Self-guided walking tour around Bolshaya Gruzinskaya Ulitsa

The parallel streets Bolshaya Gruzinskaya and Malaya Gruzinskaya literally mean ‘Large Georgian Street’ and ‘Small Georgian Street’ and refer to the history of Georgia. These lands used to belong to Vakhtang VI, a Georgian monarch who ruled the East Georgian Kingdom of Kartli in the Caucasus but was forced into exile in the Russian Empire. In 1729, the exiled monarch got these lands as a gift, and a Georgian community grew around his estate, eventually leaving nothing but the street names behind.

Since Moscow nightlife is buzzing, you may want to sleep it off in the morning. Then, with a cup of coffee in hand, head for the Belorusskaya Metro Station and start your sightseeing with a delicious lunch at AQ Kitchen (69 Ulitsa Bolshaya Gruzinskaya). The open kitchen restaurant is run by a renowned Argentinian chef Adrian Quetglas, hence the name AQ. This restaurant serves very picturesque and equally delicious international cuisine. The biggest hits are poultry pate served in the shape of yellow duckling with roasted caramelized apple (≈10$), beef tartar with mustard cream (≈12$), and Moroccan style chicken with couscous and pear chutney (≈12$). The best desert is reputed to be Cuba-libre – crema catalana with Coca-Cola jelly, lime ice cream and minty sponge cake (≈7$).

Walk down Bolshaya Gruzinskaya and check out building number 36 on the way. This architecturally remarkable apartment building was constructed in 1936, for the then Soviet Ministry of Defense Industry officials. Georgy Sviridov, a Soviet era neo romantic composer, used to live here. He was most famous for the musical piece ‘Time, forward!’.

Turn right to Ulitsa Klimashkina and a few blocks down, you’ll find a gorgeous neo gothic style catholic temple. This is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Virgin Mary (27/13 Ulitsa Malaya Gruzinskaya). Completed in 1911, the three-aisled red brick building is influenced by Westminster Abbey and the Milan Cathedral. In the aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution and promotion of state atheism, the cathedral was closed in 1938 and sustained 58 years of non-religious use. Following extensive reconstruction, the cathedral was reconsecrated in 2005. Its pipe organ was donated by the the Reformed Evangelical Basel Munster in Basel, Switzerland. The cathedral is the setting for regular liturgical celebrations in multiple languages and benefit concerts featuring organ and church music.

Further walk up Malaya Gruzinskaya and turn left to Krasnaya Presnya – here’s the gate to the Moscow Zoo in the shape of a large rock castle. Entrance fee is ≈17$. The Moscow zoo has over 6500 animals representing about 1000 species, and covers an area of about 21.5 hectares. The zoo’s research team studies animal behavior and breeds rare endangered species. In addition, the zoo keeps a sea aquarium, an aviary, and a creatures of the night exhibit. Bolshaya Gruzinskaya divides the old (1864) and new (1926) properties of the zoo, but there’s a footbridge that connects them.

Right behind the new property you’ll spot the Moscow Planetarium (5/1, Ulitsa Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya). The Planetarium is open daily till 9 PM, except for Tuesdays, and you’ll have plenty of time to see their exhibitions that guide you through time and space. The planetarium incorporates all kinds of high-tech gadgetry, interactive exhibits and educational programs. Narration for the shows is available in multiple languages.

The centrepiece is the Large Star Hall, the largest one in Europe! In the Large Star Hall, Universarium M9 fiberglass projector displays the night sky of Moscow, Tokyo and Paris and takes you to the far reaches of the Universe. Outside you’ll find the Sky Park – an observatory and an open-air museum that demonstrates how people used to make celestial observation in the past. The Lunarium Interactive Museum is, in fact, a research lab available to the public: any visitor can launch a hydrogen missile, ride a space bicycle across the Solar system or save the world from asteroids!

Finish your day at Patriarshiye Ponds and have dinner in MariVanna (10a Sipidonyevsky Pereulok) to celebrate and talk over everything you have seen. MariVanna is a cozy restaurant styled like a a cozy retro apartment, besides Moscow you can find this restaurant in capitals like New York and London. Vintage interior evokes nostalgic feelings, and the chef cooks Russian favorite comfort foods like potato flapjacks with sour cream (≈6$), pelmeni (≈12$), mushroom soup (≈9$). They also serve an excellent choice of nastoikas — vodkas flavored by maceration of berries and herbs. Perfect way to wrap-up a day of sightseeing in Moscow’s historical center…….and maybe even jumpstart another night out!

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Sunshine is a constant deficit in rainy Saint Petersburg, and if you recognise the first symptoms of a gloomy blues, a visit to ‘Tequila-Boom’ is in order.
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