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Elabuga – is an ancient town located in the European part of Russia, near Kazan city, on the banks of the Kama River, surrounded by centuries-old forests, those that were praised in the paintings of the great Russian artist of the 19th century Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin.

Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin

Inimitable Yelabuga, which lately celebrated 1,000 anniversary, is ready to open its secrets to its visitors and tell unheard story that will take you hundreds of years back, in the mysterious past of the Russian Empire.

Shishkin ponds

To feel the ancient spirit of the city better and deeper, while staying at Yelabuga you should forget about any transportation options and move around the city on foot. It is better if you start your tour from the main street – Kazanskaya. There is an open-air museum of the 19th century architecture.

Elabuga

Old houses and mansions, like unarmed platoon of hussars, tirelessly being on guard for centuries, incredulously stare at every passer through hooded eyes of large windows. Once you have followed this street, you begin to feel the ancient Russian spirit.

elabuga

Marketing war for the consumer’s attention, that swamped the most of Russia, is almost not known in this town. It does not mean that there is absolutely no advertising, just it is much less than in other cities, Yelabuga wondrously succeed in keeping its individuality. Here you can see how modern shops are in perfect harmony with the facades of the old houses. Here, in the old building on the Kazanskaya street, modestly settles the comfortable museum-theater “inn”. Be sure to take a look at this place. This is a small restaurant in the style of Russian 19th-century inn, where you can enjoy Russian folk cuisine and taste the dishes that were served in the 19th century.

After seeing all the curiosities and historical sights of Kazan on this street, turn into the Spasskaya street. It is where the majestic Cathedral of the Holy Savior is located.

 Cathedral of the Holy Savior

The cathedral was erected in the period from 1808 to 1816 on donations from merchants. Yelabuga has a lot of religious buildings: churches, cathedrals and chapels, but the Cathedral of the Holy Savior is considered the most important in the city.

 Cathedral of the Holy Savior

Built in Russian classic style it is a complete composition of the five-story high bell tower, whose height is more than 70 meters, and the five-domed church, that are interconnected by long refectory. The cathedral is named after the icon, which in the 18th century saved the village of Elabuga from Bashkir rebellion.

 Cathedral of the Holy Savior

According to the old legend, the icon was painted by the artist from the village Krasnoe. One night he had a dream where a stranger ordered him to paint the icon of the Holy Savior. At the same time the same stranger came into the dream of the local farmer and told him to go to Krasnoe and find there the icon-painter. But the farmer did not believe in higher powers that came to him in his dream. The farmer had the same dream for several times and still did not want to go to look after the icon-painter, and as a result of his attitude he got seriously ill. For a long time he could not recover. And then he realised what great sin he made when disobeyed the higher powers. The farmer repented and went to Krasnoe. He came on the day when the icon-painter finished his painting, found him, and brought the icon to his native village. The icon was put in the wooden chapel, where people began to go and worship it. Soon people began to talk about its healing power, and it was decided to build the cathedral for the icon. At the same time in the Orenburg province the rebellion under the leadership of Bashkir Akai, notorious fro extreme cruelty and hatred of the Christian religion, broke out. And when Akai had occupied the nearby town Menzelinsk and was on the way to the village of Elabuga, people in the cathedral began to pray, asking the icon for the protection. The higher powers heard their prayers for help and came to protect the city from the Bashkir invasion. Strong wind rose above the ground on the north side, it gathered all the smoke and ash from the fire left by the rebels in the devastated lands, and blew it in their eyes, blinding them. Since then, the icon became the patroness of the land. And right until the socialist revolution there were regular annual processions with the icon to the nearby town Menzelinsk.

Well, after the hearty meal at the theater-restaurant and the visit to the cathedral you can fearlessly visit the Devil at his Devil settlement, the place that is considered the unofficial symbol of the city. The Devil settlement is an ancient stone building in the form of an old tower, located on a high hill.

Elabuga

According to the old urban legend, based on the records of the Russian priest Ivan Glazatov, this tower was built by the devil, who fell in love with the daughter of the priest and wanted to marry her. The priest said he would give his consent to the marriage only if the devil built him a temple during one night. All the night the devil built the walls of the church, but the roosters crowed before the temple was completely finished, and the devil did not have time to finish a roof and a cross. Thus the unfinished temple became the tower.

It is better to plan a trip to Elabuga for the end of July – beginning of August. At this time in Yelabuga, near Shishkin ponds, there is an annual fair, which attracts skilled craftsman and artisans from all over Russia who present their works for sale. Shishkinskie_prudyi

Shishkin ponds are the most picturesque sights of the city. There are two ponds with fountains, streams and several beautiful bridges with railings. Shishkin ponds emerged in the 1830s as a gift of the great artist to Yelabuga residents.

Shishkin ponds

During the fair, which lasts for three days, you can not only buy souvenirs, but also enjoy the performance of folk groups, puppeteers and circus actors and acrobats. You can enjoy the whole process of manufacturing products of arts and crafts, visiting the city of artists. Here you can not only see the process of the work of a blacksmith, a potter or a weaver, but also try yourself as a prentice.

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We continue publishing our customer comments about their holidays along the Trans-Siberian railway.

At 11am we went to Ust Orda, a Buryat village about 70km north from Irkutsk. The Buryat people are the largest indigenous group in Siberia and the purpose of this particular visit was to meet a local shaman. I was very excited about this, however also a bit anxious because I didn’t know what to expect and what to ask.

We first visited the Buryat museum, which portrays the history and lifestyle of the nation, highlighting their traditions, clothing and other artefacts. It is set in a wooden building which used to be a village school.

Shaman, Lake Baikal, Russia

Shaman, Lake Baikal, Russia

The shaman, Alexei, greeted us in the hall where he had some things prepared for the ceremony. The smell of incense wafted freely. First, he showed me how Buryats greet each other holding each other by the elbows and hugging three times.

Once we sat down he talked about his community background, explaining how they’d first come from Mongolia and worshipped blue skies and nature. He explained how they did not farm in order not to hurt the earth and only took from nature as much as they needed. Some rituals required animal sacrifice for the ‘Burhans’, or gods. He also asked about my family and heritage. He wanted to know if I knew my ancestors and if I could go back seven generations. This is relevant as in Buryat culture, if people want to get married, it is made sure that families of the bride and groom are not related. Although the man is considered the hunter, traditionally it is the woman who is the head of the family and she decides the future of the children.

Alexei also compared different religious practices, prayer and places of worship and explained the shamanistic one – the blue sky. He asked why I was travelling alone and said that it is always better to travel with a companion. After that, he performed a ceremony for the traveller so my way would be clear and so I would reach my destination safely. I was dressed in a traditional dress and hat, blue dress for men representing the sky and freedom and purple for women meaning submission. The ritual was emotional and I felt really good after it.

Once it was over Alexei showed us around the museum and the outdoor space where they perform the same rituals in summer. The village itself is quite small with mostly wooden houses.

After the ceremony we went to have a Buryat lunch at the Metelitsa restaurant outside the village, in the middle of the steppe.

The set menu consisted of squid salad, beef and noodle soup, pozy (mincemeat steamed dumplings), salamat (fried sour cream with flour) eaten with bread or potato and pancakes with tea for dessert. Vodka was also on the table. The food was tasty, but had a bit too much fat for my taste.

Pozy, Traditional Buryat Meal

Pozy, Traditional Buryat Meal

On the way back to town, we visited the Marriott hotel located across the street from the Angara hotel. The hotel is new, looks very clean and rooms are quite spacious.

The following morning, we drove to Taltsy–an ethnographic wooden architecture museum. It is on the way to Listviankaand is on the Angara river bank. Wooden houses have been brought to the museum from all over the region and these highlight the differences between Cossack households, Buryat households andOld Believers households as well asvarious institutions like schools, mayor’s office, blacksmith’s workshop, ceramic workshops and others. In the middle of the museum there is an ‘ostrog’ (the local term for Kremlin). Currently some parts of the museum are still under construction. There is also a café which is a good spot for lunch.

A little later on we went to Listvianka to see the village and Lake Baikal. First we had lunch at Proshlyivek, a restaurant vividly decorated with soviet memorabilia. The food was tasty – we were served salads, salt omul with bread and butter, borsht, omulshashlyk and ice cream for dessert. By the time we finished lunch the weather had changed and the lake dipped in and out of view shrouded by clouds and snow. We went to the chair lift in an attempt to reachChersky peak, but alas it was too cold to go up. Afterwards, we stopped by the soviet Hotel Baikal on the hill, which lacked direct access to the lake.

Down in the village – which spreads along the shore for about 6km – we drove to the end and visited hotel Maiak, the only four-star hotel in the village. Conveniently located, it is a striking place with kitsch, retro design. The rooms are adequate but the décor lacked a certain style.

The other notable hotel is Krestovaya Pad which consists of several detached blocks of different sized guestrooms, most of them wooden. The design is modern and minimalist and the bathrooms are smart and clean. There is a restaurant and café on the premises. The only downside is that there are no lifts to the second and third floors and some of the cottages have many outside stairs.

We then visited one of the wooden lodges – ‘9 val’. There are only six en-suite rooms with transformer (twin / double) beds. All rooms face the lake side and are traditionally wooden. The downside to such a great setting is the design, which could do with freshening up. The restaurant has been artfully hand painted and has a mirror globe. There is also a sauna and a nice terrace outside. Security is taken seriously here and the gate is locked at all times.

The other lodge I visited was Nikolay. This is a beautiful spacious house with big rooms, wooden décor, the highlight of which are the unique wooden sculptures that have been dotted about. The house is spotlessly clean and there are 11 rooms available. There is also a banya with an outdoors diving pool and a terrace.

The village has a market with souvenirs and fish, a marina to take ferries and cruises, but the absolute highlight is the Baikal museum.

Baikal museum is a must-visit inListvianka. Spread over several rooms, the first one is about the evolution of the planet, the second about the formation of Lake Baikal, complete with a very good model of the lake bed and its depths.

The next room is about the general flora and fauna of the region. There are even fish tanks with fresh water pumped in from the lake to keep the fish in their natural habitat. The final exhibit is a nerpa seal in a pool, who certainly stole the show! She was very playful and fun to watch. In the museum, there is also a room which has been designed as a submarine. The dive downwards lasts for 15minutes and goes all the way to the deepest point showing the life in the lake at various depths.

It was dark by the time we returned to Irkutsk and we went for a farewell dinner. I ate ‘sagudai’ – pieces of frozen fish with herbs and lots if onion – a local delicacy and very tasty indeed.

Returning by Train

After a small mishap with train tickets, we set off to the station after dinner.We boarded train number 362 which had typical Russian carriages. On-board we found clean sheets, a calm train attendant and the toilets on-board were passable. However, the attendant made the compartment so hot that it was impossible to sleep, an unexpected problem. The upside meant that people on-board got chatting and I met a young student studying chemistry at Mendeleev University in Moscow and a man from Ulan Ude. Train travel, albeit slow at times, allows for such interesting local interactions.

 

Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal

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This is our first posting on the Trans-Siberian railway blog detailing some impressions of Go Russia travellers.

Yekaterinburg  was founded in 1723 and developed as a fortress, gradually turning into the center of the Ural Region. It was here that the Russian metallurgical industry was born. Yekaterinburg became the place of imprisonment and tragic events in the life of the last Russian Emperor Romanov Nicholas II and his family. Today the city is a large both cultural and industrial centre of Russia. Read some impressions of the city

Arrival

The economic and cultural capital of the Urals, Yekaterinburg is the fourth-largest city in Russia. The transfer from the airport – 10 miles southeast of the city – to the hotel, took just under an hour. We were transferred in a clean, decent car driven by a chatty but pleasant driver.

Guide and excursion

On arrival we were joined by Veronica, a cheerful young woman with a good command of English and a sharp sense of humour. She guided us to a comfortable well heated bus – complete with seatbelts – suitable for around 20 people (the smaller one had broken down). The driver drove safely and abided by the rules of the road. A good start on all fronts.

First of all, our tour took us just west of Yekaterinburg to the ‘Europe/Asia’ marker which signifies the European and Asian border. The marker – in Cyrillic- simply reads ‘Europe, Asia.’

EuropeAsia

The ‘Europe / Asia’ marker we visited (there are two of them) is 17km away from the city on the Moscow road. A complex has been built for visitors which now comprises of the marker itself and some designated picnic areas. The new seating areas were installed just over a decade ago. Newlyweds visit the place on their wedding day to tie a knot on one of the trees (pagan tradition) and leave an empty champagne bottle with a message inside (definitely a new tradition!).

pagan-tradition

Next, we stopped briefly at a grisly memorial dedicated to victims of the repression which is located on the sight of a massive communal grave with over 200,000 identified bodies (and many more unidentified). The memorial has the main six confessions (religions) practiced in Russia represented on it.

memorial-dedicated-to-victims-of-the-repression

Afterwards, we continued Ganina Yama (‘Ganya’s Pit’), a 20 minute drive away, where we visited the monastery built on the Romanov’s – the Russian Imperial family – burial site.

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It is a working monastery with very strict rules. Women who enter are asked to wear long skirts (provided) and to cover their heads and shoulders. Men wearing shorts are asked to cover their legs too. 

rules-for-visiting-the-monastery

The monastery consists of a few chapels and churches, a water tower, a bakery, a museum, a library and living quarters for the monks.

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There are statues of the whole royal family and one of the main attractions is the actual mineshaft where the family remains were found.

statues-royal-family

All the buildings are entirely or partly wooden and one of the chapels is built from logs without the use of any nails.

This style of building was used to preserve the Siberian wooden building tradition. Workers and keepers might be abrupt or become aggressive if any of their rules are broken, so it pays to follow them carefully. The eatery close the entrance serves tasty pasties, drinks and more substantial meals. Many of the pastries are vegan.

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A little later on, we drove to the city.

One of the most impressive sights – rarely given the credit it deserves – is the huge Uralmash plant. Famous for its heavy machine production, it takes over 15 minutes just to drive around it. In the city centre we stopped at the Cathedral that was built on the sight of Ipatiev house.

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This was a merchant’s house in Yekaterinburg where the former Emperor, Nicholas II of Russia, his family and members of his household were murdered following the Bolshevik Revolution.

Ipatiev-Monastery

Its name is identical with that of the Ipatiev Monastery in Kostroma, from where the Romanovs came to the throne. The church has two floors, the lower one is dark with a very low-slung ceiling – representing the basement where the royal family were murdered – while the upper one is brighter and more festive. Unfortunately the upper floor was closed during our visit.

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There is a monument to Communists walking away from religion just behind the church which is an interesting fact given that the monument is now sandwiched between two churches, an old and a new one.

pamyatnik-elcin

After a short stop at Yeltsin’s monument (close to the place where he worked) and after a drive on the main street, the tour finished by the dam where the city originated from.

park-in-yekaterinburg

This is a pretty place with a big pond on one side and a small river on the other, it is an excellent spot for walks right in the middle of the city centre.

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Quite close to the bridge, over the dam, there is a Russian style restaurant called Potkova where they serve authentic local dishes and beverages. There are menus in English. The staff are polite and the prices are also very reasonable. We had lunch together here and sampled some traditional pickles.

We also tried Russian drinks like ‘zbiten’ a sort of mulled wine with herbs and ‘kvas’ (made from fermented black or regular rye bread).

After the tour, the group had free time to do some more sightseeing and shopping. The area is rich in minerals and semiprecious stones, and there is jewellery and all sorts of objects made from them to be bought as souvenirs.

Recommended places to be visited:

  • The Vysotsky skyscraper and viewpoint on the 52nd floor (cost – 250-300 roubles)
  • The keyboard monument on the left riverbank
  • Fine arts museum
  • Demidov’s cafe museum for cast-iron art
  • The railway museum in the old railway station building
  • Vainer Pedestrian Street with shops, street performers and sculptures.

Restaurants

Potkova, Uralskie Pelmeni, Demidov’s – Russian cuisine

Govinda – Indian/vegetarian

There are plenty of Italian restaurants and sushi places.

Transport

Public transport is not easy to use, there are only nine metro stations connecting the centre with the outskirts, so hotels should be located as close as possible to the city centre.

General impressions

The centre is contemporary and pleasant to explore, with many skyscrapers (most of which are round) being built. There are lots of restaurants and shops to explore as well as some old wooden houses here and there which hark back to the olden days and remind visitors where they are. Also, there are quite a few remarkable buildings from the soviet era, including the Stalin Imperial style city hall, constructivist university ensemble and others. Some locals have a tendency to be impolite (queue jumping that sort of thing).

The airport, although small, is impressive. The old building has been preserved and stands next to the new terminal which has a very colourful and futuristic departure zone. We loved it!

Be warned though that Koltsovo and Domodedovo offer a ‘Ryanair’ style of airport experience. For security, you need to get a tray from the floor, put all your belongings in it, walk with it to the scanner and push it all the way to the rubber belt, all this accompanied by lively comments from the staff. The queues are quite outlandish too – in fact to the visitor it might look like there is a big prize to be won if you make it to the front of the line first by elbowing your way to the front and by ignoring all other people!

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Russia is a nation of stunning natural beauty, ancient culture, and widespread wealth and opulence. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the past twenty years have been transformative for the Great Bear of Europe and Asia, with industries rising and companies transforming into corporate leaders. Where once the leading industries in Russia were manufacturing and… manufacturing, more and more companies are entering into high tech and intellectual fields. Meanwhile, the population grows more educated, more tech-savvy, and more connected to the rest of the world.

Yet this was not always how it was in Russia, and for those visiting it can be hard to forget the Cold War and all of the imagery that accompanied it. It’s hard to watch a television show or a movie made between 1950 and 1991 and not see some reference to Soviet Russia casting a pall over the plot. Rather than flee from this history of shared conflict and animosity, Russia has embraced their history, and even offers visitors and tourists an opportunity to go and explore that mysterious, dangerous, and intriguing era of Russia’s history.

USSR and the Eastern Bloc // Infographic by lab604

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

Begin at the Beginning

While your tour of Russia can include its incredible rivers and plains and its cities littered with culture and architecture new and old, you can also take some time out of your vacation to visit the relics of the Cold War. For any discerning fan of Russian or Cold War history, the Red Square in Moscow is the place to go, as this is where it all started. Revolutions were born here, and some of them even succeeded, including the Bolshevik Revolution that eventually put the Communist Party in power.

A brief tour of the Russian Revolution is incomplete without a visit to Lenin’s Tomb, as well as the burial places of other important Soviet figures such as Josef Stalin himself. Moscow also sports the Central Museum of the Armed Forces of Russia, where you can see the impressive military armaments that bolstered the Soviet Union for so long, making it a formidable competitor for global influence and power against the United States throughout the Cold War years.

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Remembering War

Moscow has no shortage of museums, and so your tours of Moscow’s history needn’t end with the Armed Forces museum. For example, you can – having finished touring the Kremlin Grounds – visit the Armoury Museum, one of the oldest museums in all of Moscow. Established in 1808, the arsenal was originally built in 1508, three hundred years before it became a museum. Over the years, more and more treasures have been stored there.

From there, you can visit the WWII Victory Park at Poklonnaya Hill. One of the highest points in Moscow, the park contains tanks and other vehicles that were used during World War II. It includes a triumphal arch, the loghouse where the decision was made to abandon Moscow to the Germans, and various pieces of art. It is a beautiful area where you can appreciate the triumph of the Russians in World War II as well as the beauty of Moscow itself, as it presents a great view of the city.

The Battlefields of Science and Memory

No tour of the history of the Cold War would be complete without a trip to the Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City. The Yuri A. Gagarian State Scientific Research-and-Testing Cosmonaut Training Center, or GCTC as it is known, trains cosmonauts for missions to space, and as you well know, this was one of the great scientific battlegrounds of the Cold War. While much of the facility is off-limits, you can still get a taste of the history made here. Without the work done here, we might never have gone to space, much less the moon.

Of course, the Cold War is over now, and all of Russia is there for you to enjoy regardless of your national or political affiliations, and we are all the richer for it. Still, while you enjoy your museums, your trips to the ballet, your excursions into Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Volgograd, remember that once upon a time this might all have been impossible. It is only through the efforts of those who worked for peace, understanding, and brotherhood that we have come to where we are today. Perhaps, in visiting Russia and remembering the conflict and animosity shared by both sides during the Cold War, we continue to prevent such misunderstandings from ever happening again.

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Ferry Russia - Korea - JapanDid you know? There is a regular sea connection between Russia, Korea and Japan that regular tourists can use.

M.V. Eastern Dream offers regular sea connection between Russia, South Korea and Japan. This is an optimal choice for you if you would like to continue your Trans-Siberian tour further east or alternatively you can arrive from Japan and join our trip from Vladivostok to Moscow.

Eastern Dream is a big modern ferry with accommodation capacity of up to 530 people including 50 cabins crew. It can carry 66 vehicles and 130 containers. The ferry is operated by a South Korean company so you will encounter Asian approach in vessel design and facilities onboard. There are 3 decks equipped with economy, second, first and VIP class cabins with beds or traditional Asian floor mattresses. The ferry also features a restaurant, night club, bar, sauna, karaoke club and duty free shop. There is also a main lobby and reception on B (2nd) deck. Read more about ferry cabins.

Go Russia is able to provide ferry tickets for both: our Trans-Siberian tour customer and also as a separate service. Read more about ferry service between Russia, Korea and Japan.

Please contact Go Russia or just fill – in the form below to order your ferry tickets.

 

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Since Russia opened its doors to the West, tourists have finally had the opportunity to tour the heart of Russia – the Northwest region, specifically – and finally see all of the grand sights that its great cities have to offer, along with the harsh, untouched beauty of the landscape. With the Russian economy booming, a number of fantastic cruise opportunities have opened up along the Volga, the largest and most historically and economically important river in western Russia. For the best combination of sightseeing and high quality river cruising, Go Russia offers a cruise from Moscow, the capital of Russia, to St. Petersburg, Russia’s gateway to the West.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION : Facts and Figures

Starting in Moscow

Your cruise with Go Russia begins in Moscow. The sights to see here present themselves, as you would expect with any international city that is also the capital of a major world power. Government institutions that have stood for centuries offer a piece of Russia’s history.

You can begin with the Kremlin, a formerly medieval citadel of old Muscovy. The Moscow Kremlin is actually composed of five palaces, four cathedrals, and a massive wall with several towers spaced along it. Russia’s roots in medieval Europe are unmistakable when you visit this ancient stronghold. While much of the Kremlin is off-limits for sightseeing, you can still visit the museum there, and perhaps catch a glimpse of the President of the Russian Federation.

The Red Square is the next most obvious sight to see. A place of great historical significance, revolutions have been born in the Red Square. You can also visit St. Basil’s Cathedral and Lenin’s mausoleum, two impressive symbols of Russia’s architectural history, as well as its more storm-tossed and exciting past.

Along the Volga

Taking your cruise north out of the Moscow Canal and along the Volga River, you will past by Uglich, an ancient and historic town. A favorite during Ivan the Terrible’s reign, after his death his youngest son was banished here. That same son was soon found dead in the town’s courtyard, his throat slit; his death was ruled an accident, and the Time of Troubles – a dynastic and political struggle in Russia that would last for some time – began.

Further north, in Lake Onega, you will come upon Kizhi, an island of no small historical significance. There you can see Kizhi Pogost, a 17th century historical site featuring two large wooden churches – the Transfiguration Church and the Intercession Church – along with a bell-tower. A UNESCO World Heritage site and a Russian Cultural Heritage site, the pogost is famous for how long it has lasted, its construction using only wood, and of course, its moving beauty.

The Gateway to the West

Passing through Lake Ladoga, you will come upon your final stop: St. Petersburg. Built by and named after the Russian Tsar who worked so hard to bring Russia into the Western Enlightenment, the city was made the capital of Russia up until 1918, when that honor returned to Moscow.

The city is host to a number of museums; the city has weathered the changes that Russia has gone through quite well, retaining much of its arts scene throughout the decades and centuries. The city’s museums include the Heritage Museum, the Russian State Museum, the Museum of Musical Instruments, and even three museums of puppets, one of which sports well over 2000 dolls on display.

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Fed up with the usual annual trip to the Costa something or other? Why not plan something a bit more special and take a trip to Russia? Many still think of Russia as being positioned well behind the iron curtain, but hop on a plane in London and you could be stepping off in Moscow in as little as four hours!

Russia, with a population of around 145,000,000 has a long history and a rich and diverse culture. Everyone is familiar with the unique architecture of the Kremlin, and the sense of a bygone era experienced when standing in Red Square gazing at the amazing views is almost palpable. Images of Lenin and Stalin, of Rasputin and revolts inundate the mind like a uniquely original adaptation of Doctor Zhivago or Fiddler on the Roof.

Food

Asked to associate a food with Russia and most will say ‘Borshch’ or ‘Caviar’. However, there is so much more than the famous beetroot soup and the eggs from the sturgeon, even though both are world renowned. Other well-known favourites include chicken Kiev, Pelmeny (pastry covered balls of minced-meat) and beef stroganov. As Russia is a country associated with long, harsh winters, the majority of dishes are meaty, designed to fill the stomach and warm the cockles.

Drink

The history of vodka in Russia dates back to the 10th century when, it is believed, Prince Vladimir chose Christianity over Islam in order to drink alcohol. Some historians state that it dates to the 15th century when monks learned the craft of distillation. Like whisky, vodka was used by early doctors as an antiseptic and to help alleviate pain during surgery. Whatever the true origins are, Russians need little excuse to break out a bottle or three, and it remains the favourite tipple drunk at birthdays, weddings and funerals, of which there certainly seems to be a lot of.

Travel

Russia is a huge country and this means that visitors have to carefully plan their journey well in advance. It is extremely worthwhile checking out a reliable website for and up-to-date information and advice on what to do and see. Just go Russia is such a site and it offers all sorts of helpful hints on where to go and what to do. The national tourist board also gives advice on Visas. Remember that winters are exceptionally cold, so only go during that time if lots of snow and ice combined with below freezing temperatures conjures up images of fun.

St. Petersburg

One place well worth a visit is St. Petersburg. An entire vacation could be spent in this marvellous city without scratching the surface of her hidden attractions. However, any visitor should make an effort to see at least one of the world-famous imperial palaces which have housed the Emperors of Russia since Peter the Great. Tsarskoe Selo and Peterhof are favourites.

Take a train

The Trans-Siberian Railway can be used to get from Moscow to Vladivostok, Beijing, Japan or Korea and tourists can board the train in London. From Moscow, the train to Vladivostok usually takes around seven days, although slower trains take nine. It is possible to take even longer and stay at pre-arranged stops along the way. The distance between Moscow and Vladivostok is 9,258 km or 6,152 miles. Trains comprise of both first and second class berths. It is also possible to board the train in St. Petersburg.

Safety

The wise traveller prepares for any eventuality and, although adherence to the well-worn tourist trail should ensure relative safety, there are always gangs on the prowl for unwary tourists. Falling ill or being robbed of your money, passport or other personal belongings is always a major concern for any traveller, so it is of utmost importance that some sort of insurance policy be taken out prior to departure. The needless stress of worrying about what to do in the event of an emergency can easily be averted by taking out a policy with a reputable company. The last thing you ever want to do on vacation is burden yourself with unnecessary worry. Russia is a huge country and the police are not always able to supply help. Especially in rural areas, communication may prove to be a problem. It is therefore essential to take the necessary precautions in order to avert potential problems.

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