GUM (department store)

Nikolay Galkin/TASS
Moscow's No. 1 shop, Gosudarstvennyi universalnyi magazin (State Department Store), or GUM, has always been a tourist Mecca. The spot where the GUM stands was an outdoor market during the Middle Ages and later, before Catherine II ordered a proper indoor market built here in the Classicist style in the 18th century. They put Giacomo Quarenghi, the creator of the Pavlovsk Palace and Smolny Institute in Saint Petersburg, on the case, but the building was never completed according to his design. After the 1812 fire of Moscow, the project was commissioned to Joseph Bové, the creator of the Bolshoi Theatre, the Moscow Manege and the Triumphal Arch, but the building he had designed quickly went out of date and fell into neglect. The current building of the Upper Trading Rows, which GUM used to be called, was designed by Alexander Pomerantsev, an architect famous for innovation, and built in 1893. Pomerantsev's creation came out as a classic shopping mall of the same configuration that was widespread in Europe in the 19th century, albeit in the Pseudo-Russian style. When it came to the amazing glass vaults, Pomerantsev outsourced the work to Vladimir Shukhov, an engineer of genius, the inventor of arched vaults and numerous hyperboloid structures, including the famous Shukhov's Tower at Shabolovskaya. Shukhov has built the enormous 800-ton roof, which shines in the sun and appears weightless.

The historic restroom in GUM's basement was reopened in 2012, following protracted restoration. It looks much too chic for a restroom, rather resembling a room in some nobleman's mansion. The Bolsheviks closed the restroom after the 1917 Revolution. Perhaps they considered such luxury excessive. They say that the GUM was the first shop in the history of Soviet retail to introduce a book of complaints and suggestions, but there exists no conclusive historical evidence to prove it.

Muscovites go to the GUM to have a good time, not just to shop. There are a few cafés and a cinema on the third floor. It is customary to eat the delicious ice cream, sold in the GUM, by the fountain in the middle of the shop. It is also customary to schedule dates by the fountain.

The classical ice cream, which is familiar to any Muscovite from early age, can be definitely found in GUM. The sales of this ice cream started on July 3, 1954. In the basement of the store a special ice cream workshop was opened. In the beginning, only plombir (rich ice cream) and crème brûlée were prepared there, later on some other kinds of ice cream were introduced. The workshop is still operating, people who work there thoroughly keep the recipes and the production secrets of the ice cream in waffle cups.

Some time ago in GUM there were elegant saleswomen with ice cream wagons, where you could see a lot of crunchy waffle cups with traditional flavors: rich cream, crème brûlée, cream with chocolate crisps, melon. Now you can see big kiosk in GUM, where the assortment has become bigger: along with the classical flavors you can find cherry, pistachio, and Eskimo ice cream in foil paper. There is a big line in front of the kiosks even during wintertime.