EAT in Moscow:
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.
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.
For your better understanding: Taras Bulba is a short story by the Ukrainian author Nicolay Gogol on the Cossack leader Bulba waging war against Poland. The story also centres on his two sons, on love, intrigues, murder and a bit of humour - all the ingredients necessary for a Russian poet and also for a Hollywood blockbuster: in this case starring Yul Brynner as leading man. The restaurant chain sticks to tradition selling Ukrainian-Russian cuisine in a typical atmosphere. All the restaurants look like farmhouse rooms; waiters are clad in traditional costumes. The menu is as long as War and Peace - don't bother to read through it as you will probably starve in the meantime. I recommend you try the dough buns, but also the pancakes are certainly worth a try. Go for French wine and hard liquor with it, or have a Taras Bulba Drink to start with.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
The metre-high walls of the Kremlin are of little use today: More than two million visitors flock there every year, waging a photoflash war against the fortified city palace. No wonder: The Kremlin is Moscow's centre and origin; it is the centre of political and religious power. And you can even see a couple of Fabergé eggs there. But those who think they can just stumble inside, are wrong: Security checks are tough, larger rucksacks and bags must stay outside and many parts of the Kremlin are taboo for tourists, the arsenal, the Senate (only politicians have access) and the Kremlin towers among them. But you will need a day to see the rest anyway: the sparkling gold nuggets in the diamond chamber, the Fabergé eggs in the armoury, the onion towers of numerous cathedrals and churches. And if you still have not inhaled enough of Russia, you take a walk to the Tsar's bell, the Tsar's cannon or the Tsars' graves at the Archangel Michael Cathedral. Conclusion: The admission of 17 Euros is worth its price.
STAY in Moscow:
The dream of every graffiti artist: The Artel subscribes to graffiti, neglecting old traditions. Already at the front desk you get a feeling for the hotel's spirit: Bricks and a slogan sprayed casually onto the wall welcome the guests. The hallways are laid out colourfully and there's modern art on the walls. But is the room as great as the hallway promises? If you have booked a design room you won't be disappointed: There's graffiti art on the walls and the small rooms boast fancy interior. While the room is kind of small (20 square metres), you sleep amidst Argentine spray art, something in between comics and religion, psychedelic dreams and folklore. Other rooms are more Expressionist; even Andy Warhol served as inspiration for the art on the walls. In all the rooms you feel like checking in a fancy club - and that's not so far-fetched as the hotel houses a trendy bar featuring Russian underground live music on three evenings a week. And what about a good night's sleep? Well, you can still go down to the restaurant and have some vodka with your meal - then you'll be able to sleep for sure. Double room from 120 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.
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.