Poetry by Photography: Serenity

A golden light

Caressing stately, gilded domes.

They reached towards the sky;

the symbols of Christ the Saviour pointing heavenwards.

Victorious, a promise made – a light even in the darkness slowly falling.

A moment – just, standing still.

A moment, of unexplainable serenity and comfort in the knowledge of the time to come.

October 2014, Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow, Russia

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Serenity.”

Turandot Restaurant (Турандот), City Centre, Moscow, Russia

SCRIBBLES

Category: International / French & Chinese

Our friend is an ardent food lover and has dined at countless renowned restaurants around the world, so we left the meal arrangements to him. The Turandot restaurant was scheduled for dinner on a Tuesday evening, which I didn’t know much about then, except that it was on the list of Top 10 restaurants in Moscow. Galya, who resides in Moscow city itself, told me that the restaurant next to that, Кафе Пушкинъ (Cafe Pushkin), was good and famous as well, but for classic Russian food.

Tverskoy bulvar, 26А, Moscow, Russia

The street on which Turandot sits isn’t hard to find. It’s a short left onto a busy side street just off the main Tverskaya street. We did, however, miss the restaurant, walking back and forth a few times whilst checking Google maps. The sign was so inconspicuous – Just the word Турандот etched into a piece of smooth grey stone fixed into the column to the left of the entrance. To get to Турандот from the main street, you’d have to walk by Pushkin first, so start staring at the walls after Pushkin ends and you should have no problem at all.

Damage: $$$

Dining at Турандот is by no means a simple affair, but if you’re willing to spend about $80 per head for the full suite, by all means, dine at Турандот. Price really varies depending on what you order, because there are some more expensive options which are around the 3000RUB mark ($60).

To go: Yes, if you want to feel like royalty and want something different from Russian food 🙂

The food is mostly good but fades in comparison with the ambience of Турандот. Dining in such an impressive hall is an experience in itself, and you feel it right when you walk through the doors, with gold featuring heavily in the decor. They serve a variety of things from Tuna tar-tar with caviar to Dim Sum, although I was still pleasantly surprised to find Fried Rice Vermicelli Singapore style in the menu.


A MORE DETAILED RECOUNT

We’d just wrapped up tea at GUM and began our walk towards Турандот, which took longer than expected; around 25 – 30 minutes. At this time of the Year, in mid October, Moscow was having an international festival called Circle of Light. As we walked along the street, there were all sorts of activities and displays – children running around a swirling globe of light in the field across the street, while adults stood staring at visual art casted in light onto the buildings to our right.

When we finally found Турандот and went inside, we were greeted by well-dressed staff at the reception and our coats were taken by a liveried footman, who in return, gave us the most opulent coat tags ever – weighty blocks of gold-brushed metal in a complex old-european design, with a number on the reverse.

We were led down a short flight of steps and into a large circular room which looked to be a lounge complete with a white grand piano, then guided out left and up a flight of stairs with the most ornate handrails. It was easy to see how the design and decor set its owners back around US$50 million, to earn the title of most expensive restaurant in Moscow. It was hard to believe that what looked like a royal residence akin to Château de Versailles of Paris or the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, was entirely constructed to just to house Турандот.

Turandot Moscow Russia

We dined on the upper floor, right under this beautiful dome – billowy white clouds on a sky blue canvas, the rims of the dome covered in intricate gold detail, with cherubs in various poses holding instruments as if in a serenade – amidst the soft, polite chatter of guests and the waitresses carrying golden trays wearing shoes which, speaking of extravagance, I’m told are made by the very same people responsible for the footwear of the Bolshoi ballerinas.

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The dim sum and peking duck we ordered to share was surprisingly quite authentic. The Grilled chicken with morel mushrooms, chanterelle and mashed potatoes which my companion ordered was a pretty hearty portion. The mash was especially good – creamy, and heavily scented with truffle which is undoubtedly, my favourite kind of mash.

I had the Roe deer marinated in red wine served with cloudberries, which turned out to be quite different from what I’d imagined. The deer was encrusted on the top with sort of a crumb casing, but this wasn’t very crisp, I think partly because of the sauce from the meat. The deer itself was tender and juicy, and the red wine marination brought out its meatier notes. The cloudberries were… for lack of a better word, interesting. I’d never tasted cloudberries before, and they sound like something that could’ve been made up. In the mouth, they were like clusters of little seeds surrounded by mild-tasting and firm fruit.

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We ended the meal with some milk flower and violet ice cream. Personally, I preferred the milk flower, which tasted creamy, milky and sweet. The best part of it all being the floral notes which felt like I was tasting a beautiful garden. It reminded me of the best floral-flavoured gelati I’d had in Rome, where I’d stood at the counter staring at dozens of the loveliest sounding ice-creams from sicilian wine cream to Garden sage and raspberry, and I wondered about when the next time might be that I should return to Italy.

Travel Diary: A day in Moscow City, Moscow, Russia

It was a cold day in Moscow. Overcast and cloudy, there was a distinct grey over the city which reminded me a little of London. After breakfast at кофемания (Kofemaniya), I set out to explore the city on foot, and began to head down the street. Retracing my footsteps to the St. Regis, I continued straight on and took a left round the back of the hotel down a street called Никольская ул. (Nikolskaya ul.).

The street was straight and long. Large grey tiles lay underfoot, arranged neatly in a diagonal manner, and low-rise buildings lined the path on either side. People in long coats walked up and down purposefully, veering off into specific shops, often the cafes. On the right, I saw a neon “Subway” sign and took note of that, given that we’d established that Russian food wasn’t really to our fancy. As I continued walking, the row of shops on my left were replaced by a taller upmarket-looking building with display windows set in gilded frames and brass handled doors; the GUM mall – an upmarket mall which was started as a mall in the early 1900s, but was converted to office space for Stalin’s committee in 1928, and was now a high-end mall housing international luxury brands.

The street led right into the Red square, and suddenly, I found myself standing right smack in the centre of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, flanked on all sides by the iconic buildings I’d seen only in photographs – straight ahead, stood the high walls of the Моско́вский Кремль (Kremlin), the red bricks reaching upwards with hardly any semblance of windows, looking very much like an impregnable fortress (which, I suppose, was the point). To my right, the Государственный исторический музей (State Historical Museum) stood tall – Its façade was a mosaic of shapes – triangles, keyhole shapes, square shapes – in a complex dissonance which I now thought to be rather characteristic of Russian architecture. It looked like giant lego pieces had been joined together. I could see the different blocks and towers, each topped with a conical-shaped roof of light grey and a gilded ornament at its tip. And on my left, there it stood at the far end of the Red Square – a work of art, indeed – the Собор Василия Блаженного (St. Basil’s cathedral).

Domes of St. Basil's Cathedral Moscow Russia

I hate to say this, but my first introduction to this building was through playing Forza Motorsport on the xbox 360. The game had a track set in Moscow which required drivers to do a circle around St. Basil’s, and I remember thinking cool building. I’d love to say that I was so mesmerized by it that I crashed the car, but really I didn’t – I was just having a lot of fun drifting and using the inner straight on the circle to overtake opponents.

Nonetheless, seeing the Cathedral in person felt rather unreal. It was the building I most closely associated with Russia, and there it was. It seemed to be a fabric of multiple inspirations – corbel arches of Byzantine architecture, while the domes reminded me strongly of the mosques I’d seen in the UAE. It was fascinating to look at, to say the least. From where I stood, I could make out 5 of the 8 smaller churches which surrounded the core. The inside was a labyrinth of narrow and winding staircases opening up into small (or on occasion, tall) rooms. One could easily get lost in the narrow corridors which joined together like interlocking loops. While I was visiting, a choir started singing in one of the chapels, their harmonies echoing throughout the halls, resonating off the bare stone walls.

Kremlin Moscow Russia

I decided to navigate around the Kremlin on the side of the river so that I could get to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. On this side of the Krem, the red brick walls were uninterrupted, leading on for a good distance, embroidered with notches and punctuated with towers.

Russian sweets and drinks Moscow Russia

In the late afternoon, our Russian friend Galya brought us to the top floor of GUM to try some Russian sweets and drinks at a cafe. On the table, there was a little standing paper sign which read Пomorи, тoваpищ, нaм – yбepи пocyдy caм! I had no idea what it said, until I turned to the reverse which read Comrade, let us have a deal – clean your table after meal! I guess the Russians have a good sense of humour too.

We got a few traditional items to share including something called a Ptasie Mleczko (also known as Bird’s milk cake) and some colourful traditional drinks. The cake tasted like a giant less-springy marshmallow coated in a thin film of chocolate. The drinks tasted like the syrup with the jellies which we used to buy at the supermarket when I was still in elementary school, and came in the same bold colours. I thought the similarity was uncanny. Afterwards, we picked up our coats and headed back out into the streets, beginning our walk towards our dinner destination, Turandot.

Moscow Russia

Travel Diary: Sochi, Russia

I opened my eyes as the wheels of the aircraft hit the tarmac with a deep and loud rumble. Through the cabin, an applause erupted. We looked at each other and shrugged – it was only later on that I was told that the Russian airlines have contributed generously to the number of global aviation accidents and perhaps that could’ve been the reason. The plane was small; a narrow aisle divided the sea of blue seats, three on each side. We’d arrived.

I don’t know about you, but I never seem to be able to fall asleep in airplanes. There is always someone moving the curtains around and letting in the light into the cabin like a stun gun, a baby crying somewhere, or the dry cabin air. But largely, I attribute it to tight seats and having to sit for hours. I end up trying out all sorts of contortions on the long haul flights, from curling up sideways on the seat like a prawn to just going for a full stretch with my legs straight under the seat in front of me and my arms folded behind my head. The good thing was being on a plane meant I was going somewhere, and that’s usually a good thing.

I looked out through the oval shaped window to catch my first glimpse of the city called Sochi. Located on the Black sea coast and right at the Georgian border, I thought it was funny how it’d never crossed my mind to visit the place and yet, now, here I was. Funnier still, was that this town that was known to me as the town of the Winter Olympics was everything but it – bright, sunny, with a scorching heat.

We were hosted at the Rodina Grand Hotel and Spa, and on arrival were served with Raspberry cocktails. The lobby had tall columns and high ceilings, with an eye-catching tiered chandelier dripping in crystals as a centrepiece. Walking its depth, one would find that it opened up into another area, curved, with five full-length windows framed by royal grey-toned green curtains from which I could see the lush greenery beyond. The area was fitted with sofa seats of intricate upholstery, and a waterfall chandelier hung overhead. My room was on the ground floor, with a balcony that led right into Rodina’s gardens. Because the hotel was on the hillside facing the sea, the sparkle of the sea could be seen in the distance. Each morning, I would go out to take a deep breath of the fresh, cool sea breeze.

The inaugural Russian Formula One was at the Sochi Autodrom – the 5.858km track weaving by spectator stands which can take up to a whopping 55,000 people – and started off with a troop of traditional Russian performers decked out in their national colours of White, Blue, and Red, armed with spears and swords, performing to a lively Russian tune.

Russian Traditional Performance

Across from the balcony where I stood, the crowds were enthusiastically waving flags at the Grandstand. I wished they hadn’t implemented noise reduction measures on the cars though, because it dampened the oomph that used to send my pulse racing – especially the splutter of short, sharp bursts that happened each time the drivers braked to navigate a tight corner.

F1 Paddock Club Sochi Russia

I’ve always been a little torn between Toro Rosso and whichever team Lewis Hamilton joins. Nonetheless, here’s a shot for Team Toro Rosso and for the Vettel fans!

Team Toro Rosso Red Bull F1 Sochi

Sebastian Vettel F1 Sochi Russia

Kofemaniya (кофемания), City Centre, Moscow, Russia

SCRIBBLES

Category: Russian – Breakfast/Brunch

кофемания, meaning “Coffeemania” and pronounced as kofemaniya, was a chance encounter. We were looking for breakfast on our first morning in Moscow and had no idea where to go, so we ducked our heads into the first cafe which looked promising, which also so happened to be only steps away from where we stayed. It was about 10.30am when we went, and it looked cosy and was rather full (which reassured us it couldn’t be too bad). As it turns out, кофемания has several branches in Moscow alone, including one branch in the famous and upmarket GUM mall near the Red Square.

Malyy Cherkasskiy pereulok, 2, Moscow, Russia