Tuesday, June 5, 2007

From Russia with Love – Part 2

My short stay in Moscow was at the super-expensive Ararat Park Hyatt Moscow ($900 per night; благодарность – thank you – Hyatt frequent flyer points). The hotel personnel were very helpful and always service-minded. There is a shortage of business hotels in Moscow, resulting in astronomical lodging rates at those that are available. For example, the Moscow Holiday Inn’s least expensive room is $350 per night.

I went to both GUM (left) and ZUM – the largest department stores in Russia. GUM is located in Moscow's Red Square in a huge, ornate building (constructed 1889-93) that once housed more than 1,000 shops. The name is an acronym "State Department Store" in Russian. GUM now contains about 150 shops selling food, clothing, all manner of consumer electronic devices and and home appliances, and other stuff. It functions more like a Western-style shopping mall than a department store. These Soviet-era retail dinosaurs are thriving – a manifestation of Russia’s current oil-based growth economy.

Before departing for St. Petersburg, I went for a quick dinner at Café Pushkin, an expensive and pretentious restaurant with a wonderful mix of French and Russian cuisine for celebrities and the well-to-do. The borscht was amazingly delicious and totally unique. Served hot (the style favored in Eastern and Central Europe), this sweet soup features sliced beets, slivers of goose meat, and sections of apple, and is served with a large portion of sour cream and thick dark bread. I also had caviar and blinis (light-as-air buckwheat pancakes) as my main course, although veal, pork, fish, and many other entrées adorned the menu. The desert selection looked sumptuous.

With Moscow behind me, I left for St. Petersburg and IBM’s 2007 Business Leadership Forum and encountered another drama along the way.

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