GET TO KNOW RUSSIA – SEIZE THE MOMENTBy Chanika from Vacations Team
Russia, a country covering over 6.6 million square miles, the world’s largest landmass. This behemoth of a nation offers you just about everything from Catherine the Great to the tragedy of the Romanov dynasty. From Tolstoy to Dostoevsky and Pushkin, train rides crossing different terrains, to stories of space exploration and cold wars, Russia is one country with many stories and most definitely a country to take time in.
The well-travelled routes in Russia would be to arrive in Moscow. Spend three days there, take the train and then proceed to St. Petersburg for the remainder of your stay, and I’ll be honest, to just get a feel, this itinerary works beautifully. It’s not too bad on the wallet and you get to decide whether the Great Russian landmass is something you would like to fully explore.
Let’s start at the beginning, with the heart and soul of Russia, the city that houses the Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow. I’m a bit of a history and literature buff and my senses come alive with Moscow. Just like most of Europe, Moscow is steeped in rich cultural and historical values, look around the city of golden domes, monuments of fallen Russian heroes and St. Basil’s Cathedral, a structure synonymous with the city. It’s always best to get on with an organised tour, you get to see the most, well-recognised places plus it narrows down the sites you may want to visit again. Always use recognised taxi companies, which is basically advise given regardless of which country that is visited across Europe.
Moscow boasts of grand palaces, ornate churches, museums and of course, it’s famous Bolshoi Theatre. Catch a performance if you can, the tickets usually range from about USD 25 upwards and it is money well spent. The beauty of Moscow can also be seen in how the city seamlessly integrates contemporary architecture into a city so deeply steeped in history. Even little things, like some of the metro stations, are beautifully done up with dome-shaped ceilings and coloured glass.
About 160 km off Moscow is Yasnaya Polyana, home to one of Russia’s greatest son’s, Leo Tolstoy. The estate, which translates to ‘Sunlit Meadows’ has now been converted into a museum, it was once a haven for his followers, the passage of time has done little changes to the estate and is now a wonderful addition to your Russian exploration.
Onwards to St. Petersburg, founded by Tsar Peter the Great in May 1703 after his patron saint, St Peter, the city was known by a different name in recent history. In 1924, after the death of Vladimir Lenin, the city was renamed Leningrad, which when translated means Lenin’s City. This was done in 1924 after the death of Vladimir Lenin and the name stood for almost 67 years until the original name of the city was restored. The city houses the fabulous summer palace of the Tsars and when you see it, you struck with this awe-inspiring understanding that somethings just transcend time. The palace radiates regal power, it’s open to visitors and as you leisurely stroll through the magnificent hallways and stairs, you can’t help but think about the days when the palace housed grand balls and welcomed all manner of royalty.
Petersburg is also referred to by a second name, the Venice of the North, and if you are cruising along the canals, it dawns on you how similar both cities are. It is one of the best ways to get to see the city, ‘ooohing’ and ‘aaahing’ as you gently pass by stunning neoclassical architecture.
Russia is a landscape like no other, she holds something to please every visitor, be it the animal lovers looking to photograph Siberian Tigers, history buffs looking to satisfy all that they have come to understand about Catherine the Great, the Romanov dynasty, the Revolution, World War’s or to trace back the intermingling lines of monarchy, literature, music, food or ballet, Russia has it all and it’s waiting for you.