Our first day in Moscow was a good day. Fairly warm (getting up to about 60 degrees F) with clear skies, perfect for sightseeing. We thoroughly enjoyed our food tour with Maria from Bridge to Moscow. She was knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and super friendly. She took us to Danilovsky indoor market to start where we sampled cheeses, dried meats, and smoked fish. We settled down for a beer and smoked omul from Lake Baikal with bread. It was lightly smoked, almost like sushi, and delicious. But two pieces between the three of us was enough. There are sit down eateries where you can get cooked food as well as all kinds of fresh and processed food products. Great place to pick up a picnic lunch or sit down and eat.
Short metro ride and walk to a Ukrainian restaurant, Taras Bulba (near Tsvetnoy Bulvar metro). The place was pretty cool, located in an old building, decorated in traditional Ukrainian style with a central fireplace, whitewashed walls with floral patterns painted on. The staff were dressed in typical clothing. The food was delicious. We had borscht and solyanka soup, herring in fur coats (layered beet-carrot-potato-herring-mayonnaise salad), salad Olivier, dumplings (pelmeni and verenyky), and lard to go along with our vodka (surprisingly good). We signed the visitor book and took a few pictures with the staff. They sent us off with a sack of pierogies.
Next stop was a Georgian restaurant, Dshandshali. We had mineral water, mixed pureed spreads (spinach, beet), eggplant stuffed with ground walnut, imeruli khachapuri cheese bread, shaslik (grilled ground lamb sausages). Great food (khachapuri was our favorite) but we were getting pretty full and couldn’t eat it all.
Last stop was GUM department store on Red Square for tea at Stolovaya No. 57 along with sweets from the first floor grocery store. What a cool place – a throwback Soviet workers’ cafeteria – with a view down the length of GUM. Parted with Maria here after 7 hours of food and conversation, including orientation to the Moscow metro system. We talked about family, culture, politics, history. The time we spent with Maria was truly informative and entertaining. It reinforced that travel helps us understand the larger world we inhabit. Or as Mark Twain said: ‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime’. Bolshoi Theater tour and Kremlin Armory museum tomorrow.