Nothing will ever quite prepare you for the imperial grandeur, glitz and glamour of Russia, the land of fur-lined hats, caviar, champagne, ballet, and the over-the-top capitals of modern Russia. First there is Saint Petersburg, a feast for the senses and a treasure trove of art and architecture. From the world renowned art in the Hermitage, opulent architecture, elegant villas and palaces and soaring, onion-domed cathedrals that lend the city its fairy tale charm, to an extraordinary history of resilience and rebirth written into every stone, the most beautiful city in Russia is full of romantic ambiance, bridges, museum-like streets and imperial spirit. Tsar Peter the Great’s “window on the West,” St. Petersburg was built in the early 1700s on 44 islands, and today it’s a stunning city, laced with canals, graceful bridges, and Empire-style buildings.
And then Moscow, a city with a feel of a vivid, exhilarating and vibrant metropolis, yet with streets filled with Art Nouveau and Russian Revival mansions, flowering courtyards and icon-filled churches, it is a city of mesmerizing contrasts and different textures. Our time in Moscow we will give us an unparalleled insight into the city that can only come from our deep understanding of its past and present: Red Square, the Kremlin, the colorful domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum, Arbat Street, Pushkin Museum and Bolshoi Theatre, with one foot grounded in the glorious past and the other jumping into the future, Moscow has proved her mettle as a global capital.
St Petersburg is widely thought of as the most European of Russia's cities; indeed, it was created by Peter the Great as his 'window on the west'. Often known as the Venice of the North, St. Petersburg is an architectural delight, with palace-lined waterways and elegant streets. The city revolves around a wide avenue called Nevsky Prospect, St. Petersburg's equivalent of the Champs Elysées. Once home to such notable residents as Tchaikovsky and Dostoevsky, this vibrant street is an attraction in itself, as well as being the backbone of the city.
Like Washington DC, St. Petersburg was built on a swamp. In 1703, Peter the Great, the first of St. Petersburg's dreamers, decided to build a westward looking capital for his Russian empire, which was to rival the great European capitals he admired. Later, in 1764, Catherine the Great added to the splendor of the city by building more opulent palaces and by purchasing a collection of Western European masterpieces, thus laying the foundation of today's State Hermitage Museum.
Many writers and artists gave St. Petersburg new meanings and new associations through their art. Fyodor Dostoevsky called his city "the most abstract and deliberate city on earth," Anna Akhmatova expressed her emotions through descriptions of the watery cityscapes. Today, with hundreds of canals and bridges, 150 palaces, gracious proportions, wonderful gaudy churches, monumental statues and elegant spacious squares, St. Petersburg, the city of the Romanovs is still heartbreakingly beautiful.
Dining in Russia can be an opulent experience, as caviar and vodka are always en vogue, and restaurants have certainly stepped up their game after the typically bland repertoire of Soviet-era dining options. Big cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg now offer a more diverse array of cuisine, but certain staples of Russian cooking remain prevalent throughout the country. These include beef Stroganoff and chicken Kiev, both native to Russia, as well as pirozhki, small pies usually filled with ground meat and cabbage, and pierogi, large pies eaten as dessert. >>
There is no other food quite as festive as caviar. Adored by Russian tsars, feudal lords, and lovers of fine food today, its combination of taste and texture is a unique food experience. The traditional way of serving fresh caviar is in its jar or tin nestled in a large shallow bowl of crushed ice with its lid along side. Ideally, it should be served with a mother-of-pearl spoon, but some serve it on gold plated dishes or on fine porcelain with ivory or antler spoon. Caviar is never served in silver, because it imparts a metallic taste and the caviar will discolor the silver. >>
One of the highlights of the White Nights in St. Petersburg tour will be a private guided visit to the State Hermitage Museum. Hermitage was once a private palace of the Russian Empress Catherine the Great, who used it as a retreat and a place for solitude - the hermitage - where only she alone could enter. Today, the Hermitage art collection is spread over several buildings, including the Winter Palace and with over three million works of art representing many times and peoples, it captures the essence of the world's culture. From Paleolithic to contemporary, the collection presents the most extraordinary works of art in the world. >>
In 1842, Gustav Faberge founded the jewelry firm House of Fabergé in St. Petersburg, capitalizing on Russian Francophilia by using the accented name "Fabergé". Gustav was followed by his son Peter Carl Fabergé, until the firm was nationalized by the Bolsheviks in 1918. The firm has been famous for designing elaborate jewel-encrusted Fabergé eggs for the Russian Tsars and a range of other work of high quality and intricate details. In 1885, Tsar Alexander III commissioned the House of Fabergé to make an Easter egg as a gift for his wife, the Empress Maria Fedorovna. Its "shell" is enameled on gold to represent a normal hen’s egg. >>
Shopping in Saint Petersburg
Russian souvenirs are typically inexpensive and well-made, perhaps the best-known among them the wooden Matryoshka, or Russian nesting doll. These are found painted in traditional styles as well as those that bear the faces of celebrities and politicians, sometimes more appropriate as a joke gift or novelty item depending on the source. Palekh are enameled wooden boxes that make popular souvenirs, and you can find many street vendors selling their own art. Winter clothing such as coats, boots, and the trademark tall fur hats are plentiful and usually less expensive to purchase than they would be overseas, as well as ice skates and specialty watches previously designed for the Russian military. >>
Part of the picturesque Golden Ring, the town of Sergiev Posad grew around one of the most important monasteries in Russian Orthodox religion, The Holy Trinity Lavra of Saint Sergius. St. Sergius was born in 1314 and from an early age, dedicated himself to the monastic life. He began his religious journey in his youth, and spent years living in the desert to observe his beliefs of solitude, fasting, and prayer. He began to gain followers as word of his dedication spread, but the Mongol invasion forced him to give up his desert lifestyle and relocate to more welcoming grounds. >>
“St. Petersburg is our head, Moscow is our heart.” The Russian saying defines Russia’s feelings towards its capital city. Moscow, a city with a feel of a vivid, exhilarating and vibrant metropolis, yet with streets filled with Art Nouveau and Russian Revival mansions, flowering courtyards and icon-filled churches, is a city of mesmerizing contrasts and many textures. While St. Petersburg is reminiscent of European cities, Moscow is pure Russia. Built on the Moskva river, Moscow is architecturally stunning. Richly decorated buildings in several architectural styles adorn the city, providing unique contrasts to one another. >>
9 Days / 8 Nights
Tour starts in Saint Petersburg and ends in Moscow