Archive for the ‘Customers’ Experiences’ Category

What do you know about traditional souvenirs from Russia? Most probably you’ve heard of Russian nesting doll ( ‘mastryoshka’ in Russian), but not many visitors can remember other traditional crafts. In Moscow, you can also buy Gzhel, Valenki, Khokhloma, Orenburg shawls, Zhostovo trays, Amber, Matryoshka doll and many more items. And below you will see the most popular and unique souvenirs. Gzhel is a style of Russian ceramics which originates from the village of Gzhel not far from Moscow. The pottery feature distinctive blue designs on white background. The range of Gzhel production is very diverse, among most popular items are tea and coffee services, clocks, lamps and so on. Gzhel Valenki or Russian felt boots used to be very popular footwear in winter. They’re not so widespread today in big cities but are still common in the countryside. Valenki are among the warmest footwear that can be used in severe winters. Valenki Orenburg shawls may become a great souvenir for women, who appreciate handmade things. This type shawl originated in the Orenburg area about 250 years ago. The shawls are made of a special blend of silk and thin goat fiber.Orenburg shawls Zhostovo trays are beautiful metal trays painted with mixed garden and wild flowers come from a small village Zhostovo. Nowadays Zhostovo trays still produced in Mytishchi Area. It is a great present that keeps the warmth of craftsmen hands a peace of mysterious Russian soul. Zhostovo trays Khokhloma is a traditional Russian craft originated in the 17th century in the area of Nizhniy Novgorod. It’s the style of painting on wooden tableware and furniture. Khokhloma style can be recognized for its red and gold flower pattern on a dark background. Khokhloma Matryoshka is the best known and most popular Russian souvenir. It is a set of painted wooden dolls of decreasing sizes one hidden inside another. The number of nested figures usually varies from three to ten, but in some rare cases can reach 50 and even more. Traditional matryoshka doll represents a woman dressed in a Russian peasant dress wearing a scarf on her head. Matryoshka


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I just wanted to let you know what a marvellous time I had on my trip. There were so many wonderful experiences, though sometimes the train journeys could be a little tedious! Often the company was interesting though. Everything went off well – even when the driver was a bit late at Yekaterinburg – it was because there had been a heavy fall of snow and traffic had been slowed up… I suppose I had also not expected the driver to be female and was looking for a male on the platform. I think we must have just missed each other.

Both the homestays were the highlights of the trip! The afternoon I arrived in Severobaikalsk, Larissa, who was great fun, took me to hot springs across Lake Baikal. It was absolutely what I’d wanted to do – drive across the frozen lake. I had no bathing suit for the hot springs, but wasn’t going to miss out… The air temp was about -18 degrees, the water 47 degrees! The following day, my guide was a retired female civil engineer who’d been responsible for building many of the buildings in Severobaikalsk, including the railway station – she was very interesting. My hostess in Yekaterinburg was also delightful. And the day trip to Perm 36 was well worth it. As well as my guide for the day (Tina – her English was perfect), we had a young historian to guide us round the site. And the driver spoke English too and he dropped me back in town, kept my bags in his car for a couple of hours while I went to an art gallery and had a snack before the train, then picked me up again to take me to the station.

In the towns where I was entirely on my own, I often used public transport and did a lot of walking! Tynda was the coldest at -32 degrees, but I was there for only 4 hours. I did get a bit weary towards the end, and my short time in Moscow was just right – but what an impressive city it is! I even coped with the metro. I’m really looking forward to going back there to see more.

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Have just completed the feedback survey but wanted to add some personalised comments for you all, both positive and constructive. Firstly had a great time, I could not believe it would be better than the last time but it was.

I very much like the flexibility that this company offers. You, personally, have worked tirelessly to meet all my little requests in terms of a tailor made tour/solution. The effort you went to in organising different car/driver combinations was excellent and is a testament to both your expertise and the companies flexibility. It is a real customer focussed company and I hope you never loose that, it is a rare commodity.

Hotels again are great, which is why I stayed in them again. I cant tell you how impressed I am particularly with the Ambassador. This is well above what I would class a 4 star hotel.
I made some feedback, at hotel staff request, on the InTourist hotel in Volgograd. It is comfortable and I did not have any major problems, but it is not of the same standard as the Moscow or St Petersburg hotel. Not complaining, you just need to be aware. Their restaurant is fairly ordinary, but the one across the road at the Volgograd is excellent. They could do with an investment in bed/mattress combinations as the wooden frame single beds are not brilliant and the air conditioner and fridges really don’t cope with the 35 degree heat of Volgograd. Again, not complaining just letting you know. I sleep under the stars if I have to, so I take what I get and it met my needs, especially with its great location.

One improvement you do need to make is booking of early check ins if required. I had forgotten to ask, but it was the same last time. When the overnight train arrives in St Peter at 8 or 9 am, rooms aren’t available at the Ambassador until 14:00 unless early checkin has been organised. Getting of the train all you want is a shower, so this should be considered.

Similarly then, because they cant give you access to rooms no key is available so breakfast becomes a problem, as you need the keypass for lift access. Early checkin would solve all the problems, and is just a minor detail

Only had one problem with transfers with one being 30-45 minutes late at the airport. Held my ground against the taxi companies who want your business but at close to midnight you do begin to worry. Can I suggest a local Russian Number to call if there is any problems or to get guidance. I know you have a UK number, but international calls are hugely expensive on a Russian SIM card which typically only have 500 Rubbles credit on them (Which is plenty for local calls). The driver was fine, but sometimes little problems do crop up.

You have excellent drivers. I cant believe the lengths drivers go to in Moscow in particular to keep traffic moving. It is an eye opener. David in particular on this trip was a real asset. He organised things brilliantly, especially where we had the drop off and pick up at the same spot (Great Patriotic War Museum). His English is great and he spent a bit of time ensuring that the driver picking me up was well briefed, and I was well briefed. He managed to have me picked up with a different car and driver from the same spot at the agreed time without any problems. I cant speak highly enough of his services.

Again a real highlight, as there were last time. Tamara at Volgograd was excellent. The gentleman who took me to Monino was fabulously entertaining and even offered to let me join his family for a meal and drink, such was his hospitality. Svetlana who escorted on the canal cruise was also very interesting and caring of personal safety and a real joy to talk with. She was just like having a day out with a friend. The guide to Peterhof was similarly fabulous. I can’t believe you have so many high quality guides, both this time and for my Feb trip.

If I can make a suggestion, perhaps you should give the guides a list of the customers they will be taking on a tour in addition to the GoRussia sign. We almost had a disaster, as I saw what I though was my guide for the Peterhoff trip, as she was carrying the GoRussia sign. She was surprised there was only one of me as she was expecting someone else as well, and we were about to commence the activity when we discovered I was about to go on a city tour designed for someone else. My bus arrived later. Giving the guides a bit more information would avoid any confusion.

I can’t tell you wonderfully this worked out for the trip to MAKS. Maria was fabulous. She rang the hotel when she was a little late. she was able to help get me to the airshow without any problems, negotiating with rail staff on the best method, and was a great companion and helper. She cares so much for your well being, offering to take photos and generally doing anything to help and make the day comfortable. She even was interested in engaged in wonderful conversation about things that are of interest to me (all of which I’m certain are a bore to her). It was almost like travelling with a close friend with similar interests who knows the local stuff.

If I had known that an option of an assistant was available I think I would have taken that for many parts of the trip as it was independent travellers need. Very different from a guide who has a lot of expertise and knows all the historical stuff. Someone like Maria is just a great facilitator. She would have been a perfect solution to visiting any of the museums and sights, someone who can get you through the metro system, organise tickets and generally sort out translation issues without the formalness of guides.

If I had discovered her on my first trip I would have just asked for her to accompany me each day and got wherever by the Metro. Being a local she had many ideas of places to visit which may be of interest on the way home as well.

I think the company should offer this as part of the great service you have in addition to the guided tours. Someone who is available at a daily rate to just be an assistant on activities that you may know about. Some people I’m sure are like me and have a fair idea of what they want to see and just need some help without necessarily having a driver and car etc. Going with the flow.

Hopefully not too much here, I just wanted to let you know what a great time I had, and to give you detailed feedback of all the things which I think you do brilliantly and a few suggestions to hopefully allow you to offer even better services in the future.

I feel very lucky to have discovered goRussia for my Russian adventures, you were the exact solution I was looking for and could not have been more delighted with what you all do. I still can’t believe I just stumbled on you via an internet search.

I’m still trying to work out if I prefer the picture perfectness of Winter, with minimal tourists or the freedom to explore that summer offered, and which of the many things was the highlight. It is a shame I feel like I’ve done the best of Russia, there is many other things I could see there, and that I need to see other parts of the world as I have enjoyed myself and working with you and the company and all its employees immensely.

Many thanks, and if you have an opportunity to pass on any positive remarks to any of those in Russia I dealt with, please do so. I tried to as best I could but not sure if I succeeded with my couple of months of Russian tutoring.

Thanks Diana and well done Julian (?) you have set up a great company here with wonderful staff in both the UK and more importantly in Russia.

Please feel to use any of my comments in any way you see fit on promotional material, I am happy to endorse and be attributed to them for you.


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Walking down the street, I came face to face with a bus heading for
downtown Seoul. Normal you might think – except that we were in
Vladivostok, not Seoul, and at the start of the Trans-Siberian train
route ! Vladivostok’s proximity to Korea and Japan mean that most of
its vehicles are imported from these countries (in the latter case it leads
to right-hand drive cars driving on the right-hand side of the road …).
After three days exploring the city (which was forbidden to foreigners
until 1991) Vincent and I went to the station to discover the train in
which we were going to spend the next 70 hours non-stop as far as
Irkutsk, our first stop (non-stop the train journey would last 146 hours
end to end). We had two months holiday to look forward to, and the
first two weeks would be spent travelling the Trans-Siberian across
Russia, the world’s largest country, back to Europe.

By the way, there’s no regular train called ‘The Trans-Siberian’ (which is
the common term for the train route), rather a series of working trains
that run east- or west-bound all or part of the way between Moscow
and Vladivostok. The railway runs 9289 km from Vladivostok to Moscow,
making it both the world’s longest train route and the longest domestic
train route.

We soon settled into life on the train. Trans-Siberian trains are
comfortable rather than luxurious. Average speed is just 69 kph. Time
passed reading, watching the view, eating, watching the view, listening to
music, watching the view, and learning to decipher the Cyrillic alphabet
in order to read station names. (As we don’t speak Russian we’d used the
services of a specialised agency to book the train tickets and hotels, but
once in Russia we were totally independent). We also spent a lot of time
adjusting our watches as the train travels through seven time zones –
but all the timetables run on Moscow time. This often led to some
complicated mental arithmetic!

We travelled through mile upon mile of steppe and taiga (more than 30%
of the world’s trees grow in Siberia), past villages whose average
January temperature is -33°C. Contrary to popular belief, however,
summer in Siberia is scorching. In these conditions it was difficult to
believe that the tipsy-looking telegraph poles we saw were caused by
year-round permafrost.

Washing (shared ‘bathroom’; no shower, no hot water, no sink plug !) was
both gymnastic and perfunctory. Feet braced against the train’s rocking,
you had to avoid your personal belongings falling down the toilet hole, all
the while holding the hand basin’s tap down with one hand to get a
trickle of cold water. And beware of needing the toilet at the wrong
time – they were closed for thirty minutes before and after all stops …
I enjoyed descending from the train whenever our provodnitsa (carriage
attendant) allowed us to, getting some exercise by walking up and down
the platform during short stops. I think I gave Vincent a few grey hairs
as I was invariably the last person back on the train before it moved off
again with no warning!

Thanks to the samovar in every carriage and its unlimited supply of hot
water, our diet was very varied in the train … it varied between instant
noodles, instant pasta, instant mashed potato … . Although there is a
restaurant wagon on every train our initial trips there didn’t make us
want to return. At our stop-off points (Irkutsk, Novosibirsk,
Yekaterinburg) food was delicious : omul (a fish only found in Lake
Baikal), pelmeni and vareniki (types of filled dumplings), blinis, borscht
all washed down with kvas (a beer-like brew made from fermented
bread, yeast, malt sugar and water), and the occasional vodka. On train
platforms we bought cucumbers, boiled eggs, tomatoes, and even cooked
pine cones from babushkas.

Irkutsk, a former Siberian exile point, is now a gateway to Lake Baikal,
64 km away, where we went scuba-diving in water at 4°C. Lake Baikal is
the world’s deepest, biggest lake, with 20% of the world’s fresh water.
In Irkutsk we also came across the first Western tourists we’d heard
since we’d left Seoul six days previously. Back in the train for ‘only’
thirty hours, our next port of call was Novosibirsk, Russia’s geographical
centre and the sprawling capital of Western Siberia. Later, a trip of
only 21 hours brought us to Yekaterinburg for a day, infamous as the
place where the Romanovs were murdered, where we stood with one foot
either side of the Europe-Asia boundary marker. Twenty-six hours later,
after travelling through the Urals we arrived in our final Russian
destination of Moscow, where we spent several days visiting in the
company of a Russian friend from Seoul – including the Bolshoi Theatre !
All too soon it was time to move on to the rest of our journey in the UK
and France – unfortunately by plane !

content submitted by Catharine Smart (a Go Russia customer)

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