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Fountains are some of the most significant symbols of St-Petersburg city. The winter has gone and the magnificent fountains of St. Petersburg are about to come to life.

petergof_fontani
The fountains of Peterhof are one of Russia’s most famous tourist attractions, drawing millions of visitors every year. Fountains were intrinsic to Peter the Great’s original plans for Peterhof – it was the impossibility of engineering sufficiently powerful jets of water that prompted him to move his attentions from the Strelna site to Peterhof – and subsequent generations competed with their predecessors to add grander and ever more ingenious water features to the parkland surrounding the Grand Palace.

petergof_fontani
Peterhof Fountain Season starts with the Grand Ceremony of the Fountains Opening held in Peterhof on May 16, 2015. An all-day festival with classical music, fireworks, and performances signifies the opening of the fountains of the Peterhof Palace. We highly recommend catching this festive celebration.

petergof_fontani

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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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We at Go Russia strongly believe that now it is perfect time for your Russian visit. Do not miss this unique opportunity, Save on your everyday spending while in Russia and pay a fraction of the usual cost for usual travel spending.

RUSSIA – A BARGAIN DESTINATION

The recent devaluation of the rouble (caused mainly by fall in oil prices) makes Russia more affordable option for foreign travellers. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say, that the country is fast becoming a hot new destination for deal seekers. Now is an optimum time for you to book a tour to Russia. There have never been better prices for a Russian visit.

Average decline in rouble rate from 2015 to 2014 is about 50% which means you will be spending much less pounds now as you would have required back in 2014. For example, a decent dinner would cost only £15 (instead of £25), and a metro ride is just 50p. You can even do some shopping in Russia where all major brands are present now. Or for culture vultures – you can get top seats to the famous Bolshoi or Mariinsky ballet for just £50, instead of £100. This really is the best time to go!

Search and book a tour to Russia

See below for some examples and decide yourself!

Roubles Price in GBP
2015 2014
CULTURAL
Ballet ticket 5,000 £53.00 £83.00
Circus ticket 1,500 £16.00 £25.00
Museum ticket 350 £4.00 £6.00
TRANSPORTATION
Metro Moscow 50 £0.53 £0.83
Metro St. Petersburg 31 £0.33 £0.52
Taxi ride in Moscow 1,000 £11.00 £17.00
MEALS & DRINKS
Espresso 100 £1.05 £1.67
Teapot 200 £2.00 £3.00
Dinner (3 course) 1,500 £16.00 £25.00
Lunch 600 £6.00 £10.00
Pint of beer 200 £2.00 £3.00

Prices above are based on average exchange rates and are given as an example only. Actual prices can vary depending on the place where you buy / order your products in Russia.

So just an example if a couple goes to Russia for a week holiday (8 days / 7 nights), they will be saving only on lunches and dinners about £250 in total including drinks. A visit to Bolshoi in Moscow or Mariinsky in St. Petersburg would add additional £80. Order some optional tours – a visit to the Catherine Palace or a Cold War Bunker and save another £100. You will also be getting huge saving when buying souvenirs and making other personal spending. So your savings can easily be in excess of £500 for a couple.

QUICK NOTE ON SAFETY

Russia is a very safe country and people welcome foreign tourists. There are no stricter visa rules and we provide full assistance with the Russian visa. Read more about our assistance with the visas. There is no political turmoil in the country, no protests on the streets, no any military actions of any kind. When travelling with us you will also be accompanied by a guide. You just need to have common sense like in any other big city like London or New York. We provide a 24-hour emergency support and our operators will be able to assist you in any unforeseen circumstances. There is no advice from the FCO in the UK against travel to major tourist destination – https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/russia.

Read recent feedback from our customer on Go Russia guestbook or on our Tripadvisor review page.

Russian Rouble Chart

What does the press say? As featured in major international press (Independent, CNN, Bloomberg, Russia Today.) – “Brits stand to benefit from great travel deals… ”.

Read how you can save up to £1,000 per couple
when travelling to Russia in 2015
Get your exclusive bonus worth £250 per person until 14 April 2015
Get your exclusive bonus now! Expires 14 April 2015

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REd Square Moscow

Red Square, Moscow. Girls

Russia is by no means a dangerous country to visit. On the contrary, the overwhelming majority of visits go without a hitch – assuming that you avoid such flashpoints as Chechnya and the Ukranian border. However, given that the Russian language and culture is somewhat alien to many foreign visitors, and taking into account the vagaries of the Russian landscape and climate, it is just as well to bear a few things in mind which could help to keep you safe, comfortable, and healthy during your trip! Emergency Services In the unlikely event that you should experience an emergency situation while in Russia, knowing the emergency services numbers could be vital. Since 2012, Russia has used ‘112’ as a catch-all emergency phone number – although the system is not quite up and running in remoter regions. In such areas, there is a series of five simple numbers which can be used to access specific services. These are as follows:

  • 01 – Fire service
  • 02 – Police
  • 03 – Ambulance
  • 04 – Gas service
  • 05 – Anti-terrorism squad

Beware The Water Perhaps the health hazard which trips up most foreign visitors is something relatively innocuous: the tap water. Even Russians do not drink Russian water directly from the tap. The pipes in St Petersburg in particular are very old, and poorly maintained. It’s fine to shower in or to boil and make tea from, for example, and it shouldn’t cause you any problems if you ingest a splash or so. However, drinking a mug of the stuff might make you feel a bit sick, which could put a bit of a damper on your vacation for a day! For drinking, and for things like brushing your teeth, use bottled water instead. Luckily, bottled water is not hard to come by in Russian cities. Be Careful Around Traffic If you’re going to be doing a lot of walking, particularly in Moscow, it’s a very good idea to make sure that your travel insurance covers car accidents – even if you’re not planning to drive a car! Russian traffic is notorious for being something of a law unto itself, and driver behavior leaves something to be desired. Driver arrogance is often blamed for Moscow’s chronic traffic jam problem and high number of annual road rage incidents. Pedestrians crossing the road would do well to be aware of the risks with interacting with Russian traffic. Pedestrians do not have right of way in Russia. Unfortunately, if you are hit by a vehicle you may wake up in hospital to find an angry driver demanding your insurance details for damaging their car. The law, furthermore, would support the driver – being injured by a car is generally considered the fault of the pedestrian for being stupid enough to walk out in front of the car in the first place. If you’re going to be walking by traffic, therefore, be very aware of what’s going on around you. It’s not unknown for cars to come up onto the sidewalks if the drivers feel that it may aid their journey! Know Your Vodka Beware of any vodka which doesn’t have a label. Russians are well known for their love of vodka – and some of them aren’t too picky about what they make it with. Bootleg vodka can be cut with anything from shoe polish to medical disinfectant, and causes the deaths of many Russians each year. This doesn’t mean that you have to refuse every shot of vodka offered you. After all, it wouldn’t be a real trip to Russia if you didn’t sink a few vodkas! Just make sure that you know where the vodka has come from before you throw it down your throat. Better still, buy it yourself from a reputable dealer. Russian liquor stores are crammed full of good brands of vodka which will give you the Russian vodka experience without doing more than the usual amount of damage! Communicate Effectively Finally, here are a few phrases which may help you in the event of an emergency:

  • Pomogitye! – Help!
  • Pozar! – Fire!
  • Vor! – Thief!
  • Militziya! – Call the police!
  • Vracha! – Call a doctor!
  • Skorooyo! – Call an ambulance!
  • S Vami vsye normalno? – Are you ok?
  • Mnye noozyen vrach – I need a doctor
  • Mnye plokho – I feel sick
  • Gdye blizayshaya aptyeka? – Where is the nearest pharmacy?
  • Eto srochno! – It is urgent!
  • Zdyes bolt – It hurts here
  • Mozyetye pomoch? Can you help me?

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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.

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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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