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.
What a time gone by: The women were sewing, the men were working. The Palace of the Romanovs serves as a prime example for medieval gender segregation. The boys were separated from the girls at the age of six, restricted to live on another floor of the building. It was furnished in manly, dark colours, whereas the upper floor was bright, airy and womanly. And while the boys learned how to rule, the girls learned how to knit. The Palace of the Romanovs is characterized by the style of the Tsars but it doesn't deserve the term palace, the small townhouse rather reminding of a farmhouse than of Versailles. However, it is still worth a visit for two reasons: Firstly, the narrow staircases and small rooms make it impossible for many tourists to visit at the same time, so you will be more or less alone with the Romanovs. And secondly, the house has hardly been changed since the 17th century, so you will get fascinating insights into Russian medieval times. You will also see plenty of the Tsar family's housewares - not behind glass but where it belongs: on tables, in trunks, on the walls. In the mood for dinner with the Romanovs? So, head for the museum!
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.
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.
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.
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!
EAT in Moscow:
Are you familiar with Austrian Landzeit motorway restaurants? There, waitresses wear Dirndls and the furniture looks like stolen from a farmhouse room. And if that's not enough for you, you can buy Mozartkugeln at the shop. That's how the Elki Palki is, albeit Russian. And so much Russian that you start wondering whether this is still authentic. Also here the waitresses wear traditional costumes and are rather reserved as is the style of the house. Also here guests eat in a traditionally Russian ambience, i.e. amidst heavy wooden beams, wooden stools and bearskins. All that has the charm of a last-century Russian farmhouse room. And so has the buffet that is served on an ancient wooden carriage. Russian fish, vegetables and cakes right from the oven are appetizingly displayed in ancient wooden bowls, in clay pots and on top of straw; garlic and onions hang down from a tree. In general, the food looks so delicious that you can hardly resist it - but don't worry: the food is as good as its presentation promises. Whether it is genuine is another story.
Moscow picks up pace - from a culinary point of view. One by one new venues open in the Russian capital that please lifestyle hipsters with a combination of hip architecture and tasty and affordable food, similar to those in other metropolises in the world. The café Domozhilov on the Novinskiy passage in the popular shopping area Arbat is one of them. That's the spot where restaurateur Gennadiy Kostrov and chef Ivan Domozhilov, two veterans of the gastronomy scene, came up with an idea: an urban café, with a straight-line interior and an extensive menu with dishes at affordable prices. Architect Mernaskoni was responsible for the furnishing. He put a prolonged bar and a black metal wall into the sterile venue with open kitchen. In order to avoid an industrial feel he used wooden flooring, tables and chairs. The food is taken care of by the chefs: a selection of hamburgers, sandwiches and soups, light salads, wok dishes and desserts. Also on the programme: regular film screenings. A take-away is currently worked on.
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.
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.
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.
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.