I look out the window as our Lufthansa Flight lifts off the ground in Moscow, Russia. I bid farewell with a smile because I am delighted I had the chance to spend a week in this robust and intoxicating city. While this was my fourth trip to Russia, it seemed as though it was my first because of the grandeur Moscow has taken on. Having visited hundreds of cities around the world, I feel I am an authority to speak to you about Moscow. Here are the 5 reasons why I adore Moscow.
1. The City
It is not a drab or policed city with high crime, unhappy citizens and buildings that need restoring. Instead, Moscow is a romantic city, a mix of the historic past and the newness of the present with cobbled streets and paved sidewalks. I walked around the Kremlin, a walled citadel within a city, the ancient heart of Moscow’s Red Square. I gazed at the huge, colorful Saint Basil. My eyes caught sight of magnificent cathedrals and palaces of kings. I learned about the Kremlin with its hidden pages of Soviet history.
Traveling on foot through city streets outside the Kremlin, I admired all forms of architecture with several building facades painted in soft shades of yellows and greens interspersed between clean streets. I rode the Underground Metro, the most beautiful subway in the world. We passed several stops, each a work of Russian art. I stood on a bridge overlooking the Moscow River, where the story of Moscow began. Everything in the city elicited a feeling of vitality within me.
2. Moscow Dining
My ultimate concierge and I dined in restaurants on par with restaurants in Paris and New York. My favorite, The White Rabbit Restaurant, draws you into a whimsical Alice in Wonderland storybook setting with a domed glass roof that shows off the spectacular city views. It is rated one of the top 15 restaurants in the world. I also loved dining at the famous Café Pushkin, named after the famous writer. It is a spectacular 5-star restaurant, renovated to look like a Russian aristocrat’s home. Dinner is served in the library with thousands of books lining the bookcases. Throughout dinner, two musicians played soft classical music.
I window shopped in the gorgeous Russian Department Store, Gum, built in 1893. It is now the home to 200 boutiques with a glass-roofed arcade that faces Red Square. It has a grocery market superior to London’s Harrods, with gorgeous crystal chandeliers, caviar, fruits, vegetables, fresh meat and of course, the most expensive vodka, Beluga. Every designer from Chanel to Dior has shops here.
I sat with my ultimate concierge and friends in the 260-year-old Bolshoi Theatre, watching a ballet performance of Don Quixote. Accompanied by my guide, we visited the Armory Chamber, a treasure house part of the Grand Kremlin Palace’s complex. I saw precious items that have been preserved for centuries, dating back to the days of the Tsars: decorated coaches, horse harnesses and saddles adorned with diamonds and precious stones. Royal and religious clothes of this time were masterfully designed; the crowns that the tsars and priests donned cost upwards of a million. The unique Fabergé Egg Collection took my breath away as did the diamond collection.
5. Unexpected Happy Pleasures
Our flight has leveled at 37,000 feet. The engines are purring. My ultimate concierge is watching a ‘shoot ’em up’ movie and I am left with my thoughts. I love quiet time when I can re-read my mussing and take a mental survey of our trip. I thought about what moved me in an unexpected and happy way. It was neither the diamond collection nor Saint Basil nor Red Square. Of course, they were grand beyond grand but they were expected. What moved me was a restaurant, a young man named Filipp and a river.
The White Rabbit Restaurant
My eyes lit up as I stood in front of an elevator door leading up to The White Rabbit Restaurant. At the very bottom of the door, there was a small work of art, large enough for a rabbit to crawl into.
I said, “Shelly, this is the White Rabbit’s tunnel He is welcoming us into his home. I have the feeling the restaurant is a real-life spin on Alice in Wonderland.”
Darlings, I was like a kid in a candy store as I rode the elevator. I never stopped talking about my feelings. I was anticipating a wonderland and I was not let down. As we exited the elevator and entered the restaurant, staring me in the face was an 8-foot framed painting of a White Rabbit dressed in his colorful finery.
He had a glimmer in his eye welcoming me into his underground home. A whimsical and happy feeling came over me for the entire evening. I did not want to leave the White Rabbit. As I write this vignette, I know I will always feel the same: joyful and happy!
A Young Man Named Filipp
I spent four hours on a walking tour with Filipp, a 21-year-old Russian videographer and photographer. My team of Honey Bees thought it would be a grand idea to have a short video and photos to show you, darlings of my trip to Moscow. It was such a happy experience because of the human connection. A young man of 21 and a woman who could be his grandmother, well over 50, talking and laughing as we walked the streets of Moscow. It is a day I will always remember.
Filipp mentioned to me, “You are the first American I have ever met.”
I was taken aback. I told him I would ask his opinion of this initial experience at the end of our time with one another. We laughed.
After four hours of walking nearly six miles, we bid one another goodbye with a hug and a promise to keep in touch. He called an Uber for me and would not leave my side until he saw me off.
He told me in a later text how glad he was meeting “his first American.”
Out of the Blue
40 minutes later, out of the blue, my phone rang, “It is Filipp. I am checking to see if you arrived back to your hotel safely.”
I was shocked by his unexpected and thoughtful call and I was beyond happy. A young stranger with concern, a young stranger with manners, a young stranger that made my experience with him one of the happiest times during my trip to Moscow.
I thanked him and said, “Filipp, I will make it a point to keep in touch with you on WhatsApp. I know you would like to come to America and study photography and video at USC. Certainly, I will help you in every way I can when the time comes. And Filipp, I did not say, ‘if the time comes’ I said ‘when the time comes!’”
We laughed and said our goodbyes.
Darlings, there is nothing more important in life than positive human connections. My day with Filipp was just that–a positive connection between a young man and a woman over 50.
The Moscow River
All great cities begin near bodies of water, given the necessity of water and trade. Moscow began its journey to greatness on the Moscow River, which runs near the Kremlin and Red Square. It is a narrow river that you traverse on foot by a bridge. As I stood on the bridge, watching the current flow, I thought of the flow of life. Everything ‘flows.’ At times, we fight an upstream battle with strong currents trying to pull us off course. This is also true of a city. Moscow had its tough sailings. But like the human spirit, the city has come full circle. Moscow is a vibrant, thriving, robust city on the Moscow River flowing with positive energy. I invite you to visit.
How you ever traveled to Moscow or someplace that you fell more in love with each time you visited? Darlings, you know travel is one of my favorite things and I would love to learn more about your favorite places too! Please comment below so we can learn more from each about our travels.