As I exit the plane in the Sheremetyevo airport I am already feeling the systematic and disciplined feeling of the Russian culture. The hostesses are allowing the passengers to depart one row at a time and the airport that we have disembarked into is not only clean and extremely easy to follow it is silent. Covid has had its mark here but life continues with brave travellers who are not willing to give up on the world and I see them all waiting for their planes or walking to collect their luggage. Being half American and growing up in the United States I really had no idea what Russians were like until I moved to Turkey. In Turkey I had the great pleasure of making close friendships with a few women who were all from Moscow and I was very surprised at how wonderful they were. My impression of Russia grew and grew and my curiosity grew even more. Now I was finally here. Filming one of the top locations on my bucket list. We got into our car and headed towards the hotel. As we travelled down magically lit streets lined with some of the most beautiful architecture in the world, I understood one thing and that was basically that I really understood nothing about Russia. As we turned from wide street into a another the Kremlin, with all its magic was in front of us. It literally took my breath away. Our hotel was across the street and when I say street this is no ordinary street it is an avenue of dreams. Russia’s dreams and they are big dreams. The power of this giant is evident. It is strong and full of history. I can’t believe its beauty.
We check into the hotel and are taken to our room. The hotel itself is as if you have taken a trip in history, back to a time when aesthetics and beauty were at the heart of the Russian empire. Where the influences of French culture were seen in every corner. My room is decorated in the same old fashion style and it is magnificent. I change for dinner and within an hour we are on route to the restaurant Turandot. When I say restaurant, I think it is an understatement. This is a magnificent example of the Renaissance design in architecture and decoration. The interior decoration is full of antiques and small private dining rooms all with their own character. The ceiling of the main hall is as if we are in a museum. I am truly in aw with the beauty of this restaurant. The live piano playing, the beautifully dressed people dining, the wait staff running around trying to make everything even more perfect for the guests and then there is the food. I am very interested in this food because it is a mixture of the far east and Russian cuisine. A combination that makes sense with China sitting next door but one you would not have imagined. As we sample the many amazing dishes that have lined our table in a feast set up for a queen, I find myself wondering what the rest of the night will bring. After our amazing dinner we head over three building to one of the best night clubs in Moscow. Foreigner’s has a line of at least 50 people waiting to get in. In the time of Covid something I really didn’t think I would see. As we enter from the VIP line I see that the inside is packed full of people drinking and dancing and really enjoying life. After a few hours dancing and doing of course a few shots of Vodka we head home. Tomorrow I will get to see Moscow in the light of day and I am really so very excited.
I wake up with the anticipation of a full day of touring. We will first do a city tour with the driver and really try to understand this magnificent city. During the tour we see the 7 Stalin buildings, the rivers, churches, theatres and so much more. I think that this is the most magnificent capital in the world. It is everything you could ever want in a city. I can’t help but imagine how beautiful it must be when it covered in snow. That is in fact it is true character. After our almost two-hour tour. We end at VdNh, the first agricultural fair area in Russia. It looks more like a palace garden than a fair area. There are people everywhere walking, getting married, taking pictures, street performers and much more.
After spending an hour or so walking around this garden we end up at the Cosmonaut museum which is located right across the street. You can spot the enormous monument in front of it of a rocket flying into space. Inside is Russian Space history and for me it’s a very special place since I grew up in Florida and my mother worked for NASA.
We grab a quick bite at the Kazbek restaurant on the river bank across from the boat cruise we will take shortly after. This restaurant specializes in Georgian cuisine and even its wine list is Georgian. The atmosphere is wonderful and if you have good weather you can enjoy the terrace which has an outstanding view of the Moscow river and is directly across one of the 7 Stalin buildings. After relaxing eating and drinking we are ready to move on. And I have to say it is just in time. We are getting on the Radisson Boat cruise and it’s the last one before the sunsets which means we will watch the sunset over the river and all the city views from there. The boat cruise is superb. We move down the river for the next 2 hours and we witness the secret of the city of Moscow. It is the river. Everything is built around it and is visible from it. as the boat turns and begins its return the sun begins to set, and we see the Kremlin Square in this beautiful light. St Basil’s cathedral and all that is on the river bank is there lit in the golden rays of the sunset.
As we disembark we cross the street to another one of a kind experience. It’s the restaurant Matrushka. Chef Vlad Piskonov and his amazing crew are preparing us a dinner for real Russians. Done the Russian way. His restaurant is all about keeping the original recopies of Russian gastronomy alive. We try Vass as we wait and then the dishes start to come. One after another, a tribute to this great country. After all of this amazing food we go back to the hotel and change for a night out on Patriki street. It is right off of the Kremlin Square, so we can just walk right over to enjoy the many bars.
After a long night and a day where the city is now set in our minds we begin our day with a walking tour of the city centre. We see the Bolshoi theatre and the KGB headquarter building. We circle around the external walls of the Kremlin Fortress and end up at the main gate. We pass through the gates and are in the centre of the Red Square. Across from us is the Basil’s Cathedral with its whimsical beauty but before we continue on we need to take a little break at the Bosco Café where we can sit and watch the view from its lovely terraces. After a quick yet very posh bite we leave for Stalin’s Mausoleum and St Basil’s Cathedral. Then onto the Kremlin. The Kremlin has only one part that is open for visitors since it is still used as a government building. The inside is spectacular. Full of the rich textures colours antiques and much more. All pieces of Russia s history. After so much touring it’s time to try to relax. We go back to the GUM. Gum is a shopping mall that should really be a museum. The original use was for a food market but through the centuries it was added onto and is now the most high-end shopping mall in Moscow.
We go to grab some caviar and vodka as the real Russians do at the Beluga Bar and then spend the rest of the next few hours shopping and looking at all the beautiful people that are walking the historic building. Now our guide hands us our Metro tickets. Yet another treat. We take the metro and disembark in 3 different stations. All different from one another but all magnificently decorated. They are not metro stations they are palaces. Each with its own beauty and I am amazed by how much this city has to offer. Now that the day is coming to an end we head back to our hotel and change then go over to the Ritz Carlton O2 terrace to get the rooftop terrace views of where we have been all day. After a light dinner there and a nice glass of Champaign it’s time to head over to the Bolshoi theatre to catch one of the things that Russians can do better than everyone else. Ballet. Tonight, its Swan Lake. A classic and one of the best in the world. The theatre is more actually it’s a place where more is more. Another exquisite example of Russian opulence. As the show ends some of us are interested in Arbat street me I just want to go home and sleep to the music of Swan Lake that is still swimming in my mind. Tomorrow is our last day and there is a little bit of sadness in me. I know how much I will think about this surprising city. I know it will stay in my memories and that it will be a part of me forever.
Yes, our last day. But our Russian culture lesson is not over just yet. We are going to the Russian Baths and we have to be there by 9am..Its Sunday and we want to miss the crowds. The Sanduny baths is another breath-taking building, where time has stopped and the richness in this culture shows itself. Russians take bathing seriously and there are some things that I didn’t know. First, I didn’t know I would be lightly beaten with wet oak leaves in a sauna heated by wood burning furnace that must have been 40 or more degrees. I didn’t know that they would douse ice cold water over me the minute I got out and that the massage would make every ache in my body disappear. All this followed by a swim in a historical pool and voila we are ready to go to brunch. Red faced and smelling like flowers our diver meets us for a short drive over to Pushkin café to have our last meal in Moscow before the train to St. Petersburg. This is a place out of a book. Well a song actually. The café was inspired from the song Natalie which was very famous in France. After an amazing brunch we head back to the hotel for check out and go to the train station to take a 4-hour ride to another city that I know is going to blow my mind. I wish that we were staying another day at least because there were so many art museums I didn’t get to see and parks I would have liked to walk through but this is all we have time for. Well not being able to do everything means I will have to come back. This is the best news I could give myself. Now onto St.Pete as the Russians say.