHTS in Moscow:
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!
Can you take a joke? If so, Nikulin Circus is the right place for you. There, not the lions but the clowns are the stars. Yuri Nikulin was one of the most famous Russian clowns and for a long time the number-one joke producer of the circus of the same name. If you want to train your risible muscles you've found the right spot. Never before have you seen so many gimmicks, so much white make-up and so many huge shoes. But not only the clowns make a good show, also the tightrope walks set your pulse racing. What acrobats show us here has to be trained many years - and only from watching them one gets dizzy. And once the lions are out in the ring one wonders whether the big cats are as tame as they look. But let's get back to the clowns: Those who make it to this circus are really good and really funny. So come by and have fun. You won't regret it.
Oil on canvas, ink on wood, crayon on paper: IRIDA doesn't care at all about how art comes to be - the essential point is that a woman has created it. The association on the promotion of women's art exhibits any art without defining it. We see colourful portraits, landscapes, photos or still lifes. Tradition and modernity go hand in hand with one another, and there are religious motifs as well as illustrations of children's books. Whatever you want to draw, you may draw it but you have to have the right gender. Apart from regular exhibitions, the gallery also organises workshops for students, participates in charity events and engages in networking with the international market. The gallery's programme also includes discussions on the position of women in modern Russia or on the economic crisis with reference to Gender Mainstreaming and other topics wildly discussed all over the world.
EAT in Moscow:
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.
Cynics say that Coffeemania is the Russian Starbucks equivalent. It's true; you get your Latte, your Moccachino and your Espresso - just as in the US chain. But there are differences. Instead of muffins there's a variety of finest cakes on offer, such as the incredible Orinoko, a chocolate cake with raspberries; or the Desire, a fantastic creation made of marzipan, strawberries and pistachios. Yet before you choose your dessert take a look at the menu - as in addition to coffee and cake the Coffeemania also has a variety of culinary treats from Asia (excellent wok dishes), Italy (delicious Bruschetta) and Russia (Pelmeni and Borsch - the two classics) in store. Each Coffeemania has a different interior decoration - from trendy to artistic or traditional. Quite contrary to Starbucks you are allowed to smoke here. And the service is far better. Only specialists are allowed to work the coffee machines. So-called Baristas are trained for that - it's their task to brew and prepare the most perfect coffee. Coffeemania is the right place for all those interested in art, a piece of cake or international cuisine.
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.