Destination Information - Moscow, Russia
Moscow has been a tantalizing prospect to a generation of ambitious tourists from Western Europe. Although it sits to the West of the mighty Russian Federation - the largest country in the world - and only a few hundred kilometres from the border, the city was rendered out of reach by the political posturings and paranoia of the Soviet Union.
Two decades on from Glasnost, at last Moscow is truly open to visitors and it doesn't disappoint. Aloof and distant through the long Cold War years, the Muscovites have warmed to the influx of visitors. The Soviet programme of utilitarianism failed to eclipse Moscow's beauty and now the city appears in all its glory. Red Square and the Kremlin count among the most beautiful and ornate buildings in the world and in the Bolshoi, Moscow can boast the world's most accomplished dance company.
But the relics of the Soviet era are still just as fascinating. Stalin's "Seven Sisters" are the most recognizable symbols of the expansive Communist vision, while the straight lines of Lenin's Mausoleum in Red Square declare a philosophy of functionality. But for Muscovites at least this isn't a past that they want to dwell on. Happy to celebrate the cathedrals and wealth of architecture in the Kremlin that has sat at the city heart for eight centuries, they are less eager to show off the grandiose buildings of 1950s communism.
The revival of the Orthodox religion is just one sign that Russians are enjoying their new found freedom, but it is equally evident in the clothes, the cars and the mannerisms of Moscow's youth. Visit any of Moscow's leading bars, clubs and restaurants and you could be anywhere in Europe. Everyone seems eager to move on and play their part in the new Russia, in a truly breathtaking rapidity of change.
But it only takes one visit in winter, when the onion cupolas of St Basil's are tipped with snow and icicles dangle over the Kremlin wall - and you'll find that in the sheer beauty of the vista (and in the fur-lined shapka hat) some things are destined never to alter. And that should guarantee that Moscow never loses its allure.