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Go Russia team successfully participated at ITB Berlin 2015 Travel Exhibition from 04 to 08 March 2015. ITB Berlin is considered the world’s leading travel trade show. This year there were a total of 10,096 exhibitors from 186 countries with 175,000 visitors, including trade and general public visitors.

We are very happy to see that despite some political issues, there is a lot of interest for travelling to Russia. Our team have received many requests from tour operators wishing to expand their portfolio as well as customers who want to travel to Russia. Some visitors made use of our special exhibition promotion and booked their holiday at the Go Russia stand and enjoyed substantial discounts. We were also glad to meet many of our partners from Russia, countries of the former USSR, Mongolia and other destinations.

Russia is a very safe country and people welcome foreign tourists. This could even be seen at the Russian hall where all exhibitors showed their warmest hospitality, explained major highlights and travel practicalities of their relevant regions.

The recent devaluation of the rouble makes Russia more affordable option for foreign tourists now (average decline 45% based on figures 2015-2014). In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say, that the country is fast becoming a hot new destination for deal seekers. Visitors can afford more in Russia now with the same amount of pounds – see top ballet performance, get better meals, pay less for every day exploring, etc.

We at Go Russia are looking forward to welcoming you to Russia and will be happy to answer any questions you might have about travel opportunities in Russia, ex-USSR, or along the Trans-Mongolian railway. We can offer you the best bargains and we will be delighted to welcome you as our customers. Please browse our website and learn more about numerous opportunities of tours to Russia.

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

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!

For many, many years the wonder and mystery of silk was unknown to most of the world. It was not until the expansion of the Roman Empire that silk was introduced to the world at large. As the Romans conquered surrounding territories, they came in contact with silk, and were instantly fascinated with its soft texture and attractiveness. Silk soon became one of the most sought-after products in the Roman Empire, and the Romans began searching for the place where this amazing cloth was made. This led to the discovery of the Silk Road, a series of interconnected routes within China and Eastern Asia that were used for trading and travel between the various civilizations. The Silk Road soon came to be one of the primary routes between Western Europe and Asia, and within Asia itself.

At Go Russia, we offer a tour of the incredible cities and landscapes along the Silk Road, including areas of China, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Let’s explore some of the amazing destinations along this tour.

Ancient History

Some of the most ancient cities in the world are located along the Silk Road, including Samarkand, Merv, Khiva, Bukhara, and Bishkek. One of the first stops along the route will be the ancient city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan. Samarkand has been placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List because of its importance as one of the central locations along the Silk Road. Because of the many different cultures that passed through the city on their way to and from China, Samarkand became home to many different religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. Today, the main religion of the inhabitants is Islam, and some of the most significant architecture in Muslim history can be found there. The city still hangs on to its ancient roots, with the practices of embroidery, weaving, and ceramics still an important part of daily life.

One of the next stops along the tour is the city of Bukhara, one of the seven holiest Islamic cities in the world. This too is one of the oldest cities in the world, with its location along the Silk Road making it a center of culture, trade, and religion. The entire city can be seen as one giant museum, with its many, many exquisite examples of Muslim architecture. Its ancient mosques and minarets transfer you back into time, when this city was a central hub for the many travelers along the Silk Road in search of silk and other valuable materials from the East.

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Later on in the tour will bring us to the city of Dunhuang in the Gansu province of Western China. With evidence of inhabitance dating back to 2,000 B.C., this city is one of the oldest in the world. It was a critical defensive city in China, with the Great Wall of China extending down to the city, as well as an important stop along the Silk Road. Located in the Gobi Desert, the city was an important stop along the Silk Road, as it is situated by an oasis, which would give the Silk Road travellers a welcome respite from the harsh desert landscape.

One of the most fascinating sites in the countryside around Dunhuang are the Mogao Caves or Mogao Grottoes. These are a series of caves that house one of the most important and largest collections of Buddhist history, spanning nine Chinese dynasties; the collection includes statues, manuscripts, and wall paintings. Because of a strict ban on photography in the Magao Caves, the only way to actually lay eyes on this history is to actually visit the caves themselves. On our Silk Road tour, we will spend a day visiting the caves and exploring the amazing historical collection.

Another fascinating sight nearby to Dunhuang is a collection of sand dunes called the “rumbling” or “singing” sand dunes, which is derived from the sound that is made as the wind passes over the dunes. The reason for the noise remains a mystery, which adds to the mystique and aura of the area. The dunes overlook a beautiful body of water called the Crescent Lake, creating a striking landscape that contrasts with the surrounding desert.

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We’ve only touched the surface of all the amazing cities and landscapes along our tour of the Silk Road. These places spark the imagination and give a rich sense of the incredible history in this part of the world. Book with us today to reserve your spot on our next Silk Road tour!

You may be planning your summer holiday or getaway for 2014 and having a hard time finding something different. If you’ve experienced trips to the beaches and mountains and are looking for something different, we think you’ve found it. At Go Russia, we’re committed to bringing you the most unique tours around. From lands that people only dream of seeing to sites that are absolutely breathtaking, our Russian tours have got it all. But if you’re really looking for something new and exciting, think about booking one of our Russian adventure tours. With countless different adventures to choose from and an exciting daily itinerary, you’ll be in full adventure-mode.

5,642 Meters Above the Earth

Let’s start with one of our most adventurous tours, climbing the highest mountain in Europe. We invite you to join our guide and work to climb Mount Elbrus – one of the world’s Seven Summits. If you’re a lover of adventure and pushing your physical limits, you’ll want to conquer this huge mountain. This tour is recommended for people with climbing and hiking experience. Each day during the tour, you’ll work your way up to acclimatization and the highest peak of Mount Elbrus. Your second day with us will take you to the village of Terskol, where we’ll prepare you to make your climb. Each day the hikes include ample time for acclimatization and comfortable hotel stays. The southern route the tour takes is designed to be the most appealing high-altitude ascent with a moderate amount of incline. This climb requires a good acclimatization but very little difficulties. Finally on day 8, after safety precautions and acclimatization, you can attempt the summit. A celebration dinner follows in town to herald your adventure skills!

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Wild at Heart

If you’re an animal lover, we’ve got a great tour that’s sure to thrill you. Join us for our horse riding tour through the Siberian forests to the Mountain Lakes. This tour is one of the most perfect ways to see Russia and everything it has to offer. You’ll be transported back to a simpler time, where the main mode of transportation was accomplished on horseback. This tour is perfect for the wild at heart – those that love adventure miles away from civilization. It’s just the right amount of relaxation and adventure. This tour begins in Moscow, the booming center of Russia. You’ll then travel with your guided group to Altai – the heart of Siberia. Altai is the heart of untouched Russian land, full of adventure and beauty. You’ll journey on horseback through largely untouched areas of forests, meadows, and mountain passes. These lands have some of the richest Russian history – where genuine descendants of Genghis Khan can still be found. You don’t need to be an expert horseback rider, but we do recommend this tour for people who are in good shape, as the changing altitudes and terrain can be a challenge.

 

The Best of the Best

Our last featured tour is one that comes with a rare, special event. This tour is referred to as our best of Kamchatka – Bears and Volcanoes. What makes this tour so special is the timing. The only time this particular tour is available is during the month of August – and for good reason. This is the very best time of the year to witness so many natural species in one location. This tour includes a trip to Kurilskoye Lake, which is one of the most impressive lakes in the whole world. Kurilskoye Lake lives in the crater of an ancient volcano. If that’s not amazing enough, this lake is recognized as the biggest spawning ground for pink salmon in the entire world. Naturally, the large number of pink salmon attracts some hungry visitors – brown bears. You’ll be able to watch the massive pink salmon swimming while the bears attempt to hunt them. During this time of year, the bears are unconcerned with humans, as they are too busy focusing on fishing. If this isn’t enough, the tour also features visits to more active volcanoes and natural geysers. You can even take a relaxing bath in the thermal hot springs! Pack your bags and get ready for an amazing 12-day trip this August!

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We hope you enjoyed our feature of just a few of our adventure tours. If you’re really looking for a unique and exciting vacation, Go Russia can help. Our guided tours will help you travel through untouched Russian lands, exploring and learning the whole way. Get in contact with one of our travel experts today to book your dream Russian adventure tour.

A new museum “The world of Chocolate” was opened on Triumfalnaya square in Moscow. The visitors will know about the history of chocolate as well as will be able to try 4 types of chocolate and cocoa that was created by the recipes of different historic epochs.

The most of exhibitions are dedicated to the history of chocolate in Russia. The museum has a big collection of labels and chocolate boxes as well as some sweets that were made last century.

The visitors will have a nice opportunity to create a bar of chocolate by themselves or to buy anything in a “Chocolate shop”

The opening times: Tue-Sun from 11:00 until 19:00. The price is 400 rubles (about £7)

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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