We’re getting a lot of information at the exhibition about Russian business practices – very useful for our future dealings:
* never quote your goods delivered to Moscow or other Russian destinations – there are 20 customs offices in Moscow alone, and which one will be responsible for clearing your particular shipment is anyone’s guess. Unwary sellers have had their cargo stuck in customs for months! Russian importers have people whose only task is to deal with the appropriate bureaucrat and smooth things along.
* Russian buyers in any case *want* to arrange their own transport. Somewhere along the road East, maybe in Belarus or Ukraine, the truck somehow “loses” the papers and new ones (with much lower declared values…) are “found”.
* The state refunds VAT to companies after *seven* years, if they’re lucky – so tax evasion becomes a business necessity!
Armed with this info, we revise our offers on the spot!
Play time after the show ends. We decide to travel by metro again. We take a different line today, the circular one which loops around the city centre, and change at Komsomolskaya station. This is a real jewel in the Moscow Metro crown: marble everywhere, chandeliers hanging from the ceilings, huge mosaics with revolutionary scenes: Lenin haranguing the masses, proletariat marching with red flags, muscular workers with hammers and sickles in hand. Russians may now be post-Communist, but it’s good that they aren’t reneging their past and destroying these former emblems of glory.
We meet up with our companions and stroll around Red Square again. It’s cold. An icy wind straight from Siberia cuts through our coats. A street seller discovers us and after some negotiation we buy five fur hats, and soon we are warm again!
On to tonight’s restaurant, Godunov, in Teatralnaya Square, on the opposite side to the Bolshoi theatre and next to the Metropol Hotel. This is decidedly an upmarket establishment: located in a former monastery, with thick, frescoed walls and large ceramic stoves in each room. The patrons are mostly tourists but also a few well-heeled Russians. The menu offers classic Russian food. After the obligatory shot of vodka, what better to start with than a mound of caviar accompanied by blinis (Russian pancakes) and smetana? Absolutely delicious! As a second course, my unadventurous companions order a steak, but I prefer the Beef Stroganoff, thinly sliced beef in a creamy sauce. This is served in a “bread pot”, a large round loaf cut in two and hollowed out. Nice to look at, but a bit dry when the meat is finished. I would have preferred a simple side of rice.
The meal is enlived half way through by a folk group with accordion, balalaika and dancing ladies in folk costumes. Not normally my taste, but they were good and the Japanese at the table next to ours loved it!
My dessert is a strawberry cake – excellent and beautifully decorated with spun caramel. The wine list at Godunov is extensive but pricey: we avoid the Georgian wine and go straight for the safer Italian offerings. A good meal, but expense accounts only!