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<<Travel report Moscow 2012: back to a metropole full of contrasts

'"What do you want to drink, vodka?" With a typical English-Russian accent, we are asked if we want to have a glass of the traditional Russian beverage. We are back. Back at the place where we were a year ago and where we went crazy about this city because of its versatility and the extravagance of a unique city, Moscow. We went back to make new reports, see more of the city and to conquer the freezing cold. To finish our series of reports which were published in the last three months, we now have a detailed repot about our journey. A report in which we would like to share our experiences in Moscow with you. Seeing friends again We ended our travel report of last year with the Russion words ''до скорой встречи''. These words mean goodbye and that’s exactly what happened. Thanks to the great time we had we soon wanted to get back to this beautiful city. It’s a big challenge to visit this city. At first you need to arrange your visas, then there’s the hard to understand language and at last, the freezing cold. In 2011, we visited Moscow to meet the company TopCar and this year we visited them again. We also paid a visit to the exclusive dealership König Motor Club, we made a report of the new TopCar Inferno and we did a lot more. At Tuesday morning 11 December 2012, we land at Sheremetyevo Airport after a long night. We can feel that it’s much colder this year and soon after we left the airport, we’re stuck in the first of many traffic jams. The Tuesday afternoon and evening are all about meeting TopCar again and making a photo shoot with the new TopCar Inferno. We line up in the traffic jam on the M10-highway and head for Crocus Hall, where the Inferno is waiting for us. You already read about the Inferno in the report we published earlier. The most important thing about this project is that it shows another side of the company TopCar. TopCar is known for their tuned Porsches but with this car, they show that they can do more. The version we drove looks beautiful and shows all the possibilities you have at TopCar. A lot of carbon fiber details, big ADV.1 wheels and a lovely interior. After a few hours in the freezing Russian weather, we say goodbye to the TopCar Inferno. The next thing we have to do is meeting Oleg, the owner of TopCar. We are invited to a restaurant in his own residential. This is one of the many gated residences near Moscow to provide safety and privacy for the inhabitants. This are residences where you can find everything you need. Think of schools, a gym, shops and so on. These residences are quite popular in Moscow. A lot of people head out of the city to live in these residences where your child can play outside without any problems. Safety and privacy are very important in these residences. During a diner with caviar and other Russian treats we joke about our visit in 2011 and TopCars plans for this year. On the IAA in Frankfurt, the Porsche 991 TopCar will be revealed. At this moment, there’s a big demand for the older model of TopCar, the Advantage GT. And eventually they will come up with a successor of the Vantage 2. The opportunity for this company can be found in the United States where the extravagant styling of the cars seems to be a success. Tired but satisfied, we say goodbye and head for the hotel to meet again tomorrow. We will visit the workshop of TopCar to see how the cars are made but in the morning we made some time to go out and spot some cars! Time to spot some cars The hotel where we stay has a perfect location. It’s located just behind the very expensive Ritz Carlton Hotel in the district Tverskaja. Our hotel is near Tverskaja Ulitsa. An important and busy street which exist since the nineteenth century. The street ends at the famous Kremlin and the Russian parliament. After a ‘petit dejeuner’ and a look in the Russian newspaper we head out and try to conquer the freezing cold. The weather forecasts for the upcoming days are as well good as bad. Good because the sun will be shining all day and bad because the maximum temperature will be -12 degrees Celsius. We dress up warm and we decide what we’re going to do. From our hotel, we head to the Kremlin to see the Red Square and the Saint Basil’s Cathedral again. This is a must when you visit Moscow. Despite the fact that it takes only fifteen minutes to get there, we immediately feel that we need some time to adjust to the Russian weather. The sun feels great but with some wind it still feels very cold on the Red Square. After we warmed ourselves in the department store GUM, ГУМ, we go back outside. Last year, we were already told that we shouldn’t expect to see supercars like a Bugatti or a Lamborghini. We mostly see SUVs and expensive limousines on the streets. When we head north from Nikol’skaya ulitsa you’ll pass the Tretyakovsky Proezd gallery. This is one of the most beautiful streets in the center of Moscow. It’s the ultimate place for the very rich. Beautiful buildings and small boutiques fill up this gallery. It aren’t big shops like Louis Vuitton in Paris or the GUM department store, the atmosphere in this gallery is really intimate. Near this street, you’ll also find the Ferrari, Maserati and Bentley dealership. So we were almost certain to see our first exclusive car somewhere near this gallery. And yes, a Maybach 62 S together with a Mercedes-Benz G 55 AMG passes by. Near this dealership you can find the famous Lubyanka Square. This square is named after the world-famous building you can find on the square, Lubyanka. First, the Lubyanka was the building of a big insurance company but after the October Revolution, the secret service of Russia, the KGB had their headquarters in this building. In this building the KGB had a prison of which nobody ever came out alive. Nowadays, the FSB has their headquarter sin this building, the FSB is the new Russian Secret Service. When we head back to our hotel we see two Maybachs. A second 62 S and a new 57 S. Quite a surprise to see three of these cars in such a short time. Visiting TopCar and taking a look at Moscow from above Back in our hotel, we warm up and leave the hotel again. Our afternoon is all about TopCar followed by a drive through Moscow. We were picked up by Anton from TopCar and line up in traffic jam again. We see a lot of Audi A8s and Mercedes-Benz S-Classes passing by with sirens on top of the car. Anton tells us that Poetin just gave an important speech and now all the politicians are leaving the Kremlin again. It’s crazy to see the difference between all the politicians and the other people on the road, the politicians have a lot more power and everyone will let them pass. The traffic in Moscow is a huge problem. There aren’t enough lanes and more and more cars can be found in Moscow. It’s not strange that there are traffic jams all day. Some people even choose to use an ambulance as a cab. When we arrived at TopCar, we get a good look at the projects they’re currently working on. Including the new Vantage 2 of the owner of TopCar. A TOPCAR GT (958.1), this time a diesel version, with a two-tone white paint and a beautiful interior. It’s the Cayenne which we will use to travel through Moscow, the next days. After a short tour and after taking some pictures, it’s time to relax again. We head towards the highest building of Moscow, the Ostankino tower. This TV-tower is one of the highest constructions in the world. Only five other buildings are higher than this tower, which is 540 meters high. You can see this tower from every possible location in Moscow. Since 1967, this tower is dominating the skyline of Moscow. Before we may enter the tower we have to go through a very strict passport control which makes us think of the control you see on airports. Everything is checked by an old and grumpy Russian lady. When you’re good to go, an elevator will take you to a height of 340 meters. On this platform you can take a good look on Moscow. This will show you how big this city is. The Ostankino tower is definitely worth a visit when you’re in Moscow.   When we’re back on the ground again, it’s time to get something to eat. The contrast between poor and rich is very big in Moscow. We see that when we pass someone with a horse while big SUVs are also passing us. We end up in a small restaurant named Duplo Bar. It’s a lounge restaurant with Indian dishes. To end our second day, we eventually end up in the Denis Simachev bar. A cool bar where we also took some drinks, the year before. It’s a popular bar among the rich Russians. The bar is very extravagant and the prices are far above the average. When the clock reaches 03:00 hours we head back to the hotel. The streets of Moscow are still busy. We get a flashback to the song ‘Moscow Never Sleeps’ by DJ Smash while the SUVs are still racing through the streets and we see some security equipped with an Avtomat Kalasjnikova, yes, an AK-machine gun. Art history and a visit to a Russian petrolhead We start Thursday and it’s our third day in Moscow already. Today is all about meeting Misha who will show us some Russian culture and will introduces us to the Russian petrolhead Alexey. Before we meet Misha in the New Arbat district, we take a walk through the city center. Again, we head to the Tretyakovsky Proezd gallery and back. The small walk brings us a great spot, a Mansory Conquistador. We wait for the driver to get out of the car before we take some pictures of it. When we reach the Bentley dealership we see some other exclusive car which are parked outside. Later we hear that this is because of the introduction of the new Maserati Quattroporte. Not less important is our visit to the GUM department store, we need to take a good bottle of Vodka home. Those who want to pay a little extra for better quality needs to try a bottle of Beluga vodka. Beluga vodka is still traditionally made by hand in Siberia. Back in the hotel we left our shopping bags and headed to the New Arbat district. The New Arbat is a fifteen minute walk from the Kremlin. In New Arbat, you can find expensive as well as normal shops and restaurants in this district. During summer, the parking lots are full of exclusive cars. Now, in December, the parking lot is full of SUVs and some AMGs. We meet Misha in a donut shop. A lot people might know Misha because he owns a 700 hp strong Subaru Impreza and his Russian background. The first subject we talk about is Dragtimes. Dragtimes is an event of which we don’t know much but which is still very popular. The famous videos of these events are made on the Muscovite highways and are always at night. Of course it isn’t allowed to drive as fast as they do and that’s why the police is also involved in this event. They get some money to let them pass at the ridiculous high speeds. During winter, there aren’t so much events due to the bad weather. While we’re talking some exclusive cars drive by, including a bright blue Bentley Continental GT. We also talk about time in Russia, the Russian time. Where you make appointments and you’ll almost always be late. Russian decide by themselves when they want to come or go. You can’t compare it with being fashionably late. Our next destination is the Tretjakov gallery. We get there with the subway. In this gallery, we can take a tour with a group of friends of Misha to learn something about the art history. The Tretjakov gallery was founded in 1856 by the wealthy Russian merchant Pavel Tretjakov. His private museum was opened for public and has only grown in the last few years. The gallery has the biggest collection of Russian art in the world. Special about this gallery are the big collection of religious icons from the period between the twelfth and seventeenth century. The Russian-orthodox church used these icons to honor and teach. These icons are filled with the power of the holy person which are symbolized with these icons. The icons symbolize the borderline between the spiritual and the temporary. Our first ‘lesson’ of Russian art is tiresome but very interesting. It was extra hard to follow the lessons because everything was told in Russian. When we get back outside, it’s already dark. We get to Alexey’s place to talk about his passion for cars and we want to know more about the true Russian petrolhead. We already published an article about this talk with Alexey. After a great evening with a lot of great stories and more than enough shots of Vodka, we end up in bed, way too late! We only have a few hours of sleep left before we have to wake up again. Visiting the König Motor Club and the Topline exhibition We wake up, way too early, because someone’s knocking on our door. Our breakfast is being served. Again, we meet Misha in the New Arbat district from where we travel to König Motor Club, outside the historic center of Moscow. The König Motor Club welcomes us with a glass of tea or Vodka. After the long night before, we choose for the glass of tea. We got a tour through the company and got a great impression of the company and all the activities which make the company more than just a dealership. Just like we did with all the other articles, we refer you to the article itself to read more about our visit to the König Motor Club. We are picked up by a TOPCAR GT (958.1) around 14.00 hour to head to Crocus City Mall to eat something at the ShoreHouse, a nice restaurant. After our visit to the ShoreHouse we pay a short visit to the TopLine exhibition. The exhibition where you can buy stuffed animals which cost thousands of Euros or a chopper when you’re interested. The most important thing about this evening is our report which we are going to make. Together with a TopCar Advantage GT, we head to the All-Russia Exhibition Centre. A fascinating location to take a good look at the Soviet-architecture. There are all sorts of pavilions which show you something of the Soviet style. The main entrance of the park is a triumphal arch with a statue on top of it. The park is larger than Monaco and consists up to 400 buildings. One of the locations we use for our report of the Porsches is the space pavilion. Because it’s very quiet in the park, we have a great chance to take these cars for a good ride. The TOPCAR GT (958.1) sounds very modest, probably because it’s a diesel but the Advantage GT has a very loud exhaust system which sounds great when you floor the pedal. The roaring of the V8 means that we’ve finished our report and we head back to the hotel to prepare ourselves for a party night in Bar Duck. An exclusive bar where they play minimal techno with a live saxophone player. To end our night, we take a few drinks in a club where you have a nice view over Moscow before we head back to the hotel. It’s already 06:00 before we get there, time to get some sleep! Time to relax A Saturday with a hangover and a quiet Sunday. That’s a short description of our last two days in Moscow. The Saturday is all about recovering from the long night, a cheap dinner in the McDonald’s and get to bed early. The only thing we do that day is taking a walk through the center. And that’s when we really feel how cold Moscow can be. After fifteen minutes we are completely frozen and run into the GUM Department Store to warm ourselves. On Sunday, we visit the National Historic Museum to take a look at prehistoric objects to objects from Tsar families. Later that day, Anton joins us and we also visit the Space Museum. We can recommend this to everyone who is interested in space. This visit to the space museum ends our visit to Moscow. The song ‘Moscow Never Sleeps’ is still playing inside our heads whan the airplane is taking off for Düsseldorf Airport. When we look back at our week in Moscow, a lot of events make it very likable to return to Moscow again. Especially the freezing cold is something unique, something you must have experienced in your life. Next to that, the warmth of everyone we met and the passion for exclusive cars a great thing to remember. We won’t end this report with saying thank you, but we will end it with the words see you soon!