EAT in Moscow:
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.
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.
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:
If you travel to New York you don't ask yourself what skyscrapers are compensating for. But when Stalin builds such imposing towers you wonder if he's still in his right mind. Of course nobody asked him that when in 1947 he laid the foundation stone for the first of the Seven Sisters: the Lomonosov University. How does it feel to study on the 36th floor of a 235-meter-high building? Airy, in any case. And it was probably the right thing for free spirits. Good that the building houses the faculty of geography as one definitely needs a map here. Stalin could just have built this one skyscraper in the socialist-classicist style but he eagerly continued, designing six other buildings of the same style based on a simple principle: A giant tower in the centre, two wings to the left and right, and who stands in the shadow of the building is immediately reminded of the Soviet superiority and ready to wave hammer and sickle. Among the other six sisters, by the way, are the Foreign Ministry, the Hotel Ukraine, the Hotel Leningradskaja, two residential buildings and the house at the Red Door which accommodates the Moscow urban development company. The highlight of the collection is missing, though: The 8th sister has never been built because the ground was too soft for 32 floors of pure imperialism.
You might need to get used to the name but it fits the concept. Since 2007 the Gallery.Photographer.ru in the art temple Winzavod offers space for contemporary photographers of the local art scene. A gallery as an agent - so to speak. On sturdy brick walls the individual perspective onto the word is presented. The reduced interior strengthens the personal impressions of the artists. The fact that the director is a women rounds off the overall image. The 15 minute car ride from the Kremlin is definitely worth it and the way through the city will pay off. Not only in order to discover aspiring local newcomers but also because of the already nationally and internationally known photography artists. If you want to track down trends, than this is the right place. But not only viewing is allowed, you may also purchase vintage prints and collector's pieces from limited editions.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.