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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Exposed: Top Secret Shopping Tips

Every experienced Moscow dweller has their own shopping secrets, a key to a few windows of opportunities known only to a limited number of fellow insiders. The conclusion of a more than two-year tour in the Russian capital provides this opportunity to unveil a few modest possibilities in the maze of Moscow commerce:


How to buy U.S. stamps for less than face value: This could be an entry in the Ripley's Believe-It-or-Not category. In Moscow, it is actually possible to purchase brand-new U.S. stamps for 75 percent of their face value. Yes, the stamps are authentic, and no, you do not need to break any laws to obtain them. The place to go is the weekly stamp club, held Saturday mornings at the Dom Kultury on 41 Ulitsa Vyatskaya, near Savolovsky station.


Russian collectors often obtain new U.S. stamps by sending new, cheaper Russian stamps to their American stamp-collecting comrades. Thus, to them, new U.S. stamps are worth less than their face value, and 75 cents on the dollar is the standard going rate. One avid salesman said he bought his mint U.S. stamps in Hungary, where they go for half price.


When you get to the Dom Kultury on Saturday morning, you will find dozens of mostly middle-age male collectors with tables of their wares set up in a long hall. If you ask around, you will eventually find a few with U.S. stamps.


Where to find take-out Khachapuri: The cheesy Georgian version of pizza will certainly not solve all of your nutritional problems, but a piping hot khachapuri will go a long way to warming a cold winter's night.


At Guria, 7/3 Komsomolsky Prospekt, you can get this salad-plate sized creation to go for 2,000 rubles (less than $1) apiece. Enter the restaurant as though you know where you are going, head straight to the back room, past the strolling folk singers, and right into the kitchen. There the cheery cooks will wrap up your order (no need to drag along your own paper -- the covering is provided free of charge) and send you on your way within a minute or two.


Where nearly new Stalin-era posters live on in eternity: Those weaned on blatant propaganda may find this kind of memorabilia old hat, but for the uninitiated there is The Moscow Gallery, at 11 Kuznetsky Most, which offers a remarkable collection of old posters from the 1940s and 1950s. The store itself has an uninviting Soviet facade, and is open only on weekdays, which means that it is probably best known to the idle with lots of time on their hands.


Even most of those stepping in from the street will never see the stash of posters, because they are kept rolled up in a small, windowless back room, where only insiders are invited. But if you ask for Tatyana Yakovlevna Paperno, you will be taken to see such poster treasures as Joseph Stalin, decked out in full military dress uniform, shaking a young officer's hand. The slogan below reads: "Do well, so that Comrade Stalin will say 'Thank You.'" Another celebrates the efficient Soviet postal system for delivering magazines to remote country dachas.


The collection of several dozen posters belonged to the artist who created them himself, and have been kept in pristine condition. His son has offered them to the store for sale, and they are going fast -- to insiders in the know, of course.