For the last few days Russia has been on the lips of everybody. Football fans, victory over the Czech Republic, hooligans and a deciding game. We’re playing soon. In the meantime let’s have a look at the country of former (thankfully!) Big Brother…

The Red Square, marvellous orthodox churches, blintz, caviar, colourful matryoshka dolls, beef stroganoff and vodka… lots of vodka. These are some of the positive things that come to mind when we think about our former neighbour. There also negative ones but enough has been said about those lately.

Putting the stereotypes aside, we decided to see real Moscow AD 2012.

widok na Kreml

The Kremlin

The preparations for this trip took some time and money. Apart from tickets and a guide you need a visa to get into Moscow. And visas turned out to be more expensive than tickets! So if you’re happy you bought cheap tickets to Moscow think again and consider a few more hundreds for the visa. We also had to ask the consulate for entrance permission for a child with a passport that is valid for less than 180 days. Luckily Maximilian I The Terrible was accepted so we left for Russia.

Moscow welcomed us with passport and visa control that took soooo long, and a huge traffic jam afterwards (the trip from the airport took 1.5 hours!!). Then is started to get better. The hotel was pretty, elegant and located close to main attractions such as The Kremlin, Red Square with Lenin’s Mausoleum and the marvellous Cathedral of St. Vasily the Blessed.

baśniowy sobór

The magic cathedral

The cathedral is absolutely beautiful and marvellous. There might be a bit of truth in the legend saying that Ivan IV The Terrible blinded the builders of the cathedral so they can never build such a beautiful thing again…

The Red Square, on the other hand, wasn’t that great. Maybe that’s because there was some kind of sport festival held with makeshift structures standing in the middle. As a result the square didn’t look as impressive as I imagined.

After walking around stands with ridiculously expensive matryoshka dolls we decided to check if our culinary expectations can be satisfied.

What do you know about Russian cuisine? I know that they have blintz, caviar, pelmeni, beef stroganoff and vodka. We decided to learn more and started with a visit to  Cafe Puszkin on  Tverskoy bulvar 26A.

The place was crowded and designed to have an early 20th century look. The food was delicious. The only drawback was the cigarette smoke which we are not used to anymore…

Fortunately a wild boar carpaccio, which was formed in to a bouquet on the plate and delicate pelmeni with salmon made us forget all the disadvantages.

smakołyki w Puszkinie

Pushkin delicacies — wild boar carpaccio

delikatne pielmieni z łososiem

Pelmeni with salmon

Satisfied but still in exploratory mode, on the next day we found ourselves in one of the weirdest places we have ever been to. The restaurant located on Piewczeskij pierieułok 6 in Kitaj-Gorod district was called Ekspedicija.

You could see the weirdness right after crossing the threshold. Ground floor welcomed us with information about trips to Siberia and rallies organized by the owners. What was waiting for us upstairs? Tundra maybe?

Syberia w wydaniu Eskpedicji

Siberia in Ekspedicija restaurant

Pine trees, polar bear and an orange helicopter. Seemed like a perfect place to try Siberian cuisine from the far North.

We ordered a mix of starters. Theoretically for two. In reality — at least for four. The price however, seemed right for meal for ten! But you need to let go of the money if you want to try a reindeer, caviar and frozen fish from the North? 🙂

stroganina, suszona ryba, paprotnik i surowy renifer, czyli nietypowe przekąski

Unusual starters: stroganina, dried fish, pteridophytes and a raw reindeer

We got caviar, reindeer ham and tongues, frozen fish and scallops, dried meat and fish. A little something for everybody.

The thing that appealed to me the most was much more traditional. A cake…! It was a little bit similar to apple pie but with red wild berries inside and a vanilla dressing on a side. Served in a winter manner it tasted surprisingly familiar… How is it possible that our desserts resemble those from distant and freezing Siberia? What does it mean? 😉

łakocie pod choinką

delicacies under the tree

If you’re not into such unusual treats (to be honest a frozen reindeer wasn’t the best thing I tried)… visit Georgian restaurant  Genacwale on Arbat street and try simple and delicious chaczapuri or Russian blintz in Godunov restaurant located in 17th century monastery cellars on Teatral’nyy 5.

However, if you don’t like crowds and overpaying, Godunov may not be the best place for you. It’s crowded and the prices are tourist-unfriendly. The blintz, on the other hand, are excellent. 🙂

bliny i wędzona ryba...mniam!

Blintz with a smoked fish…yummy!

Hungry or not, when in Moscow you need to see uncle Lenin. His mausoleum is opened only until 1 pm, and getting in is quite a challenge — it includes a walk around The Red Square (if you ask me why I will respond in a Russian manner: because that’s the way it is!), deposition of your camera and mobile phone, a long wait in two queues (to the deposit and to the mausoleum), etc. Then you take a quick stroll around and that’s all.

Lenin is lying down and looks quite alright for a person who died in 1924. Wikipedia informs us that lots of procedures are performed to keep the body in this condition: “The mummy undergoes safety procedures twice a week and a full conservation every 18 months”.

Some of the Russians believe that comrade Lenin is still alive. We met some of them…

wierność przekonaniom

faithful to their believes

After meeting Lenin, just before our departure on Sunday, we went to see the monuments surrounding the Kremlin. Little orthodox churches look magical and compensate the absurd Russian reality. There is no information anywhere, after standing in a queue for a while you realize that you need to step out and find a cash desk that is absurdly far from the attraction it sells tickets for. Also, coming back using the same route might be impossible – as it might already be closed…

piękno Kremla

Beauty of the Kremlin

ostatnie spojrzenie na Moskwę

the last look at Moscow

The beauty of Kremlin and the orthodox churches did not wipe out negative experiences caused by Russian fake freedom. But maybe that’s a good thing after all…? Sometimes it’s good to appreciate our own reality 🙂