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Moscow, Ravello, Paris

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Until 1917 Russia was run pretty much as England was. It was owned by tsars, the royals and nobility. They owned everything! Then along came Vladimir Lenin. The tsars were murdered, the noblemen tortured and the communist party came to power.

When Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev ended communism in 1991, Moscow became Russia's capital in more ways than one. As well as being the geographic capital, 80 percent of the country's wealth is there, and it is the principal political, educational and transport centre. Europe's most populous city, it is home to 10.4 million, around 70 percent of the total Russian population.

Moscow's architectural and performing arts cultures are world-renowned. Its heart is Red Square, surrounded by the onion-domed St Basil's Cathedral, the Kremlin and Lenin's mausoleum.

Capitalism is alive and thriving, and the neo-Russian façade of GUM, the State Department Store is doing very nicely. The ornate building takes up almost the entire eastern side of Red Square. Completed in 1893, the building features an interesting combination of Russian medieval ecclesiastical architecture and an elegant steel framework. It is reminiscent of turn-of-the-last-century train stations of Paris and London.

Three parallel arcades are overlooked by galleries. Light floods through the glass roof and souvenir shops and designer boutiques sit shoulder to shoulder.

Dorogomilovsky Market on Kievskaya Street is where you will get the feel for the lives of typical Russians. It is stocked with fresh produce and everything from winter boots to electrical bits and pieces. If you fancy caviar and other expensive delicacies, they are cheaper at the markets.


On Italy's Amalfi coast, high above the Tyrrhenian Sea is Ravello, a romantic town and place of historic villas with marvellous gardens. It is car-free, so you can wander at a leisurely pace and enjoy its Moorish architecture, palaces, churches and hidden gardens.

Thought to have been founded in the 4th century by Romans escaping Barbarians, its position is more elevated than other Amalfi Coast towns. Ravello's first bishop, Orso Pavicio, ordered the construction of then cathedral and it is a place to behold.

Ravello has long been a magnet for intellectuals, artists, the creative and the famous. Greta Garbo hid there, Longfellow went there for inspiration, Gore Vidal and Tennessee Williams thought it charming. Its blend of old buildings and gardens were instrumental in D.H. Lawrence's masterpiece, Lady Chatterley's Lover.

Villa Cimbrone is a most aristocratic-looking palace. Built in the 15th century it can be reached by steps on a 10 minute walk from the main square. Once owned by Lord Grinthorpe, a wealthy and eccentric Englishman, visitors included Henrik Ibsen, D.H. Lawrence, Leopold Stokowsky, the Bloomsbury Group, Winston Churchill and the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and now you can stay there.

A bell on the old wooden gates is rung to summon an attendant. You will see wonderful vaulted cloisters, ruined chapels, marvellous architecture and superb views across the Bay of Salerno.

Ravello has been described as heaven between the sea and the sky and you may just agree!


There must be a reason for Paris being the favourite city of so many people. It is a virtual outdoor museum, packed with hundreds of years of architecture and beauty.

The Eiffel Tower is possibly the city's main attraction, but the Pompidou Centre has given it a nudge. The futuristic arts centre is in the Beaubourg, one of Paris' oldest districts. President Pompidou wanted to bring art and culture to the 'man in the street', and architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers wanted to move away from traditional art galleries. That resulted in rooms showing the works of Picasso, Braque, Ernst, Magritte, Chagall, Matisse and other acclaimed 20th century painters being displayed in modern, open surroundings.

The infrastructure is displayed on the outside with the escalator tubes and utility pipes climbing around the building. It is as if the building has been turned inside out.

The George Restaurant on the centre's roof is a good place to rest and contemplate all you have seen.


Russia, Italy and France.


Euroscape Travel has three night Moscow packages starting at $420 per person. Twin share accommodation, transfers and museum tours are included. They operate year round.

Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.

For further information

Euroscape Pty Ltd
122 Rosslyn Street
West Melbourne 3003
Ph: 1300 558 909

CIT World Travel Group
Ph: 02 9267 1255

Get Set Travel Group
French Travel Connection
601/83 Mount Street
North Sydney 2060
Ph: (02) 9966 1177
Fax: (02) 9966 1455

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