Russia is the largest country in the world and holidays in Russia highlight an intriguing blend of cultures. Generally speaking, the west of this vast nation is considered part of Europe and the east to be in Asia – and this fact alone implies a country of huge diversity.
Since the Soviet Union began to break up in the early nineties, Russia has experienced huge change, although the divide in social standing remains extreme. On one hand you will find thousands of millionaires who have become massively rich from the scramble for Russia’s resources; on the other, a very traditional way of life among humble rural communities where survival still depends upon hunting wild animals and foraging for produce.
The capital, Moscow, was founded in 1147 and has grown into a vibrant modern city of over 11 million people. Highlights of Russia holidays include Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The oldest part of the city is the Kremlin, which began as a wooden fortress but today is surrounded by red-brick towers and colossal walls. This mysterious symbol of Russia still remains out-of-bounds to the public but the section which is open offers a wonderful chance to imagine what else goes on behind the scenes.
St. Petersburg, formerly Leningrad, was the capital of Russia until the revolutions of 1917. Today the city is an enticing mix of the historic and the modern, and is actually situated on several islands in the Neva River, thus offering a unique city experience. It is also home to one of the world’s most revered museum complexes, the Hermitage, and most Russia tours will take you there. Within its walls are more than 2.7 million pieces of art by painters including Picasso, Rembrandt, Matisse and many others.
At Peterhof, a suburb of St Petersburg, you will find the former Summer Palace of Peter the Great, founder of the city. The palace is often referred to as the ‘Russian Versailles’ as it is surrounded by impressive formal gardens and a large collection of ornate fountains which themselves are a huge tourist attraction. In Pushkin, a rural town just a short distance from St Petersburg, is St Catherine’s Palace. This flamboyant Baroque palace offers a taste of the Russian highlife and a fascinating insight into the imperial history of this region.
But it isn’t simply a tale of two cities and Russia holidays offer so much more beyond these densely populated areas. Crossing Russia aboard the wonderful Trans-Siberian Express train is considered by many to be one of the greatest rail adventures in the world, and this journey of a lifetime will not disappoint. The route passes through some of the most remote parts of the world and the landscape is always changing. You can even choose to end your journey in Beijing, the gateway to a totally different civilisation.