So – here we are its February already
and you’re stuck for ideas of what to do
for Valentines’ Day. How about a romantic
trip to Russia? Ok we can’t actually physically
take you there but how about a few ideas for
snuggling up with your other half in a virtual
tour in Siberian winter temperatures whilst checking
out two of the most romantic cities in Russia?
Moscow – is a stunning city in the sense
that it somehow manages to be both beautiful and
ugly at the same time. Due to the history of Russia
through the ages Moscow has seen so many changes – far
too many to cover here!
Of course the irresistible centrepiece of Moscow
has to be Red Square (“Krasnaya ploschchad” in
Russian) – which is the heart of the city.
Its name in fact does not have anything to do with
Communism but is derived from the word “krasniy” which
is the old Russian word for “beautiful”.
Perhaps the most spectacular sight in Red Square
is the incredible St Basils Cathedral which was
commissioned by Ivan the Terrible to celebrate
a battle victory n 1552. Apparently Stalin hated
the building because it prevented his troops marching
out of Red Square en masse! If St Basils doesn’t
appeal – you could always visit the other
side of Red Square and see the Kremlin? Failing
that – the Westernisation of Moscow since
the 1980’s now means that an abundance of
expensive designer fashion stores can be found
on what used to the be the site of the official
State Department Store – just off Red Square.
Or if Russian art is your thing – why not
visit the Tretyakov Gallery where you can find
the largest collection of Russian art in the world – from
medieval icons to 20th century Russian artists
such as Kandinsky.
Another remarkable Russian city worth a visit
is St Petersburg. Founded in 1703 by Peter the
Great – it
was built to compete with the best European cities
of its time and is known as the “Venice of
the North”. St Petersburg was home to the
Tsars and is a cultural centre which includes the
Hermitage Museum – where you can see works
by Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Titian, Cézanne,
Renoir, El Greco and Sisley to name but a few.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Winter
Palace of Catherine the Great which became the
official residence of the Tsars. It is easily the
largest most opulent palace in the city and is
loaded with history. Further “Hermitages” were
added to the original Winter Palace by Catherine
the Great so that she could be alone with her
friends and her paintings.
Following on from our little virtual visit
to Russia, our featured cocktails are unashamedly
of a Russian
theme and so feature the classic Russian cocktail
ingredient – vodka.
Vodka distilleries were first built in Russia
in the 12th century and by the 16th century – vodka
was already being referred to as the “Russian
national drink”. Vodka stems from the Russian
word “voda” which means water. vodka is distilled from superior winter wheat (rather
than lesser grains) and uses the purest, softest,
Siberian glacial water before being put through
an elaborate double distillation and filtering
process resulting in a powerful vodka of unusual
smoothness, clarity and flavour. The Russians drink
it chilled straight up or on the rocks but it is
also the basis for the most superb cocktails – as
the following recipes will prove!