Almost six years have gone by since I last saw my beloved Moscow - my birthplace, my motherland, my former hometown - but I've finally made it here. So much has changed, yet so much is still the same, especially the people. The last time I was here, I was still a teenager, visiting family, not making any specific plans, not fully absorbing the beauty of this city. This time is different. I am more aware of my surroundings. I feel like more of an outsider, a stranger, and yet I am ever so connected to this place.
What's beautiful about Moscow is the grandiosity of everything. It has a way of inspiring you like no other city. History seeps through every building, every street, every park, and it does so with elegance and an air of Soviet fortitude. It still slightly baffles me that I was fortunate enough to be born here and to have lived here. I mean, Toronto is great, unique and is one of the most comfortable cities to live in but you simply cannot feel the grandeur and complexity, which inspires and intimidates you every single day, as soon as you step outside. Basically, Moscow keeps you in check!
My first few days back were hectic, rushed, filled with both, pleasant and characteristically rude encounters, trips to various offices, government bureaus, banks, stores, etc. As soon as the weekend arrived, I decided to start my adventures with something simple - a stroll in the park, by a pond, and brunch.
Partiarch's Ponds is a gem of a park, which used to consist of several ponds, more than two-hundred years ago. However, only one of them remains and holds the kind of esoteric charm no nature-lover would want to miss out on. In the early hours, it's peaceful and enigmatic; it livens up, just before the afternoon sun, as mamas, papas and babushki take their youngins and pups out for a walk. If that isn't intriguing enough, this sure will be - writer, Mikhail Bulgakov, monumentalized this place in his novel, The Master and Margarita, where he had the Devil appear.
After a relaxing couple of hours at the park, I headed over to Mari Vanna, an upper-scale restaurant stylized as a cozy, old-fashioned, Russian home, where you are greeted by waitresses dressed in traditional garb. Brunch came in the form of Syrniki (cottage cheese pancakes) and Oladi (buttermilk pancakes), and everything tasted like pure Slavic heaven. If you have never tried authentic Russian food, this is a great place to start. Just remember that Polish delis aren't the only options available if you wish to dabble into Eastern European cuisine. The BEST part, however, is the owner's Cat, Venya (aka Veniamin, aka Benjamin, aka Benny), who lives there and is free to roam around the place like the little Tsar he is. And this is precisely another reason I love Russia - being a crazy cat lady/man is totally normal and acceptable! Unfortunately for non-Muscovites, His Majesty Venya's living situation is unique to the city. The absence of fat cats shouldn't discourage you from trying out the Moscow-based restaurant chain, which is also located in St. Petersburg, New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and London... Sadly, not Toronto.
Last but not least, my ensemble for the day consisted of a 70s-inspired, retro, paisley, Georgette silk top; a simple, black mini skirt; embroidered suede moccasins, and a pair of black, retro-style sunglasses. Ancient ponds and old-fashioned restaurants call for old world style.
Hope you have a lovely day. More to come from Moscow!