Category Archives: Travel

Rich Culture and History of Moscow

The capital of Russia, Moscow, attracts many tourists for its historical and cultural diversities. This biggest city in Russia is popular for its magnificent buildings, museums, lakes, festivals, and much more. It’s one of the hottest destinations which you can plan to visit on your vacations. Here is a brief guide for the places that are a must visit if you want to explore the ultimate flavor of Moscow.

Museums in Moscow

The wide range of museums in Moscow portrays its history, art, and culture. Some of museums you must include (apart from the world-famous Tretyakov Gallery) in your visit are:

  • State Historical Museum: This museum displays the complete history of Russia from 18th century to current time.  This red building museum is an example of Russian diverse culture.
  • Pushkin Museum: This museum is famous for its world’s best post- impressionist paintings. It has a vast collection of Western art.
  • Yuri Orlov Paleontological Museum: This museum focuses on history and culture of every living thing you can think of. It exhibits the history of human beings, variety of plants, rare animals, and much more.
  • Cosmonautics Memorial Museum: This museum is very attractive for people who are fascinated about space and its history. There are displays for each and every historical part in space exploration may it be the first satellite, dogs in space, and the astronauts.
  • Zoological Museum of Moscow University: The museum has huge collection of natural history. It is the oldest and biggest natural research museum in Moscow. If you want to research or have knowledge of zoological discoveries, the museum is a must visit for you.

Parks to visit in Moscow

The city has vast leisure parks where you can enjoy rides, sports, and just have some fun. Here are some of the famous parks you can visit in your trip to Moscow.

  • Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure: It is the biggest amusement park in Moscow which is famous for its rides and pictorial pond. This place reminds of the historic Moscow when the city was not jam-packed with traffic and buildings. It is a peaceful area to spend a day.
  • Kva Kva Water Park: If you are a water sports fan you will enjoy it here. You can also enjoy the most famous hot air balloon ride over here.
  • Victory Park: This Park was built in 90’s in the region of Poklonnaya Gora. It is considered as a park for celebrations. The people of Moscow enjoy public holidays here.

Other Places to Visit

Some of the other monuments and places that you should include in your visit schedule are:

  • The Red Square: As you hear the word ‘Russia’, the first thing that comes to your mind is the Red Square. This is the foremost destination where every tourist visits on reaching Moscow. The major buildings surround this area such as St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum, and State Historical Museum. This place is a must and absolutely worth visiting.
  • The Kremlin: This is the official residence of Russian President. It is considered to be the symbol of Russia and is also one of the tourist attractions.
  • Tretyakov Gallery: If you are interested in Russian art, you should visit this gallery, it is one of a kind and very famous for the works of art it displays.
  • St. Basil’s Cathedral: It is world renowned for its architecture. You must visit this place to see the museum inside the church.

Festivals to Enjoy in Moscow

Moscow is famous for its sports and theatre festivals celebrated every year in specified months. If you are visiting this place in the months of festivals, don’t miss the chance to be a part of celebrations. 

  • Golden Dolphin Festival: If you happen to visit Moscow in February then you get a golden chance to enjoy the water sports celebrations.
  • Golden Mask Festival: The best opera and theatre productions are showcased in this festival. The festival is celebrated in March and April.
  • Maslenitsa Festival: If you are interested in old traditions, then you get a chance to see the folk traditions of the Russia. This festival is celebrated for a week in spring. You will find music, food, crafts and a lot from the traditional Russian cuisine.

The Beauty of Classical Ballet in Russia

Ballet and Opera ‑ two of the finest and most enduring contributions of Europe to the world of classical music and dance. And if you wish to enjoy the art forms at their classical best, then there is no other place to visit than Russia. Well, even if you are not a ballet and opera enthusiast, if you are ever in Russia, do find the time to enjoy it in some of the best theaters of the world, if not for the joy of watching these exquisite art forms, at least for absorbing that wonderful atmosphere where you are temporarily transported to the elegance of the past.

Here, let’s take a trip to the ballet and opera theaters of Russia, enjoy their beauty, study their history and most of all, breath in the aura of timeless grace and unsurpassed beauty that permeates the very atmosphere.

The Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theater

Bolshoi in Russian means great, large or grand. And indeed, the Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theater is the grand old lady of this traditional art. The Bolshoi is considered to be one of the most renowned historic theaters of Russia. The theater was designed by the famous architect Joseph Bove and conducts performances of ballet and opera.

The main building of the Bolshoi Theater is a landmark of Moscow. The theater is so much a part of Russian cultural growth that the façade of the main building is pictured in the Russian 100 ruble note. Originally constructed in 1825, the Bolshoi Theater has seen many renovations and changes during the course of its lifetime with the latest massive renovation which began in 2005 and extended for a period of 6 years. When the theater was finally opened in 2011, the original acoustics and the imperial quality of the décor had been restored.

The Bolshoi Theater is a repertory theater and has been the venue of some of the greatest ballet and opera performances in the world. It has been the hallowed site of many historic premiers which has changed the very phase of the world of ballet and opera.

The Mariinsky Theater

Well, from the Bolshoi to the Mariinsky, is to leap from arguably the best to the finest. Another renowned Russian ballet and opera company, that is the Mariinsky Theater. The Mariinsky has been named after Maria, the Russian empress and the wife of Alexander II. Located in St. Petersburg, this spectacular arena for ballet is one of the most imposing landmarks of the area.

The Mariinsky Theater was the creation of the renowned architect Albert Cavos and was inaugurated in 1859. The growth of Russian ballet and opera is invariably linked with the history of the Marrinsky. It has hosted some of the best performers in this genre and has been witness to some of its greatest achievements. With 1,625 seats, it is definitely bigger than the Bolshoi.

Magnificent halls, luxurious seats, exceptional acoustics, excellent atmosphere, affordable prices ‑ all the basic necessities that would make a ballet performance a most cherished memory to be had at the Mariinsky.

Mikhailovsky (Mussorgsky) Opera and Ballet Theater

The Mussorgsky Theater has been named after the famous Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky. It is the second largest stage for musical performances in Russia. The Mussorgsky follows the same classical repertoire as the Mariinsky. The theater was initially opened in 1918. The opulent exteriors and the elegant interiors is the trade mark of this theater. The Mussorgsky has been credited with the revival of some of the forgotten compositions of classical opera and ballet.

The Mussorgsky has another advantage to its credit – it’s less expensive and less crowded than the other major opera houses. So getting a seat here does not pose much of a problem.

In 2007 it was renamed to the Mikhailovsky Theater but everyone still knows it as The Mussorgsky Theater.

Classical ballet and opera at its best is to be enjoyed in the famous theaters of Russia. It would be an unforgettable experience even for those who are not familiar with the nuances of this great art form.

 

The Top 5 Destinations You Should Visit While in Russia

The country of Russia is filled with incredible artistic and cultural energy.  While the country is still developing as a travel destination, there are still, many places to visit, enjoy and get lost in.  For travelers, the best places to visit are in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and traveling along the waterways and rivers.

While visiting any country, there are always the ‘must-see’ destinations.  Let’s adventure into the top 5 of Russia!

St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea; is one of Russia’s most tourist friendly cities.  There is much to do and see here.

  • Russian Museumcollection of prerevolutionary Russian art
  • White Nights Festival 2-day festival with evenings filled with food, ballet, opera, and classical music performances
  • St. Isaac’s Cathedralmore of a museum; climb to the rooftop and enjoy a breathtaking view of the city
  • The Hermitageyou’ll find the Winter Palacethe former state residence of the Russian emperors, and over three million works of art and artifacts of global culture
  • Peter and Paul Fortresssituated on an island, founded by Peter the Great; there you’ll find the church in which Peter is buried, the jail (jail which housed some of Peter’s opponents including his rebellious son, Alexei), and a number of museum-style exhibits.
  • Boat Tripstrips on the St. Petersburg canal (June into September)
  • The Marinskii Ballet or the Malii Opera
  • Nevsky Prospektarchitectural emphasis include the brilliant arch of the General Staff Building,  the Kazan Cathedral (Museum of Atheism), and the sights along and through the canals

Moscow

Moscow situated on the Moskva River in the Central Federal District of European Russia; first time visitors may be a bit overwhelmed by the vastness of the city, though it’s worth a day trip to search out those magnificent Moscow gems.

  • Red Square – once you’re in Moscow, it’s essential to begin your tour in Red Square.  The centre encompasses the ‘must-see’ landmarks and attractions such as:  Lenin’s Mausoleum. Most love to visit the square at night where St. Basil’s Cathedral illuminates the centre; and GUM – the largest department store in Russia
  • The Kremlinis a walled area inhabited by Russia’s top government offices, in addition to numerous, stunning Orthodox churches
  • The Arbat a great place for tourists to visit; lots of touristy shops and if you’re visiting in the summer, outdoor cafes
  • Novii Arbat a famous contemporary shopping district
  • Gorky Park ride the enormous Ferris Wheel located in the center of the park
  • Sergiev Posad one of the most beautiful churches in Russia
  • Izmailovskii Park weekend flea marketgreat for Russian souvenirs; look out for delicious fresh fruit sold by babushki on the sides of roads and main streets.
  • All-Russian Exhibition Center (V.D.N.Kh.)a fascinating centre dedicated to the world of electronics – it’s certainly worth a look!
  • Ulitsa TverskayaLots of upscale restaurants; the concert hall, and city hall

 Lake Baikal

It’s 20% of the world’s fresh water; Lake Baikal located in the south of the Russian region of Siberia; is pure, and is a paradise of wellbeing and recreation.

  • Camp on the extraordinary cliffs and quiet sandy bays of Olkhon
  • Visit Nikita’s Homestead in vivacious Khuzhir, to look upon in awe, of Shaman Rock, the island’s holiest site for Buryat
  • Enjoy a meal or picnic in quaint Listvyanka; sample smoked omul (Baikal whitefish) and shashlyk (grilled meat skewers) at the waterside market or along the pebbled beach
  • Take a swim in Lake Baikal which is said to contain holistic properties; best area for a swim is the stretch along the northern shore of Olkhon Island
  • Camp in the wild in remote Barguzin Valley
  • Hit the Hotsprings in the spa town of picturesque Arshan.
  • Other fun things to do on Lake Baikal:  kayaking, hike the Baikal Trails along the coast, horseback riding, dog-sled rides, and visit Pribaikalskiy and Zabaikalskiy national parks

Sochi

Sochi, located in Krasnodar Krai, just north of the southern Russian border, is home to the 2014 XXII Olympic Winter Games.   Sochi, which is known as a resort town, is a center for leisure interests such as: night clubs, restaurants, concert halls and theatres.

In addition, a variety of events such as music and film festivals, are held there, most occurring in the summer months which are typically June through August.

Karelia

Karelia, a region, located in Northwestern Russia, which borders Finland, is an adventurer’s oasis.  Known as “the country of lakes,” a quarter of the region’s façade is covered by water.  For water sports enthusiasts, this is the place to be.

  • River Rafting on the wild, rocky rivers
  • A Ski Trip through the virgin white powdered ski terrain
  • Dog-Sledding; whisk through the forests and trails powered by a team of 20 Husky dogs
  • Ice Fishing one of many lakes – a snow adventure in itself
  • Visit Karelskaya Gornitsa; a rustic-village setting, whimsical costumed waiters and excellent Karelian cuisine including an excellently prepared lokhikeytto (Karelian salmon soup)

Russia as Travel Destination

If you’re looking for adventure, history and entertainment, Russia is definitely the place to be!

Overview of Russian History

Did you know Osteologists discovered one of the first modern human bones in Russia, dating back to 35,000 years ago? Russia is a country filled with a deep past and incredible culture.

Under strict rule of Peter the Great, in 1721, Russia was declared an Empire and was quickly acknowledged as a world power. Russia, a country who defeated invading Nazi Germany in the 1940s, also lead the race to space; Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, a pilot and cosmonaut, was the first human to travel to outer space, orbiting the earth in the Russian spacecraft Vostok.

In 1991, the infamous Soviet Union was dissolved and the Russian Federation was established.

Russia, known as a socialist union, is the largest country in the world stretching 6,592,800 square miles. In addition to the largest forest reserves in the world, Russia maintains the largest energy and mineral resources reserves in the world, and holds roughly one-quarter of the world’s fresh water.

Climate

Owing to the modest pressure of the Pacific and Atlantic, the majority of heavily populated regions of the nation in European Russia, in the Russian Far East; in the south of West Siberia, counting the city of Saint Petersburg and Moscow, encounter a moist and muggy continental climate.

The majority of Siberia and Northern European Russia flanked by the Pacific Ocean and the Scandinavian Peninsula has a sub-artctic climate; with tremendously harsh winters in the central provinces of Northeast Siberia, where the North Pole is located.

Minor fractions of the Black Sea coast, mainly in Sochi, hold a humid subtropical climate. Winter is arid in comparison to summer in numerous regions of Far East Russia, as other divisions of the country feel more balanced precipitation across seasons.

Your Visa to Russia

When traveling to Russia, visitors will need to secure a Visa. A foreign citizen can attain a visa to Russia only in the country of his/her citizenship. Exemptions to the rule are those who have a dwelling permit for a foreign country for over 90 days.

Be prepared to complete the following:

• Your passport should have at least 2 blank pages designated for visas. Plus, your passport has to be valid at least six months after your expected departure date

• You should have at least 2 copies of a Russian visa application, completed and signed.

• One passport-size photo which should be signed in the back

• If you are a passenger on a cruise or a part of a tour group, you should obtain a letter from the cruise line or tour group confirming your schedule, and a copy of your reference number and confirmation number for the visa, from an authorized Russian travel company

• If you are traveling solo, obtain a confirmed itinerary of hotel arrangements from an authorized Russian travel company, or from the hotel you’ll be staying at – the reference and confirmation numbers for your visa should be available

What Type of Currency Should You Use While Visiting Russia

The US dollar, British pounds, Travellers Cheques, and major credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express) are commonly accepted in Russia, however, you should be prepared to bring cash, as British pounds and Travellers Cheques are not easily exchangeable and you may not be given a valuable rate of exchange.

Cash can be exchanged easily in Russia. In fact, you can find exchange booths on almost every corner of Russia, and they offer a much better rate than hotels or banks.

Keep in mind if you want to withdraw money using your credit card, utilizing a bank or ATM is always a better option. Most ATMs and banks will charge a fee which is usually around 1% – 1.5%.

If you are exchanging money at a bank, be prepared to present your passport and it may take upwards of 30 minutes.

The Language

When traveling to any foreign country it is advisable that you learn and understand a bit of the language. Understanding Russian can be a challenge so you might want to take a brief language tutorial prior to departing.

Traveling to Russia

There are many ways to reach Russia depending upon your current location. If you are already in Europe, perhaps the best way to reach Russia is by train; though there are now budget friendly alternatives via Airlines. If you are headed to Russia from the United States, the best way to get there is by plane. Be sure to shop around to secure the best rate.

Cities to Visit

Russia is a vast country which means there’s so much to see and do. To get the most out of your trip, be sure to visit these amazing cities:

• Lively Moscow

St. Petersburg, full of history

• Breathtaking Lake Baikal

• Beautiful sands of Zelenogradsk; far western region of Kaliningrad

• Wonderful, historic Yekaterinburg

Sochi, a gorgeous Russian resort town

Kazan, an attractive city with diverse culture and architecture

Irkutsk, known as “The Paris of Siberia.”

Nizhniy Novgorod, known as the most beautiful city in Russia

Novosibirsk, known as the cultural center of Siberia

Escape to Breathtaking St. Petersburg, Russia

Many describe St. Petersburg as the quintessential Venice of the north.  This magnificent city, with its wild nightlife and architectural monuments is a gold mine for any traveler, sightseer, historian or adventurer, to experience.

The City which is bathed in extraordinary history; celebrates and shares its affluent artistic and enriching traditions, which have moved and influenced some of the finest visual art, literature and music the world has known.    From its captivating Palaces and world-famous Cathedrals, to its summer phenomenon, known as The White Nights, a trip to this wonderful city is sure to amaze and delight all who encounter it.

St. Petersburg, located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea, stretches across 42 islands.  Due to the city’s many islands, rivers and bridges, St. Petersburg is often times referred to as a ‘museum of bridges.’ The city’s “wow” factor makes for an unforgettable and ultra-dynamic travel experience.

Let’s take a storybook tour through this incredible and picturesque city.

History

Saint Petersburg was founded by Tsar Peter the Great on May 27, 1703.  From 1713 to 1728, and then again from 1732 to 1918, St. Petersburg was the Imperial capital of Russia.  St. Petersburg is Russia’s second largest city after Moscow with almost 5 million residents.

Islands

Originally St. Petersburg was made up of 100 islands.  As a result of engineering work to develop the marine’s public image, their number has been reduced to 42.  Many compare the city to Venice as it is almost entirely built across a series of islands spanning the delta of Neva River.  The city is separated by narrow canals or rivers and connected by the city’s 580 bridges to form unbroken strips of land.

The Cabin of Peter the Great

The first residential building to be built in the newly founded city of St. Petersburg was a wooden house or cabin, built for Tsar Peter himself.  Only 60 square meters, Peter lived in this house between 1703 and 1708.  The living room, bedroom and study, are still filled with Peter’s original belongings.  Protected from the elements, the first house built in the city of St Petersburg is still open to the public.

The White Nights

Imagine taking a romantic stroll along the banks of the city’s rivers and canals no matter what time of day it is.  From late May to early July the night skies display a unique phenomenon known as the White Nights.  St. Petersburg is the world’s most northern city, and it stands at such high latitude that the sun does not descend below the horizon enough for the sky to grow dark.  During the summer months, night and day are one, and locals and visitors are able to experience a lively, friendly and romantic atmosphere sure to set your sights on a return trip.  No other major European city can equal this experience or the atmosphere on the streets of St. Petersburg!

The Peter and Paul Fortress

When Peter the Great re-claimed the lands along the Neva River in 1703, he decided to build a fort to protect the area from possible attack by the Swedish armed forces.   The fortress was founded on Zayachii Ostrov Island in the Neva delta on May 27, 1703 which also became the birthday of the city of St. Petersburg.   Within the fortress stands a high security jail which housed some of Peter’s opponents including his rebellious son, Alexei.  Parts of the former jail are now open to the public.

In the center of the fortress stands the middle of the striking Peter and Paul Cathedral, the resting place of all Russian Emperors and Empresses from Peter the Great to Alexander III.  The church was one of the first to be built of stone during the 1700’s.

The fortress is also home to the City History Museum and, the Mint, one of only two places in Russia where coins and medals are minted.

Magical Palaces

While visiting St. Petersburg, a must-see are displays for wealth and sophistication driven by the Emperors of Russia beginning with Peter the Great.  Prosperity and power are in the form of great estates, known as the Imperial palaces.  These extraordinary estates boast sumptuous palaces, extensive landscape gardens, and a treasury of art and history.  There are numerous palaces to see.  Some must-sees include:

The Summer Palace, located across the river from the Peter and Paul Fortress, is a small estate built between 1710 and 1714.  The palace had no heating and was intended only for summer time use, hence its name “Summer Palace.”  The Summer Palace, a small two-storey yellow building, has 7 rooms on each floor. The Summer Palace is surrounded by what is known as The Summer Garden; a wonderful garden with trees and bushes that are immaculately trimmed in the most elaborate ways.  Imagine strolling down the Summer Garden’s allies taking in the decorated marble statues and fountains.

The Winter Palace – undeniably the finest.  The green and white structure which was built around the 1700s, houses the world’s largest art museum with at least three million pieces of art.

Peterhof is a vast, luxurious and beautifully maintained estate.  It combines several ornate palaces, a number of beautifully landscaped parks and a dazzling array of magnificent statues and fountains.

Menshikov Palace, built by Peter’s good friend and companion, Alexander Menshikov (1673-1729), this large palace built on Vasilievsky Island, is the most lavish estate built in the city thus far.   It currently houses a collection of Russian cultural artifacts from the early 18th century.

Pushkin, a small town near Saint Petersburg, used to be known as Tsarskoye Selo. The town boasts a number of amazing parks and palaces that are definitely must-see visits. One of the most famous and impressive palaces in Pushkin is the Catherine Palace, home to the Empress Catherine the Great.

The Mariinsky Palace, situated just across the square from St. Isaac’s Cathedral, is known today as the seat of the local Legislative Assembly (i.e. the City Council.)  Built between 1839 and 1844, the palace is filled with glorious interiors and furniture and even features an enormous greenhouse, where it was said that pineapples grew relatively well.

The Mikhailovsky Castle (St. Michael’s Castle) is both a beautiful and unusual architectural phenomenon for St. Petersburg.  Catherine the Great’s son, Paul was so paranoid of assassination, shortly his mother passed in 1796; he built a fortified palace surrounded by deep ditches.  In 1801, Paul was assassinated in his bed.

Cathedrals

The Cathedrals in St. Petersburg are some of the oldest in the world, beautifully preserved and are the tour de force.

St. Isaac’s Cathedral is an elaborate genius with its dome dominating the skyline of St. Petersburg.  Climb over 300 steps to the observation walkway at the base of the cathedral’s dome and enjoy the breathtaking views over the city.  When you enter the cathedral you pass through one of the porticos; columns made of singular pieces of red granite and weigh 80 tons each. Inside the church many of the icons were created using mosaic techniques.  The cathedral, which can accommodate 14,000 worshipers, now serves as a museum and services are held only on significant ecclesiastical holidays.

Kazan Cathedral (The Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan) was constructed between 1801 and 1811, and boasts an impressive stone colonnade, encircling a small garden and central fountain.  Regular services are held.

Smolny Cathedral’s stunning blue and white building is indeed an architectural masterpiece. Today Smolny Cathedral is used primarily as a concert hall and the surrounding convent houses various offices and government institutions.

Opera and Ballet

Enjoy world-renowned opera and ballet courtesy of the celebrated Mariinsky Theater.  This 1625-seat auditorium has been under the leadership of many great conductors such as:   Yuri Temirkanov, Leonid Yakobson and Valery Gergiev.

Restaurants and Night Life

You will be able to find wonderful 5-Star restaurants and pubs throughout St. Petersburg.  Staraia Tamozhnia (Old Custom’s House), Kavkaz Café and Restaurant, James Cook Pub, Camelot, 1913, Troitskii Most, and Amadeus, are all amazing restaurants which offer delectable, well-priced, European cuisine and pleasant ambiance.

St. Petersburg’s night life is known for boozing, boogieing and binging (if you’re into that sort of thing!)  The city’s live music and dance scene is high energy within a friendly environment.  For students, expats and all who want to get their groove on, try:  Idiot, Metro Club, Griboedov, Tunnel Club, Pier, Luna, Cynic Bar, and Fish Fabrique,

If you’re looking for something a bit more laid back try:  James Cook and Shamrock.

Jazz lovers, Café Clue Che may be the place for you.

Culture, adventure, history, architecture, entertainment and excitement – is all that defines St. Petersburg, Russia.  This incredible city is vibrant, fresh, historic and audacious, ready for you to explore!  Наслаждайтесь! (Enjoy!)