Moscow In Red
On 8 December 1991, Boris Yeltsin, Leonid Kravchuk and Stanislav Shushkevich signed the so-called Belavezha Accords. Established in 1922 after the February Revolution, the treaty was endorsed by the presidents of the Russian SFSR, the Ukrainian SSR and the Belarusian SSR, thereby marking the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Twenty-five years after the demise of the Communist utopia, the capital of the now extinguished “Red Empire”, of Bunker 42 in the Garden of Fallen Monuments, still hides corners evocative of its former proletarian grandeur.
Bunker 42 still lies in the heart of Moscow, alongside the Taganskaya metro station, in building 11 at 5 Kotelnicheski Street, 65 metres underground. Once guarded and maintained by a contingent of over 600 soldiers and officials, Bunker 42 was an ultra-high-security shelter for top-level party members in the event of a nuclear war. It now forms part of the State Central Museum of the Armed Forces. Visitors can tour the endless secret tunnels and see for themselves what was then a sophisticated network of communications, and even venture into Stalin’s study.
The White House of Russia
A privileged witness to the end of the Soviet Union, the White House of Russia was the Communists’ answer to their American counterpart. Designed by Dmitry Chechulin and Pavel Shteller, building work got under way in 1965, but the edifice was not completed until 1981. It then became the seat of the legislative power of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR, effectively the Congress of People’s Deputies of the Russian Federation, until 1991. With his back to its entrance, Boris Yeltsin faced down the Soviet tanks that had rebelled against the then president of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, an act which marked the beginning of the end of the Communist regime.
All-Russia Exhibition Centre
Presided over by a Vostok R-7 8K72 rocket, what is now a convention centre and amusement park was one of Moscow’s main tourist draws during the Communist era. Built in 1939 as an Agricultural Exhibition, it was gradually transformed into a huge park intended to exalt and glorify the economic, scientific and technological achievements of the various republics making up the Soviet Union.
There are a number of restaurants that relive Soviet cuisine 25 years on. Two classics from that period have survived in the iconic GUM galleries – Festivalnioye Café and Stolovaya 57. Then there are hangouts like Detir Ayka (25 Nikitski Boulevard), featuring a Communist menu with such delicacies as stewed fruit, soups and semolina porridge, washed down with shots of vodka or GlavPivTorg. The locale is housed in the former Transport Ministry building which, apart from providing Communist-style cuisine, features a vast library with the complete works of such illustrious figures as Marx, Engels and Lenin.
The Seven Sisters
These high-rises plot one of the most characteristic flourishes on the Moscow skyline –
Moscow State University, Hotel Ukraina, Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Apartments, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Kudrinskaya Square Building, the Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya Hotel, and the Red Gates Administrative Building. The seven buildings in Russian Baroque and Gothic style would have been eight, had the construction of the originally planned Palace of the Soviets come to fruition. The Seven Sisters were built in the 1940s and 1950s to commemorate the 8th centenary of the founding of Moscow.
The embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin is kept in Red Square, the site of formidable, solemn Red Army parades. Built on the orders of the Soviet State in 1924 following the death of the father of the Revolution, his tomb was designed by the architect Alexey Shchusev, who was inspired by the Pyramid of Zoser and that of Cyrus the Great in Pasargad. Despite Boris Yeltsin’s attempt at having it closed down, Lenin’s Mausoleum is still open to the public free-of-charge on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
It provides the best way of moving about the Russian capital on account of its exceptionally low price and high frequency of trains – one every 40 seconds at peak hours. Over and above its efficiency, the Moscow underground is an authentic, highly impressive work of art. Inaugurated in 1935, the first line linked the Sokolniki and Kievskaya stations. For its grandeur and its enduring aesthetic sublimation, it is a veritable palace of the proletariat.
Officially dubbed the FSB Museum (FSB stands for Federal Security Service), it has nevertheless been known locally as the KGB Museum ever since it opened in 1989. Located in the former seat of the Committee for State Security (KGB) in Lubyanka Square, the exhibition features gadgets associated with espionage that seem to have leaped out of the television series,The Americans,including explosive devices, cameras concealed in beer cans, etc. The FSB Museum transports visitors back to the days of the Cold War and the atmosphere of double agents infiltrated in enemy territory.
Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines
Soviet youths also spent their time playing with gaming machines, although they were of course all Soviet-made and extremely expensive, costing from 2,500 to 4,000 rubles. Espoused by three nostalgics for Communist arcade machines, the Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines brings together such gems from that era as mini-skittles, machines for killing aliens (with a capitalist ideology, I would imagine) and the popular shaibu-shaibu ice-hockey game. A whole journey back in time, before which you need to first change thirty rubles into three of the old Soviet kopeks. The collection keeps growing.
Sculpture Park in Krymsky Val
Colossal statues of the Communist leaders were one of the most characteristic sights in squares and parks in Soviet cities. These massive effigies gradually disappeared from the urban environment with the fall of the USSR in 1991. The endless collection of sculptures eventually found safe haven in the statue park of the Krymsky Val Museum. The catalogue runs into over 700 statues sculpted in stone or bronze, prominent being that of Felix Dzerzhinsky, a monument in honour of the revolutionary of the same name who was the first director of the Cheka. Needless to say, there are several imperial effigies of Lenin and Stalin, oblivious to the passage of time.
Come and discover the surviving vestiges of Communist Moscow – book your Vueling here.more info
Moscow' Eleven panenka
Panenka, the football magazine you can read, leads us through its passion for the soccer to other countries, this time to the Russia's capital, Moscow. They show us their ideal eleven for places related to sport king as for the most touristis ones.
1 PFC CSKA Moscow: The new stadium for PFC CSKA was due to open in 2010. It still hasn’t, nor does it have an official name.
2 CSKA Ice Palace: Home base of the CSKA Ice Hockey team and a sports venue with lots on offer.
3 Megasport Arena Pavilion: With capacity for 14,500 spectators, this is where CSKA basketball games are thrashed out.
4 Dynamo Park: A statue of Lev Yashin, the only Russian goalkeeper to win a Ballon d' Or, is next to the future Dynamo Stadium.
5 Krylatskoe: This is where Dynamo's five a side team plays their matches. The team is trained by the Spaniard Tino Pérez.
6 Monument to the 'stadium deaths': Homage to victims of the tragedy that occurred in the Luzniki Stadium during a UEFA Spartak-Haarlem game.
7 Luzhniki Stadium: Home of Spartak and Torpedo. This was the main stage for the 1980 Olympic Games and has hosted a UEFA final and Champions League matches.
8 The House of the Unions: This is where Kaspárov and Kárpov played out he mythical World Chess Championships in the 1980s.
9 Olimpiysky: This venue hosted basketball and boxing events during the 1980 Olympic Games, as well as numerous finals of the Davis Cup.
10 Otkrytie Arena: This is the stadium of Spartek and one of the venues where the World Cup will be played in 2018.
11 Eduard Streltsov Stadium: Torpedo's home ground. It bares the name of one of the team's greatest players, also known as the 'Russian Pelé.
A Cosmonauts Memorial Museum: The ‘Monument to the Conquerors of Space’ – dedicated to launch of the Sputnik – sits outside.
B Museum of Vodka: Moscow is a very cold city, and at any given moment you are going to want to warm up. With a lack of beer, vodka will do.
C Bolshoi Theatre/National Theatre of Russia: One of the largest and most significant opera and ballet theatres in the world.
D Kazan Cathedral: An orthodox church reconstructed in 1993 after being destroyed in 1936 and substituted with public baths.
E State History Museum: The museum has 39 galleries spread over two floors, together telling the history of Russia.
F Red Square: The true heart of Moscow. From here, all the city's main streets depart.
G Saint Basil's Cathedral: Ivan 'the Terrible' ordered the construction of this cathedral in the 16th century. It is UNESCO classified.
H The Kremlin: Seat of the Russian government. It has been recently walled and includes four cathedrals, four palaces and a military museum.
I Cathedral of Christ the Savoir: Built in the 19th century, this is the highest Orthodox Church in the world.
J Novodevichy Convent: This architecturally significant monument has been a World Heritage site since 2004.
K Kiyevskaya Metro Station: This station forms part of the circular line and is one of the most famous in the world for its spectacular architecture.
We’ll be there. If you want to come too, check out our flights here.more info
Ten Places to Eat and Drink in Moscow
The food thing in Moscow is rather odd – with exceptions, it’s usually simpler and better quality in economical eateries than in pretentious upmarket restaurants. Why should that be? We could go off on a historical, aesthetic, cultural, existential rant that would lead us back to Lenin’s czars, via the Cold War, and end up reflecting on certain post-Perestroika aesthetic criteria affecting much of Russia’s ruling classes, Yeltsin’s new rich now happily ensconced in capitalism. That aversion to minimalism; that Russianhorror vacuiexuded largely by the prevailing fashion, architecture and – of course – gastronomy.
Hence, by adopting the mantra that less is more – an idea many Russians eschew – you will win the gastronomic battle in a city as fascinating as it is hostile, but overwhelmingly beautiful, so different from what we pictured in our mind’s-eye. A city in which you need to have all your wits about you, the impelling need to come to grips with everything which is the driving force behind any journey. And, remain impervious to the odd diatribe hurled at you by Russians of any age and condition, who vent all their pent-up energy just to make it quite clear from the word go that they detest you and everything you stand for.
And, once you have experienced the cold and have been shouted at in Russian; once you have strolled along those huge avenues designed for tanks rather than people, and discovered, to your dismay, that in many respects Moscow is more like London than Moscow, then you will realise you have gained greater insight into the 20th century. And, that nobody who has not borne the brunt of being yelled at forcefully in Russian at least once in their life is in a position to voice an opinion about last century, or about its legacy, its influence on us and, in short, about who we are.
However, as we dedicated long, endless hours of strolling about to existential reflection, we also ate. At times, amazingly poor food, in mainly pseudo-modern restaurants. At others, very tasty food, in those places we are interested in here – notably more modest restaurants. Here, then, is the selection of our ten favourite restaurants in Moscow:
1. Caffe del Parco (Via di Camaldoli, 7)
Take note, hipsters. This will be your favourite restaurant in Moscow, located in what is surely about to become your landmark district in the city – Red October – alongside the river, by way of a Russian version of Williamsburg-Malasaña-Shoreditch still in the making, and that is the best part about it. There aren’t many establishments there yet, although there is the odd interesting store, a bookshop and a good number of restaurants with recycled furniture, bars, DJs and nightlife. Caffe del Parco, recently opened by a Sicilian who settled in Moscow some years ago, is a charming, minimalist café-restaurant where they have recovered the nonna’s recipes and where we were lucky enough to taste one of the best risottos ever. Just another of the thousands of paradoxes Moscow metes out to the visitor.
2. Cafe Mart
Pressing on with our modern streak, this cafe, one of two branches of the Moscow Modern Art Museum, is located in a delightful garden adorned with statues by the Georgian artist, Tsereteli, and packed with families dedicated to the noble art of brunch, with a host of children scuttling about the dining-room or participating in one of the workshops held inside. Delicious coffee, pastries, sandwiches and the odd dish on the simple, unpretentious menu featuring a combination of French cuisine with Georgian specialities in a setting that could well be somewhere in Berlin or Amsterdam.
3. Harat’s Pub
This small, cosy Irish pub on Arbat street, a broad pedestrian avenue that acts as the nerve centre of the city’s shopping and leisure milieu, happens to be one of the few options for having a drink. It is an unusual spot, run by a friendly Muscovite and former resident of Andalusia who loves Latin culture to the extent that he cares less about heading an Irish pub and is unfazed by its siting in one of Moscow’s mainstream precincts where one would expect to find some Russification, rather than forays into the cosmopolitan. He and his rock clientele seem to be enthusiasts of the Spanish beat, so that when you step inside you are hit by a full-blown “Lega-lega-li-za-ción” seemingly blaring out from some boomboxes. Indeed, the crowd here are fans of Spain, Ska-P, imported birras and Ireland in all their magnitude, and this strange yet endearing mix makes for one of Moscow’s most entertaining bars.
4. Varenichnaya N.1 (Arbat, 29)
This is our favourite restaurant in the city, an unpretentious, pleasant, centrally located and economical eatery also on Arbat street which offers traditional Russian cuisine in the form of such dishes as vareniki (a pasta pie with various fillings, topped with a delicious sauce), pelmini (a similar dish of Ukrainian origin) and chebureki (traditional meat-filled pasties). They also have a selection of traditional pancakes, cocktails with or without alcohol, coffee and homemade pastries. All set in large, crowded but very cosy premises with motley adornments revealing extraordinary good taste juxtaposed with others striking one as just the opposite. This matters not the least when you sink your teeth into one of the economically priced delicacies served by charming staff who, surprisingly, are able to communicate in English.
A rundown of gastronomy in Moscow is not complete without mention of Anatoly Komm, the country’s first chef to earn a Michelin star, who has an avant-garde restaurant offering haute cuisine known as Varvary. If you can afford it, it is worth booking a table in the dining-room run by this eccentric and unclassifiable chef who applies the latest cutting-edge techniques to a base of traditional Russian cooking (soups, smoked food). Komm regrets the terrible autarky Russia is going through and the indigenous people’s reluctance to open up to influences from neighbouring Europe, and he must know what he’s talking about. This is not the case with his luxury Muscovite restaurant, which offers molecular cuisine for customers with informed tastes, worlds apart from those “new rich”, as Kromm puts it, practically uneducated and with rather pompous tastes. The dishes crafted by this sensitive, art-loving man are noteworthy for their spectacular aesthetic, among other things.
6. Monsieur Croissant (Baumanskaya, 42)
You need to move away from the centre and approach the area of Baumanskaya, which we strongly urge you to do if you want to discover the real Moscow, which is much warmer and welcoming, far from the inclemencies of a centre as hostile as it is spectacular. And, if you decide to confront the beautiful although complicated Moscow metro system, this small restaurant is a great choice, whether you want to breakfast on one of its buns or pastries or have a simple but well prepared lunch, such as pasta with vegetables or the soup of the day. Nearby is a Hotel Mercure, where we happen to be staying, at a laughable price compared to downtown rates and just two metro stops from Red Square.
This mega-restaurant with its mock luxury comes with a clientele dressed as if they’re were all attending a wedding downing vodkas like they were water. This Asian restaurant is a good option if you’re feeling like some glamour, as the Eurasian cuisine is outstanding, the price, reasonable and the decor, striking and attractive.
8. Chemodan (Gogolevskiy Blvd., 25/1)
It would be unforgivable to leave Moscow without having dined at least once in Chemodan, a delightful, absolutely unclassifiable restaurant that breaks the mould of what one would imagine contemporary Moscow to be like. Chemodan is located in the vicinity of Arbat and has an ambience (with its grand lamps, wallpaper, carpets and paintings hung on the walls) more reminiscent of a bar of intellectuals in the Paris of the twenties than what you would expect in Putin’s Russia. As you open the door and are met by a charming little old man, with the sound of Bésame mucho in the background, you know you’ve come to the right place. There, you give yourself over to cuisine with Russian roots, selecting from a well-worked menu featuring pampered, sensitively crafted dishes from all over the country.
9. Café Pushkin
Only if you have around €300 in your pocket should you venture into Café Pushkin, a legendary locale which is worth mentioning for figuring in all possible world rankings for both the best restaurants and the most beautiful ones. Don, therefore, your best attire and take your place like some Cinderella in this majestic environment lined with fine woods and where even the most secluded corner is lavished with tasteful luxury. Prepare to savour Russian cuisine with French touches – or, might that be the other way around? Despite the charm of the establishment, however, the dishes may not satisfy those diners seeking haute cuisine in its pure state.
10. Beverly Hills Diner
Lastly, a big lark, which we’re eager to not leave unmentioned as it is surely the most telling joke we have seen in Moscow. This is the most American of eateries, where you would expect Olivia Newton-John to make her entry at any time. It stands in downtown Moscow, with neon lights that appear to be proudly blaring out to the world that – yes – they won the Cold War. You bite your tongue and see for yourself, with some resentment, that you’re not quite sure what victory is being celebrated. You realise that, after so much salmon and Russian sauces, what you really fancy is the pleasure of the familiar, being able to finally sink your teeth into a hamburger.
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Text and photos by Laura Conde (Gastronomistas)more info
2018 World Cup in Russia
The 21st World Cup kicks off on 14 June in Russia. It's the eleventh time it will be held in the Europe and the first time it is hosted by an Eastern European country.
How is Russia getting ready for the big event? What do we need to know about it? What are the 2018 World Cup dates? Since Russia was awarded the World Cup at the end of 2010, beating Spain-Portugal and Belgium-Netherlands, the country has been busy getting everything ready for the big event.