Russia... in the autumn


| November 12, 2014

Michael Curlewis joined a Cox & Kings group tour to Russia. Here he reflects on his experience, the main sites, and what he thought of the main cities of Moscow and St Petersburg.

red-square-moscow

Red Square, Moscow

This was a sensational experience, combining the two essentials – agreeable and witty travelling companions (no extremists, bores or know-alls), and excellent guides – Nina in Moscow and Anna in St Petersburg. Plus we flew with British Airways, who continued doing what it does best.

Russia is outwardly very European, with broad boulevards and elegant buildings and, in Moscow, dense traffic, necessitating the use of subways as the cars travel at breakneck speed. But there are differences. The streets are kept immaculately clean and there are no foreign newspapers. There may have been Russian newspapers but we were not conscious of people reading them. The Metro is awesome with decoration that is just staggering – again, immaculately clean and highly polished. Buses (in St Petersburg) were of the trolley and tram variety, with an obligatory clippie. By contrast, the Moscow station for St Petersburg (we went by train, which took 4.5 hours) was a very down market affair.

Cathedral-of-Christ-the-Saviour-moscow

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow

Most Russians in restaurants and hotels speak a bit of English, some quite well, and we did not have to try conversation in Russian too often – but a rudimentary grasp of the Cyrillic alphabet helped a lot, especially on the Metro.

peterhof-palace-st-petersburg

Peterhof Palace, St Petersburg

The food was just outstanding, beautifully presented and served, especially the caviar in Café Pushkin on the first night in Moscow. We did all the obligatories – pike (very good), borsch, chicken Kiev and dumplings.

channel-in-st-petersburg

River channel in St Petersburg

Sights to see included, in Moscow: Red Square (despite all the scaffolding), St Basil’s Cathedral (the one at the end with all the onion domes), GUM (the big store), the Kremlin and the Lenin mausoleum, the Armoury and the Diamond Fund in the Kremlin (treasures beyond imagination), changing of the guard, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the Bolshoi Theatre (we saw Boris Godunov and were only a few yards from the president’s box – although he was absent), and the former KGB headquarters at Lubyanka. And, in St Petersburg: the tomb of Peter the Great, the Heritage Museum (two Leonardos and many other world famous works), St Isaac’s Cathedral, the Church of the Saviour on the Spilled Blood, Catherine’s Palace (with the astonishing Amber Room), Peterhof Palace (fantastic gardens and fountains) and an evening cruise along the Neva river with dinner.

Well done Cox & Kings!

Mr Curlewis travelled on the Cox & Kings Classic Russia group tour, which can also be booked as a private tour. Please see the website for more holidays to Russia, or call 020 7873 5000 to speak to one of our Europe specialists.

Majority of the photos on this blog were provided by Michael Curlewis.

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