Russia is one of those countries that can be daunting to visit, due to its sheer vastness, an indecipherable language (well, for most) and the cultural divide, which brings up timidity in most seasoned travellers. This could have something to do with a Russia being able to drink pretty much any foreigner under the table. There is a simple solution to most of these issues: booking a Russian cruise. We cannot help with the drinking games, though, just hang in there!
For first timers, a Moscow to St Petersburg (or the other way around) cruise would be a must. It takes a rather fascinating route through the country’s rivers, lakes and sea canals, making its way along the Neva River, Lake Ladoga, the Svir River, Lake Onega, the Baltic canal, White Lake and the Volga River, which all takes on average between 8 and 13 days, depending on your preference. Cruising is a fantastic and stress-free way to see the scenery of this huge and diverse country from the best possible vantage point, while taking full advantage of the many attractive stops along the way. And you can make sure to have a few extra days on your itinerary free to explore both cities at leisure.
The attractions of both Moscow and St Petersburg are well documented, so I’ll just emphasize that art lovers should not miss Tretyakov Gallery, the world’s foremost museum of Russian fine art in Moscow, and those on their honeymoon might want to make a point of visiting St Petersburg’s most romantic palace: the Mikhailovsky Castle. Also, a performance by the Russian ballet is a must.
Stops in quaint historic jewel-like riverside towns and villages such as Yaroslavl, Uglich, Mandrogy and Kizhi will delight you not only with fairytale architecture, but also with excursions to vodka museums, optional visits to traditional Russian bath houses, and endless handcraft markets and boutiques, where you’ll want to purchase, well, everything – don’t resist, because as they say, resistance is simply futile.
For a real Russian experience, one should visit here in winter, which would do a lot to explain all the vodka drinking in this country. Unfortunately, Russian river cruises run only until mid-October, as it is normal for temperatures to drop to -20 degrees and lower during a Russian winter; plus the locals love to skate on the frozen lakes and canals!
I must attempt to fit at least one paragraph about the food. Yes, you’ll have to brace yourselves for a carb fest, but leave your worries and diets at home. You simply must go and have traditional samovar tea and cakes at a café or tea house. My favourite dishes included bliny – crepes with cottage cheese and strawberry jam, fabulous (and deep fried) pirozhki with mushroom and onion filling, different varieties of dumplings the names of which vary depending on filling, region and place of origin, and the unbeatable syrniki, fried quark fritters with sour cream, jam, honey or apple sauce…My advice: wear loose-fitting clothing and indulge throughout!
If you want to find out more about travel to Russia, get in touch with your local travel consultants, including Flight Center, the team can provide advice on flights, accommodation and travel insurance.
Author – Patricia Bieszk+ – is a freelance travel writer, who would like to spend her whole life traveling. Her last post was about traveling in Istanbul