MOSCOW - Gorky's House; Yeliseev's Gourmet; Pushkin Cafe


I was in Moscow yesterday, for that painfully short layover where one must choose to either sleep or tour the city in daylight? You know the one I'm talking about right? So what did I do when faced with this choice, I selected, of course, to forgo sleep and I take off as quickly as my skinny legs can carry me out of the hotel to check out the streets of Moscow.

Despite an annoying, persistent drizzle, I arm myself with all that I may need to hit the streets - I make sure I have the " hotel-issued guest-note" - every foreigner must have this note with them at all times, in case the authorities ask for an ID - my passport, a map, an umbrella, my guide book, the Cyrillic alphabet?... check, check, check...ready, get set, go!

My plan of attack? simple - stay close to the hotel and visit something historic, something cultural and before passing out from hunger, drag my weary body to a local restaurant, so I can sample some authentic Russian food.

Where do I go?? to The Gorky's House-Museum just a few blocks down from our hotel; to The Yeliseev's Gourmet Shop - an ex KGB food store inside an old palace, now described as "the most beautiful shop in all of Moscow"; and to the Pushkin Cafe - an old, turn of the century style cafe that supposedly, serves wonderful Russian food. All of these places are just a few blocks away from each other and no more than 4 or 5 blocks away from the hotel.

My first stop, The Gorky House-Museum. The House, is not easy to find, but I locate it by chance, only because I notice it is the only intact period-house in the area with it's original garden around it - a luxury in a city that can barely house it's own people today, in the downtown areas of Moscow.

I can clearly see from the outside, that the mansion was once a glorious structure. Today, it appears a bit tired and dusty, with it's main entrance and it's beautifully carved, wooden front doors, locked up with a huge chunky chain and a padlock.

To enter the house, I follow the street around the side of the house, to what may have been, long ago, the back door. I enter through this small door into the garden, cross the garden and proceed to another small door on the side of the main house. This door is marked by a piece of paper with a hand drawn arrow, pasted on the wall like a temporary marker for a party.

I enter the house following the arrow and continue inside the house through some dark halls until I reach the starting/entry point for the Museum. Like everything else in Moscow, finding this point, feels like a treasure hunt. I just have to remember to keep going, despite the lack of visible clues.

Inside the Museum (the entry is free), I am asked to wear this funny looking large wool-slippers over my shoes. I guess the idea is to preserve (or to shine) the wood floors as I walk through the aging house? so much care taken with the floors, when the whole house appears to be forgotten...very odd.

The inside of the house is beautiful. I can perceive through is darkened and musty interior, it's old grandeur. It has gorgeous stained glass windows, elaborate hand made brass fixtures and a majestic staircase completely carved out of limestone. It also houses an interesting collection of black and white photos of "Gorky and friends" from the days of the revolution. Sadly, I can't read any of the postings, for they are all in Russian.

My guidebook claims that Gorky may have been killed by the KGB on orders from Stalin when he fell from grace. True or not, his belongings remain in the house as if he still lives there - books, paintings, oriental carvings, personal letters, his raincoat, his hat and his walking stick.

Finished with Gorky, I walk back the way I came from for one block, on Nikitskaja Street and turn left on Tverskoi Bul'var (a wide avenue with a garden area in the middle). I walk this avenue for about three long blocks, until I reach Tverskaya Ave (the most popular commercial avenue in Moscow, compared often to Broadway in NYC).

Once there, I cross the street via an underground tunnel, and turn right into Tverskaya Ave (under the Rolex and Tiffany Building). Yeliseev's Food Hall is on the left side of the street , just a short walk away on N0.- 14. (A Helpful Clue - to find the entrance of Yeliseevs Market, because it's probably, also unmarked, look for a lady in a white apron, selling imported Movenpick (Swiss) items from a rolling cart from the sidewalk. She will be standing right in front of Yeliseev's main entry door).

Inside Yeliseev's, I immediately notice the splendor - old gilded columns, painted ceilings, glass stained windows and chandeliers! During the communist days, it was known as Gastronom #1 and it was "the market" for "the party folk". In the 1820's, it was the house of Princess Zinaida Volkonskaya. Today, it's a gourmet delicatessen and an excellent place to buy expensive caviar and vodka.

After taking in the exquisite architectural details of this market, I purchase a couple of muffins for my predictable 2am layover hunger attack and leave. Back in the Teverskaya, I search for The Pushkin Cafe, supposedly, located near Yeliseev's. It looks easy on paper, but nothing is easy in Russia, so here's how it goes.

I walk up and down on both sides of Tverskaya , until I feel I reach another district with out Pushkin in sight. I ask several people for directions, and they ask others for directions in Russian, but Niet! (nothing) - not a soul can tell me where the darn place is, and just as I am about to give up, and start heading back to the hotel defeated, I pay the Marriot Hotel's concierge a visit, right in Tverskaya.

What a relief, Alexis the concierge knows!! He gives me simple directions and volunteers to make a reservation for me on the first floor of the cafe, in the no smoking area. Voila, it's done! that easy! and Pushkin's is only about three blocks away, thank god! My energy is waning! my legs are about to give out and I'm about to pass out from hunger and tiredness. As it turns out, I had walked in front of the cafe, over and over again, with out recognizing it from the outside. Well how could I recognize it, if it had no markings or signs to identify it!! Grrrr...

So off I go, with directions in hand, back to Tverskoi Bul'var, the avenue with the garden in the middle, remember?, a half of block away from Tverskaya, on the left side, there it is, at N0 - 26A, the pink building (photo enclosed in case you go, with Igor standing by the door) with out a single sign to indicate that it houses the famous Pushkin Cafe inside it's doors.

The Pushkin was built in the last 10 years, supposedly, in the site of an 1800 pharmacy. It has three different floors . The first floor, is a series of wood paneled rooms that resemble the 1800's where they serve casual Russian food; The Second floor (which I did not see), serves finer, Russian dishes and, I'm told, looks like a library; the third floor is the roof Terrace, opened only during summer months.

As per my reservation, I sit in the first floor and order my traditional Russian meal - a soup and dessert (photo enclosed). The soup comes with a delicious crust of bread over the pot. What a wonderful surprise. The taste is rich, but with a very different flavor than what I'm used to (imagine that). The dessert is a disappointment, but I see other desserts go by that look amazing. I'll have to order those next time. Aside from the nice food, the cafe's setting is lovely and the place has a historical feeling of old money (photo enclosed) . Also, the long-apron waiters are very friendly and bilingual. When you're this tired, trust me, this is a real treat!!

Dosvitana! (see ya later)

Gorky House Museum
Nikitskaya ulitsa 6/2
11:30 - 5 pm

Yeliseev's Food Hall
Tverskaya ulitsa #14

Pushkin Cafe
Tverskoy Bul'var #26a
629-5590 (for reservations)


Vodka "With a View" - Moscow


"Vodka is our Enemy, so we Utterly Consume it!" - Russian Proverb

Wow, I love how that sounds! so with vodka in mind, let me recommend "the place" to sample vodka during the summer months, in Moscow.

The O2 Lounge, a stylish, veranda bar located on the rooftop of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, that has spectacular views of the Kremlin and The Red Square.

Their specialty? Sushi and Vodka. They also have one of the only Vodka Sommeliers (vodka specialist) in the world!! I've never heard of such a thing, but it sounds very interesting niet? (no?) .

So, next time you're in Moscow, get some advice from the vodka experts, "consume" some Russian enemies and enjoy the magical views from the veranda from O2.

Nazdrovia! - cheers in Russian!

Ritz Carlton Moscow
3 Tverskaya

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