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.
At Correa's they know how to turn walk-in clients into regulars: The fact that the menu changes every week attracts curious gourmets again and again. What doesn't change are the regional and seasonal classics conjuring up light meals from the otherwise so heavy Russian cuisine. Fresh mint, fresh lettuce from the garden and fresh fruit juices are the cornerstones on which culinary pleasures thrive - in addition to a restaurant that is as basic as its ingredients. The Correa's has done away with all redundant stuff and kept only what's really necessary. Instead of superfluous pomp visitors are confronted with a plain modern ambience in the style of an American trend café. Any occasion fits - be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. And while the menu is changing, you will also find the one or other fixed element in it. Here's my suggestion: The chocolate cake goes completely without flour and still has a heavenly taste!
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.
SIGHTS in Moscow:
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.
Those who come in the summer will ask themselves right at the entrance what the wild birds will do during the winter period. Before you start knitting shawls for them, be assured: The pond doesn't freeze in the winter because it is heated by a compressor. Also the wild cats don't get cold - they have their own fur and if temperatures go below zero, the white tigers, panthers and lions have a protected indoor area at their disposal as well. The spectacled (or Andean) bear is used to the cold. It comes from the Andes but is almost extinct there and so seldom that he is the main attraction of the zoo. The dolphins are also drawing visitors galore, staging up to eight shows per day and enthralling kids with their performances. Also the beluga whale has to work hard for his money, performing numerous jumps for visitors. Ticket sales start one hour prior to the show. But there are smaller animals as well. If you don't dare to go close to the whale you can also watch a wide variety of spiders, bugs and butterflies at the Insecttopia. Got an itch yet? Go to the zoo!
The Novodevichy Convent owes its riches to cronyism. The daughters and women of noble families were sent to the convent, eagerly donating to the honour of God. Some of them did not come on their own accord though. Peter I sent his half-sister to the convent because she had an eye on the throne. The tsar also did not trust his first wife and sent her behind convent walls. How convenient! But on your own accord or not, living behind these strong walls is not half as bad as it sounds. The buildings were constructed in the style of Moscow Baroque, with gold-trimmed iconostases, onion towers and magnificent interior. In addition, visitors may find salvation in several churches and cathedrals. The spacious area includes the Cathedral of Christ the Savour, the Ambrosius Church, the Protection of the Virgin Gate Church, the Cathedral of the Dormition and the 16th-century Smolensk Cathedral. And if you have inhaled enough incense you can cross yourself three times at the beautiful graveyard - in honour of the daughter of Ivan the Terrible who is buried here in the good company of Nicolay Gogol and Boris Yeltsin. Our tip: Have a dictionary on you; otherwise you will discover the famous ones only by their busts.
SHOPPING in Moscow:
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!
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.
Have you also asked yourself already why everything costs three times as much in Moscow? Here's the answer: The store rents are as astronomical as the palm grease at the border. That's why designer stores have to sell at much higher prices if they want to make profit at all. Yet Russian fashion victims don't care: They want to buy whatever it costs - and now. To keep up-to-date they flock to the GUM department store, its location alone being quite impressive. Located in the immediate vicinity of the Red Square, the GUM offers luxury shopping in the purest sense. Those who have a shop here have made it, next to Armani, Jil Sander and Max Mara. Already when looking in the shop windows you are filled with wonder and awe. Inside, you get anything that is noble and exclusive: chronographs by Chaumet, leather by Ferragamo, jewellery by Dior. If you don't get bankrupt here, you're either a millionaire or a thief.
STAY in Moscow:
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.
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.
Quite astonishing what hides behind the 19-century facade. Instead of redundant opulence the hotel impresses with apple trees. Inside, the hotel features avant-garde elements. While the colours of the rooms are rather masculine, stylish stools and designer lamps set colourful contrasts. The bathrooms are laid out in marble, there are accessories by Philippe Starck and the Loft Suite even features its own kitchenette. You don't need the latter though, not being able to compete with the international restaurant anyway. Here's our suggestion: Come for dinner in the evening as the restaurant will have a special surprise for you then alongside with Russian cuisine. In the evening, the blinds will go down and the apple trees will be projected onto the blinds. Our conclusion: With his minimalist style, the Canadian designer Raphael Shafir has created a boutique hotel of chrome and much colour, attracting a clientele with a preference for trendy styles. Double room from approx. 200 euros.