YEGOR BEROEV and KSENIA ALFEROVA, a star couple of Russian cinema, who are also known for their charity work—and for being avid travellers. While Ksenia was getting dressed for a photoshoot, Yegor sat down with our correspondent at the RADIS – SON ROYAL, MOSCOW lobby bar to discuss what «high class» stands for in the hotel industry—of which he can, of course, speak from ample experience.

What details do you immediately take note of at a hotel?

What it smells like is hugely important to me. While in the lobby, you already sense the hotel’s atmosphere. Does it smell of cheap air freshener or fresh roses? Stale dust or the delicious apples sitting right there on a tray? I also note things about my fellow guests. Granted, they tend to look the same nowadays — baseball caps, T-shirts, sneakers — but after a while, you notice how some of them talk to the staf, how they always sit at the same table at the restaurant or read the same newspaper; and you realize they don’t just happen to be staying there. As an actor you become aware of such details, and people like that are terribly interesting to observe.

As a hotel guest, do you prefer familiar cosiness or surprise?

One thing I don’t like is suites with a kitchen. You can never avoid the smell and the garbage. Generally, I think a hotel room ought to be, how should I put it, pleasantly nondescript. Its design and decorations must not become oppressive, drowning out individual fancy. They’re not the point of it all.

What is the point then?

The view from the window. The city that you’re about to discover if it’s your first visit. The new people about to enter your life. Some unpretentious art on the walls, perhaps even just framed dry leaves, make the best backdrop for that. I once stayed at a designer hotel near Verona. My oh my was it extravagant — and completely unsuited to everyday life. There are designer hotels I like to come back to, though; the Lydmar in Stockholm, for example. It has this air of Nordic tolerance towards another person’s choices and tastes, and a sense of home because the decorations — African sculptures, old books, a chessboard in the lobby — had been collected by the proprietors themselves, had been a part of their lives.

But the Lydmar is relatively new. What do Ksenia and you think of the established luxury places, the palace hotels?

To be honest, I’m a little wary of them. You always get something broken or leaking. For some reason, classic European grand hotels often feel dusty and decrepit. You can go on all you like about their historical value, but I prefer living in the world of today, with all the latest in technology and comfort. I could name the Hotel Lungarno in Florence as one that ofers the best of both worlds. Ultimately, what matters is to be serviced by free, self-respecting people who like their job and know its value. The place itself may just as well be a farm deep in Tuscan or Umbrian hinterland, where you can sit at the table with the proprietors, savouring the magnificent local wine and having a leisurely conversation. Isn’t that simple warmth the whole point of travelling?