A best-selling novel about a gentleman holed up in a Moscow hotel may give hope to hundreds of tourists sharing a similar fate during this pandemic.
Amor Towles’ novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, is set in the Metropol Hotel, an upmarket, Art Nouveau establishment just across from Red Square and down from the Bolshoi Theatre.
The gentleman, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, was forced into house arrest at the hotel after being found guilty by the Bolsheviks of being a member of the bourgeoisie.
Roll on 100 years and many returning travellers are facing a similar fate in Australia, having to self-isolate in hotels, although only for 14 days.
But self-isolation provides an opportunity to read Towles’ excellent novel and also surf the internet and plan a trip to Moscow, a mysterious and magical mega-city.
You can start by taking a virtual tour of the Metropol online.
Built before the Russian Revolution, the hotel retains its decadence and style.
There is a swimming pool and gymnasium in the basement and on the ground floor a beauty salon, gift shops and the Savva restaurant, where a harpist serenades patrons at breakfast.
If your budget doesn’t extend to the $370+ needed for a standard room at the Metropol, try a stay at Moscow’s Olympic Village.
Now a hotel complex, the village offers three and four-star accommodation and is a throwback to the country’s Soviet era.
It consists of Izmailovo, Gamma and Delta, three Soviet-era tower blocks, each containing their own restaurant, bars, gyms, shops and post offices.
The room in which I stayed appeared not to have been touched since the 1980 Olympics.
There was a brown painted wardrobe, a functional bathroom and a small room with a double bed, desk and chair. The lobby was full of backpackers and other tourists, while the decor could have been taken from a Mike Myers movie.
Moscow does not believe in tears
But it was all part of the fun and the complex is just a 10-minute walk to the metro, which takes you straight to Red Square.
It’s also next to the Izmailovskoye flea market.
Set in a faux Kremlin, you will need a good day to cover the market, with stalls selling souvenirs from the Soviet era, antiques from tsarist times, samovars, Russian dolls, furs, shoes and maps.
After you have shopped in the faux Kremlin, a visit to the real site is a must.
Take the underground from Partizanskaya Metro Station, about 250 metres away, and follow the blue line straight to Ploshchad Revolutsii, one of the stations nearest to the walled city.
You will need at least a day to visit the Kremlin’s main sites.
The Armoury Museum, as well as showcasing military paraphernalia, exhibits Faberge eggs and toys given as a gift to the children of Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra, the last tsars of Russia.
There’s also a replica of the marriage gown of Catherine the Great, royal carriages from the 16th century, gold and silverware crafted by Russian artisans, crowns and insignia.
Other sites to see while in the Kremlin’s walls are the Assumption Cathedral, the Tsar Bell (which has never tolled), Ivan the Great Bell Tower and the Grand Kremlin Palace.
Walk down to Red Square and directly opposite, flanking one side of the square, is GUM department store.
Here you will find a display of vintage cars on the ground level, a food court selling caviar and Krug champagne beneath hanging chandeliers, while on the upper levels are hundreds of shops, some selling mink coats.
A key attraction in Red Square is Lenin’s Mausoleum, a sombre building housing the embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin.
You will have to queue for up to three hours to visit the embalmed body of Lenin and you will be ushered through by armed bodyguards, however, the experience will complete your visit to Moscow.