Russia: Moscow and St. Petersburg Rediscovered

Trip Overview

SOLD OUT!! In late August, AdventureWomen travels to a new destination, Russia, where you'll enjoy an "insider's tour" of both Moscow and St. Petersburg!

On the very first AdventureWomen trip to this fascinating part of the world, you'll get to know Western Russia from the inside out, by entering into medieval Moscow and imperial St. Petersburg, and following them through the cataclysm of revolution and war, then perestroika, collapse, and rebirth. Throughout the journey you'll enjoy intimate conversations with local people, insider perks like a ballet master class and dinner at a private dacha, and soak up the absolute best of Russian culture at superb museums and theaters. You'll take in a memorable performance at one of the renowned theaters of St. Petersburg, where some of the world’s finest dancers, composers and musicians have appeared through the years.

What could be better than experiencing Russian hospitality in a private home as you share a traditional home-cooked meal of Russian specialties such as blini and borscht. Sip Russia’s premium vodka, Cristall, on a private tour and tasting at the Cristall Vodka Museum, chat with Russian professionals, and visit a women's convent.

A train journey takes you from Moscow to St. Petersburg, and you'll cruise St. Petersburg's Neva River and famous canals, admiring the beautiful pre-revolutionary buildings along the embankments and the waterways that originally drained the swamps of Peter the Great’s capital. In St. Petersburg, visit the Hermitage Museum, the Faberge Museum, and enjoy a private cooking class. And what is more exciting than to take an exciting hydrofoil ride to Peterhof, Peter the Great's palace and park, with its cascades of almost 150 fountains!

And there's so much more! Don't miss this new women's adventure to Russia which shows you a real and remarkable country, with superb accommodations, wonderful food, and an amazing experience, bringing people together to discover more about the world and, consequently, about ourselves.

Main Attractions

  • Attend a ballet master class to appreciate first-hand the high level of artistry in Russian dance.
  • Drive out of town for a quintessential Russian dacha experience, toasting your hosts over a home-cooked meal.
  • Break into small groups to chat with Russian professionals over lunch.
  • Enjoy a private tour and tasting of double-distilled vodkas at the Cristall vodka museum.
  • Stroll in one of Moscow’s oldest neighborhoods, Kitay Gorod.
  • Climb the 262 steps to the colonnade at St. Isaac’s Cathedral for fantastic views over Petersburg.
  • Spend a romantic evening at one of Petersburg’s illustrious theaters.
  • Attend a special lecture entitled, "Soviet Life, Perestroika, Capitalism."
  • Visit the Fabergé museum, boasting the largest collection of Fabergé eggs in the world.
  • Enjoy lunch in a Soviet-style café, serving Russian comfort food.

What You'll See and Do

  • Architecture
  • Boat Cruising
  • Cooking Class
  • Cultural Exploration
  • Cultural Performances
  • Historical Sites
  • Photography
  • Sightseeing
  • Train
  • Vodka Tasting
  • Walking

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Russia: Moscow and St. Petersburg Rediscovered

Trip Itinerary

Day 1

Thursday, August 31, 2017 - Depart the United States for Moscow, Russia.
Meals Aloft

Day 2

Friday, September 1 - Arrive in Moscow, Russia
Arrive in Moscow and transfer to your hotel. This evening you'll enjoy a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant. After dinner, if you're not too tired you can join an optional nighttime walk to Red Square to see the iconic square lit up.
Dinner

Overnight Aquamarine Hotel
Ozerkovskaya Emb., 26
Moscow, Russia, 115184
www.aquamarinemoscow.com

The Aquamarine hotel is the new place to be in Moscow! This sparkling, bright boutique hotel is located in the heart of the historic Moscow district, and it is just a stroll away from the Kremlin, Tretyakov State Gallery, and St. Basil's Cathedral. The internal hotel design is in Art Deco style, brightly representing the chic style of European capitals. Spacious, modern rooms are equipped with the latest multi-media technology with free Wi-Fi, and the hotel also has a spa. The Topaz Restaurant offers Mediterranean and Russian fusion cuisine, and guests can enjoy a drink with a view of the grounds at the stylish Ruby Bar.

Day 3

Saturday, September 2 - Get to Know Moscow: Ride the Metro, Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Novodevichy Cemetery, and Tour/Taste at the Vodka Museum!
Today you get to know Moscow. Founded in 1147 by Yuri Dolgoruky (literally "Yuri of the Long Arms"), Moscow rose to prominence during Mongol domination and eventually became the Russian capital. Eclipsed for 200 years by St. Petersburg, Moscow was restored as a political center after the October Revolution in 1917 and served as the capital of the Soviet Union until 1991. Moscow today is a booming metropolis, dignified yet dynamic, where ancient churches sit shoulder to shoulder with 21st century financial institutions, and where the new high-rise commercial district of Moscow-City is changing the face of the city forever.

Take a ride on Moscow's Metro system - one of the largest in the world. The first Metro station opened in 1935, and today there are some 200 of them along the 200 miles of track, serving nearly 2.5 billion travelers each year. The stations in the city center are showpieces of Socialist art, furnished with statues, frescoes and mosaics, and with marbled, gilded, and bronzed walls and ceilings. Some of the more elaborate are Kievskaya Station, its walls clad in framed mosaics showing happy Ukrainians under golden skies; Ploshchad Revolutsii, its black Georgian marble setting off bronze sculptures of Russian workers and soldiers; and Mayakovsky Station, with its slender stainless steel pylons and graceful arches forming domes filled with mosaics. Stalin gave his Anniversary of the October Revolution speech here in 1941, deep underground where he was safe from air raids.

The Metro tour culminates at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, which has had a tumultuous history. Built from 1839-1883 to commemorate the Russian victory over Napoleon in 1812, it was destroyed by the Soviets in 1931 to make way for a Palace of Soviets. However, the soft ground could not support the huge building, and so the excavation was used for the world's largest outdoor swimming pool. In the 1990s the Moscow government meticulously rebuilt the cathedral, completing it in 1998. The massive golden-domed church has great views that reward a climb to the top!

Next, stroll across the Patriarch footbridge over the Moskva River that leads to the gleaming Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Completed in 2004, the bridge connects the cathedral to the city-center Bolotny Island, where the red brick Red October Chocolate Factory building is now a modern center for art, clubs, and culture. From the bridge you can see the gargantuan maritime monument to Peter the Great, as well as the famous "House on the Embankment."

The huge gray complex on the Moscow River (called the "House on the Embankment" after a novel by Yury Trifonov about life in the building) was built to house the Communist Party elite. Apartments here were luxurious, but proved incredibly dangerous. It is estimated that nearly a third of its residents were arrested and never seen again during the height of Stalin's purges, in 1937.

Next, make a stop in at Novodevichy Cemetery. In some circles the cemetery at Novodevichy is as famous as the convent itself. The fancifully decorated graves belong to some of the most renowned Russians of the last hundred and fifty years, including not only artists and musicians, but political leaders like Khrushchev and Yeltsin, aircraft designers like Tupolev and Ilyushin, several cosmonauts, the Soviet Union's foremost anarchist, Peter Kropotkin, a female sniper named Lyudmila Pavlichenko and Stalin's second wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, who allegedly shot herself after an argument with Stalin.

You'll enjoy a private tour and tasting at the Vodka Museum, and learn about the history of Russia's premium distillery, Cristall, the outfit that gave the world the vodka formerly known as Stolichnaya-Cristall, and now just Cristall. Double-distilled and siphoned from the center of the distillation tank, Cristall is a superior vodka. Discover the different methods of distilling various vodkas and liqueurs, and sample a selection of spirits, liqueurs, dessert beverages and nalivka, a Russian berry liqueur.

This evening you'll see a performance at one of Moscow's world-renowned theaters, where the surroundings are as wonderful as the performance. Dinner tonight is on your own.
Breakfast, Lunch

Overnight Aquamarine Hotel

Day 4

Sunday, September 3 - Moscow on Foot: Choral Synagogue, a Women's Convent, Red Squire, Basil's Cathedral, and Arbat Street
Today you'll explore Moscow on foot, starting with Kitay Gorod, one of the oldest districts in Moscow. Separated from the Kremlin only by Red Square, Kitay Gorod was surrounded by thick walls in the early 16th century. The last of the wall's towers was demolished in the 1930s, but one gate, Iverskiye, remains.

Beyond the gate was Glebovskoye Podvorye, the inn at which all of Moscow's first Jews were required to live. Walk past the Choral (Great) Synagogue. Construction of Moscow’s Choral Synagogue was finished in 1891, directly before a czarist order to expel all Jews from the capital. After the revolution of 1905, Czar Nicholas II instituted some reforms that included a proclamation of freedom of religion. Finally the Choral Synagogue was opened for prayer in 1906. During the Soviet years, the synagogue's rabbi, Yakov Maze, fought with some success to keep it open, but all Jewish schools were shut down by 1936. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, funds were gathered to renovate the beautiful neoclassical building, and the Choral Synagogue reopened in 2001.

Stop at one of the oldest women's convents in Moscow, on a hill not far from the Kremlin. In 1917, more than 300 women lived here under monastic vows, cooking, baking and living as self-sufficiently as possible. After the Revolution, the convent was closed and transformed into a prison. Opened again after the Soviet Union dissolved, the convent’s canteen boasts the best bread in the city.

Lunch is on your own near Red Square and GUM Department Store. Red Square and St. Basil's Cathedral are perhaps the most recognizable symbols of Russia. The square owes its origins to Ivan III, who in the late 15th century had all buildings removed from the eastern wall of the Kremlin. For the next 400 years, this newly formed area was a trading center. In 1920 all traders were banned from the square, and in the early 1960s cars were banned as well, making Red Square a pedestrian area.

St. Basil's was built to celebrate Ivan the Terrible's victory at the Tatar stronghold of Kazan in
1552. Built between 1555 and 1561, it was originally painted white. The domes were not patterned and colored as they are today until a hundred years later. St. Basil's is named after Vasily, the "holy fool" who predicted that Ivan would murder his own son. Here we admire the vivid exterior of St. Basil's today.

The eastern side of Red Square is dominated by the elaborate façade of GUM, the former State Department Store, a glass-topped 1890s arcade of booths. Galleries lined with trendy shops overlook three naturally lit halls. Originally a marketplace sheltering over a thousand merchants, the building was nationalized after the revolution and used for many years as a staging area for the enormous parades on Red Square. Later it became the only shopping mall in Moscow, selling shoddy state-manufactured goods. Today many of the shops are exclusive boutiques offering high-end imports.

In the afternoon you'll walk down Arbat Street. One of the oldest streets in the city, it became a pedestrian street in the 1980s. In the 15th century court artisans and craftsmen lived in this neighborhood, and by the 19th century it had become an artists' enclave. Today the Arbat is like a busy street fair, with small shops lining the sides of the street and tables of crafts and merchandise set out along the center. Here street artists draw portraits, musicians sing and play, and fur hats, matrioshka dolls, and Russian woolen scarves are offered for sale.

Special this evening is dinner in the home of a Russian family, to experience firsthand the meaning
of Russian hospitality.
Breakfast and Dinner

Overnight Aquamarine Hotel

Day 5

Monday, September 4 - The Kremlin, and from Moscow to St. Petersburg by Train
Continuing your tour of Moscow, visit the main building of Moscow State University (MGU), a massive skyscraper, wider than it is tall. Its seemingly endless hallways lead to student living quarters, classrooms, offices, a swimming pool, library and cafeterias, as well as shops, a police station and a hair salon. Its tower was taller than any building outside of New York when it was built in 1949-50, and it's topped with a 12-ton star.

Stalin's "Seven Sisters" are the huge skyscrapers commissioned by Stalin to enhance Moscow's prestige after WWII. Designed in an elaborate, tiered "wedding cake" style, the enormous brick buildings were for many years the only tall buildings in Moscow, and were easily seen dotting the horizon. The tallest is Moscow State University, and next-tallest is the former Ukraina Hotel, now the Radisson Royal.

Next on the agenda is the Moscow Kremlin, which reminds modern-day Russia of its medieval past. Built on the site of Prince Yuri's hunting lodge, the Kremlin overlooks the Moskva and Neglina rivers. In the mid-14th century, the Russian princes, ruling from the Kremlin, became so powerful that Moscow was named the center of the Russian Orthodox Church. Under the guidance of Ivan the Great, Moscow extended its influence and soon became the seat of Russian political power.

Today, the Kremlin remains the center of Moscow and Russian politics. Inside the fortress walls are palaces, cathedrals, government buildings and the Armory Museum. Built in the 16th century as a warehouse for the Kremlin's weaponry, the Armory was transformed into an exhibition hall and museum in 1814. It now houses Russia's national treasures, such as religious icons, Fabergé eggs, a bejeweled chalice belonging to Prince Yuri, and Catherine the Great's ball gowns and shoes.

The Kremlin Diamond Fund is an exclusive collection of "crown valuables," jewelry pieces made for the czars and the royal court, including imperial regalia such as crowns, scepters, and bejeweled clasps to fasten the coronation mantle. The 189-carat Orlov Diamond is among the treasures, as is Catherine the Great's coronation crown, encrusted with pearls and 4,936 diamonds.

Saying good-bye to Moscow, depart via the high speed Sapsan train to St. Petersburg. Arrival will be late tonight, followed by hotel check-in and overnight.
Breakfast

Overnight Helvetia Hotel
11, Marata St, St Petersburg
http://helvetiahotel.ru/en

The Helvetia Hotel is housed in a former mansion designed by the Swiss architect Augusto Lange in 1828. With a great location just off Nevsky Prospekt and a quiet courtyard, the completely renovated building is home to modern rooms and suites. The suites have one, two or three bedrooms, a bathroom and a fully-equipped kitchen. A business center, a cozy restaurant, a gastropub, and 24-hour room service round out the hotel amenities. This is a lovely little hotel with a pleasant staff.

Day 6

Tuesday, September 5 - St. Petersburg, Russia's Cultural Capital
This morning, begin a fascinating exploration of Russia's cultural capital, St. Petersburg, often referred to as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Its miles of canals, laced together with graceful bridges set amidst 18th century buildings, have earned it the name, "Venice of the North." Conceived by Peter the Great and designed by his favorite European architects, St. Petersburg was meant to be Peter's link to the western world.

A convergence of art and soul, the city survived the calamitous 20th century with its reputation as a storehouse of Russian culture intact. Some of the world's most radiant artworks hang in its museums, and some of the world's greatest performers, writers and musicians have walked
its streets. The historic center of St. Petersburg has been added to the UNESCO list of World
Heritage Sites.

Begin with St. Isaac's Cathedral, which took 40 years to complete. The 48 red granite columns around the lower part of the building each weigh 110 tons, and the upper columns around the rotunda weigh 67 tons apiece. The dome is covered with 220 pounds of gold, and the interior columns faced with lapis lazuli and malachite. The cathedral is bursting with sculptures, frescoes, stained glass works and woodcarvings. Climbing the 262 steps to the colonnade walkway along the perimeter of St. Isaac's, there are fabulous views of St. Petersburg.

Boarding a boat (weather permitting) at one of St. Petersburg famous bridges, cruise the city’s canals. A guide tells about the pre-revolutionary buildings along the embankments as the boat cruises the waterways that originally drained the swamps of Peter the Great's capital. Enjoying the breezes and a champagne toast, you'll see the sights from a unique perspective.

Study the history and architecture of Nevsky Prospekt on a mile-long walking tour along this world-class boulevard. Pass five churches, including Kazan Cathedral, and seven palaces, including the Usupoff Palace where Rasputin met his end. Nevsky is best seen on foot, and your guides are intimately knowledgeable about St. Petersburg's main street.

Dinner is on our own tonight.
Breakfast and Lunch

Overnight Helvetia Hotel

Day 7

Wednesday, September 6 - The Hermitage Museum, Ballet Class, and Theater Performance
Today begins with a visit to the Hermitage Museum. The Winter Palace, part of the Hermitage ensemble, was built in 1754-62 as the principal home of the czars, and was lavishly rebuilt in
1839 after it was destroyed by fire. Originally a small private palace gallery begun by
Catherine the Great with a purchase of 255 paintings from Berlin, the Hermitage today houses one of the largest museum collections in the world. It includes works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens, the French Impressionists, Van Gogh, Matisse, Gauguin, and Picasso. The fabulous rooms with their inlaid floors and gilded woodwork and the grand double entry staircase are works of art in themselves.

After Nicholas II abdicated his throne in the spring of 1917, the Provisional Government set up shop in the Winter Palace amidst this opulence. Later that year, in October, the Cruiser Aurora, anchored outside on the Neva, fired the shot that signaled the storming of the Winter Palace and the beginning of the Bolshevik Revolution.

You will also take in the newly re-opened branch of the museum at the General Staff Headquarters, then attend a ballet master class, where the dancers run through their warm-up routines and practice fragments of ballets, accompanied by a pianist. They'll perform several complete numbers in costume for our group, and you'll sit close enough to really get a feel for the performance. Sipping a glass of champagne as you watch, perhaps you'll get a chance to converse with the dancers after the class.

Russia has long been known as a place where the arts are held in high regard. It is the home to some of the world's finest ballet companies and Russian composers. Russian musicians, dancers and opera singers have always held places in the pantheon of global cultural luminaries. Tonight you'll spend a romantic evening at one of St. Petersburg's illustrious theaters, attending a memorable ballet, concert, or opera performance in Russia's cultural capital at either the Mariinsky or Mikhailovsky theater.
Breakfast and Dinner

Overnight Helvetia Hotel

Day 8

Thursday, September 7 - The Fabergé Museum, Lunch Interactions, and the Russian Museum
This morning you'll hear a special lecture entitled, "Soviet Life, Perestroika, Capitalism," and then set off for the day's touring to see what you've learned, in action.

Located in the former Shuvalovsky mansion on the Fontanka, the Fabergé Museum features more than 4,000 items of jewelry, including the largest collection of Fabergé eggs in the world. Fabergé created a total of 50 eggs during the time he worked in Russia. Ten of them reside in the Kremlin Armory Museum in Moscow, and now 13 more are here in St. Petersburg. Other items of jewelry, porcelain and applied art are also displayed at the elegant museum.

Breaking into smaller groups, have lunch in a Soviet-style café. The intimate setting gives each mini-group a chance to interact with an English-speaking Russian professional from a variety of walks of life.

Opened in 1898, the Russian Museum now houses about a half million works of art. It displays the most comprehensive and moving collection of Russian art in the world. Exhibits progress chronologically from icons - including Angel with the Golden Hair by Rublev - and mosaics to classical artwork to huge Romantic canvases to modern Socialist Realism. The Russian Museum's main structure, the magnificent Mikhailovsky Palace, was extensively renovated in 1998 in honor of its hundredth anniversary.
Breakfast and Lunch

Overnight Helvetia Hotel

Day 9

Friday, September 8 - St. Petersburg's Fortresses, Cathedrals, Palaces, a Cooking Class or Museum of Dostoevsky
After breakfast, visit the Peter and Paul Fortress, located just across the Neva River from the Hermitage on Hare Island. One of the first structures in St. Petersburg, Peter the Great laid the cornerstone of the earthen fortress in May 1703, intending it to be used to repel a Swedish invasion. After the Swedes capitulated, the fortress was transformed into a prison in 1718. Most importantly, it is the burial place for most of the czars beginning with Peter the Great.

While here, you will also visit the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, the first stone church in St. Petersburg. Built between 1712 and 1733, the church is where the tombs of most of the Russian czars from Peter the Great to Nicholas II are found. The church's bell tower, whose spire is said to be the tallest Orthodox spire in the world, has a viewing platform for admiring the city. Its 51-bell carillon, a gift from the Government of Flanders, was restored and enhanced at the beginning of the 21st century.

Lunch is at a locally famous restaurant, "Korushka," where a local fish dish is a specialty unique to this restaurant.

Although the lovely Yusupov Palace looks ordinary from the outside, its interior is exquisite, with a marble staircase, crystal chandeliers, gilded candelabras and magnificently painted ceilings. Owned before the revolution by the very rich and powerful Yusupov family, the palace has its own miniature theater. This is the place where the plot against the sinister Rasputin came to fruition.

This afternoon you have a difficult decision to make: visit the Museum of Dostoevsky, or take a private cooking class.

Museum of Dostoevsky: Dostoevsky lived in this apartment during the last years of his life, from 1878 to 1881. The museum's lobby in the basement is a gloomy cave-like space, but the author's rooms upstairs, where he wrote The Brothers Karamazov, are pleasant and have a view of a church, as all his apartments did. The market across the street is scruffy, but one of the best in the city, and one can imagine Dostoevsky shopping there and taking note of the characters. Explore at your own pace with the excellent audio guide to the exhibits.

Alternately, take part in a cooking class, taught in the Helvetia kitchens.
Breakfast and Lunch

Overnight Helvetia Hotel

Day 10

Saturday, September 9 - Hydrofoil to Peterhof, Excursion to Kronstadt, With a Visit and Dinner at a Russian Dacha
Touring this morning begins with a trip to Peterhof. Take an exciting hydrofoil ride from the
Hermitage pier down the Neva and out into the Gulf of Finland to Peterhof. The hydrofoil takes only half an hour to arrive at Peter the Great's palace and park with its cascades of almost 150 fountains.

Peter the Great built his estate, Peterhof, on a ridge by the Gulf of Finland 19 miles outside St. Petersburg. The former imperial residence is surrounded with extensive parks and gardens intended to rival Versailles, complete with an array of gilded statues, magnificent palaces and gravity-fed fountains.

Peter the Great's famed fountains are Peterhof's main attraction. More than 150 glistening, gilded, sculpted marble, granite and limestone fountains and cascades adorn the Lower Park. The gravity-fed collection pools in Peterhof's Upper Garden discharge their waters nearly 50 feet down to the Lower Park's cascades and jets, creating enormous force and powering fountains all over the park.

Peter sketched the original drawings for the beautiful Sea Canal, laid out strictly north and south, and forming a marine entrance to the Grand Palace from the Gulf of Finland. At the terminus of the canal is the Grand Cascade, its double set of stairs pouring water into the Lower Grotto, where a gilded Samson pries open the jaws of a lion from which water jets up to 60 feet.

Take a tour of Peter the Great’s favorite residence, Monplaisir Palace, the only fully original building remaining at Peterhof. The first structure built on the estate, the early 18th century Monplaisir has a sweeping view over the Gulf of Finland so Peter could keep an eye on the passing ships. Peter designed the intimate palace, including a kitchen so he could cook for himself (not an ordinary pastime for a czar). This is where he experimented with his first "joke" fountains, inviting foreign dignitaries to sit on an innocent-looking garden bench that doused them with jets of water. Outfitted with some of Peter’s belongings and furnishings, the charming little palace is known as the "heart of Peterhof," and has been considered a memorial to Peter since just after his death.

Anyone with an interest in military history will enjoy an excursion to Kronstadt. The naval fortress, founded by Peter the Great, is located on an island in the Gulf of Finland eighteen miles northwest of St. Petersburg. The town grew along with the imperial capital, St. Petersburg. During Soviet times Kronstadt was off-limits to foreigners because the Baltic Fleet was based there. Besides the fortress, the town boasts a beautiful 19th century Russian cathedral, provincial cottages from the 18th century and several museums. A day trip includes a visit to the fort, the New Historical Museum and the Memorial Museum of St. John of Kronstat as well as a guided tour of this historical landmark.

Take a trip outside the city and experience Russian dacha life. A dacha is a city-dweller's house in the country and can vary from a summer cabin with no running water to a fine home suitable for living year-round. Dachas are usually modest places where one can get away from the daily grind and grow some vegetables. Dacha gardens were responsible for a significant portion of the produce grown during Soviet times.

The drive to the dacha passes through Karelia – the land north and east of St. Petersburg up to the White Sea and along the Finnish border. Originally settled by Finno-Ugric people who left petroglyphs and ancient rock labyrinths on the beaches, the northern lake-filled land was prized by the Slavs for its furs and ivory, copper and iron.

Along the way, there are quite a few interesting places to stop. At famed artist Ilya Repin’s estate, you can stretch your legs, admire his glass-fronted wooden house and perhaps see his grave. The dacha of Anna Vyrubova, a lady-in-waiting and best friend to Czarina Alexandra, is set along the Gulf of Finland with great views across the water to the naval fortress of Kronstadt. Poet Anna Akhmatova spent summers in Komarovo in a tiny dacha that she called her "booth." The route passes by the estate of Prime Minister Medvedev's parents and the Soviet "Rest Home of Composers," with Shostakovitch's summer cabin.

Enjoy dinner at the dacha, an intimate evening with your host.
Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

Overnight Helvetia Hotel

Day 11

Sunday, September 10 - Pushkin (Catherine's Palace), Lunch at Podvorye Restaurant, and Special Farewell Dinner
Today head to Pushkin, or Tsarskoye Selo ("Czar’s Village"), the location of one of Russia's greatest cultural attractions, Catherine's Palace. Originally built in 1717 by Catherine I, in 1752, famed architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli enlarged and embellished the palace, extending the facade to its current grandeur. The estate and palace buildings were almost completely destroyed by the Germans during World War II, but they have been carefully and expertly restored into a brilliant architectural monument.

The fully restored Amber Room in Catherine's Palace has been years in the making. The wall coverings of amber panels, created in the time of Peter the Great, were taken by the Nazis during the Second World War and never recovered. The beautifully crafted amber panels we see today were re-created from photos and descriptions of the originals, and have become one of the highlights of Catherine's Palace.

Visit the little workshop where modern masters labored for years to reconstruct the interior of the Amber Room. Today there are fewer artisans here. They perform upkeep on the Amber Room and take on other expert restoration work.

While in Pushkin, take in the exhibition of royal carriages. Located in the former Imperial Stables, the collection includes coaches, cabriolets, and phaetons from various time periods, as well as three carriages created for Catherine the Great by the master Johann Buckendall.

Stop for lunch at Podvorye Restaurant, built in the style of a traditional Russian izba, or wooden cot- tage. Enjoy wonderful Russian peasant-style cuisine, served family style at long wooden tables as balalaikas accompany an ensemble singing Russian folk songs. Owner Sergei Gustai has hosted such distinguished guests as Vladimir Putin and former First Lady Laura Bush.

Returning to the city, stop at Victory Square. At Ploschad Pobedy, or Victory Square, the Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad holds pride of place. The monument is made up of a huge broken ring symbolizing the siege of Leningrad, finally broken after 900 days of deprivation, cold and starvation. Inside the ring, gas torches light engraved scenes of the siege, while on the outside of the ring a frieze of sculptures shows the soldiers and sailors who defended the city. Beneath the memorial is the underground Museum of the Defense of Leningrad, dedicated to the history of the siege.

Tonight, celebrate the journey with a festive Farewell Dinner.
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Overnight Helvetia Hotel

Day 12

Monday, September 11 - Depart St. Petersburg
Following breakfast, your adventure ends and you are transferred to the airport.
Breakfast

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Russia: Moscow and St. Petersburg Rediscovered

Traveling to Russia


Passports and Visa

If you do not have a passport, APPLY NOW! Please do not wait until the last minute. You should always carry 2 extra passport photographs with you, in case of emergency (if your passport/visa is lost or stolen), and always carry 2 sets of photocopies of your airline tickets and the first two pages of your passport.

Extensive pre-tour paperwork is necessary to obtain a Russian visa. Our outfitter will provide the necessary applications and instructions, and detailed information will be sent to you approximately 90-120 days in advance (when it is possible to begin the application process).

An estimate of current visa costs for US passport holders, based on standard processing time, is $290. Your exact visa fees may differ as visa costs can depend on a number of factors, such as state of residence, processing time, and return shipping. Visa fees are always subject to change.

In addition your passport must also have adequate unused visa pages to allow for entry and exit stamps upon arrival and departure from Russia. To be safe, all travelers in the region are strongly encouraged to have a minimum of six or more unstamped visa pages in their passports prior to commencing travel. Please note that Amendment pages in the back of your passport are not to be used for entry and exit stamps or visa issuance.

Passport Registration

You will be asked to submit your passport to the hotel upon check-in for registration purposes.  The hotel may return your passport right away, or may keep it overnight, and this process may be repeated at other cities on your itinerary. Always make certain you reclaim your passport at the desk. Your passport is your responsibility. Do not lose it or your customs declaration.

Health Requirements and Health Insurance

You MUST have your own health insurance  and be in very good physical condition to participate in this trip.

There are no special vaccinations required to enter the country, but please make sure that you are up-to-date on routine vaccines. Please consult with your personal physician, local health department, travel clinic, or immunization center about any vaccinations you may need to update, or others that may be personally recommended for you based on your age, health, and past vaccination history.

Water

You will be supplied with bottled water during this trip. Water in Russia can be problematic and it is strongly advised to NOT drink tap water, not even to brush your teeth.

Is This Trip Right for You?

While the accommodations utilized are superior tourist class, please keep in mind that some aspects of the tourism infrastructure in Russia are not up to the standards North American travelers expect. Services are improving in the region; however we may encounter problems with bureaucratic service, road conditions, and availability and quality of public restrooms. This itinerary features a significant amount of touring on foot. Many streets and sidewalks are uneven, and some attractions are only accessible via steep staircases. Museums generally do not have elevators.

We believe that this program is designed to be as comfortable as possible for travel in this region. It is rated as "Moderate" because of the daily walking involved, the length of some bus rides and the overall shortcomings of the tourism infrastructure. To reap the full rewards of this adventure, travelers should be able to walk at least 2-3 miles a day, keeping up with fellow travelers. Flexibility, a sense of humor and a willingness to accept local standards of amenities and services are essential components to the enjoyment of this trip.

Every effort has been made to ensure that the information in this schedule is accurate. However, trip itineraries are always subject to change. We do our best to inform participants in advance of any changes, but, due to the nature of travel in Russia, this may not always be possible.

Traveling to Russia: Arrival in Moscow, Departure from St. Petersburg

You should plan to arrive in Moscow at the airport by early-mid afternoon on September 1. It might take approximately 4 hours from scheduled landing time to get to the hotel depending on which airport you fly into. Moscow is one of the largest and busiest cities in the world, so substantial traffic and sometimes lengthy customs/immigration with lots of flights arriving at the same time, contribute to delays getting into the city center.

There are two airports that are suggested, where most of the major flights from the US fly into:

Sheremetyevo (SVO) International Airport has non-stop flights on Delta Airlines direct from New York. Aeroflot also has direct flights from New York, and Aeroflot also flies from Los Angeles. Flights arrive by approximately 12 noon - 2:00pm.

Domodedovo (DME) International Airport is a bit farther from Moscow, but Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian and more fly from the U.S. through Europe to this airport.

Departure from St. Petersburg can be at any time on September 11.

There will be group airport transfers for those arriving on the tour start date (September 1) and departing on the tour end date (September 11). Our outfitter will try to combine flight arrival and departures that are reasonably close together.

Anyone arriving or departing at different dates and times, and not able to be part of a group arrival or departure transfer, will have private transfers as necessary. The cost of this will be $75 per car, with a maximum of 2 persons/car.

We would be happy to help you with pre- or post-tour arrangements. Please feel free to contact us.

Making Travel Arrangements to Russia

We are happy to help you make your flight and travel arrangements. Please contact us for more information.

NOTE: The recent trend in travel is for travelers to finalize their plans much closer to departure time than was customary in the past. While we try to be as flexible as possible booking last minute registrants, we must often relinquish hotel space and air reservations up to 6 – 12 weeks prior to departure!

Please keep this in mind when making your travel plans.

Final Payment

Final payment is due to AdventureWomen, LLC in a cash form (check, money order or wire transfer) on or before June 3, 2017.

Money

The unit of Russian currency is the ruble.  You may exchange currency in the major hotels, and at kiosks on the streets. The rates are published on a board either outside or inside the building, and you can use your calculator to make sure you get the published exchange rate.

1 U.S. Dollar = 64.4 rubles, as of 8/23/2016. See: http://www.xe.com/ucc/  or any universal currency converter for updated exchange rates. Make sure the bills you bring to exchange are crisp, new and unmarked, or they will be rejected at the exchange point.

Ask your local guide for the best place to exchange money – rates at airports and banks are not always the best. Your passport is usually required to exchange money.

ATMs: Called bankomats, are prevalent in larger cities. It is recommended that you use your ATM card to get cash, and then use the cash for your purchases. Usually the charges are lower than paying for meals or purchases with a credit card. Save your receipts and check the exchange rate that you were charged. It is preferable to use ATMs inside hotels and banks, due to reports of scams involving street ATMs.

Credit Cards: Credit cards can be used at more and more places in Western Russia, but it is wise to save all receipts and check them against your statement on your return home. Some cases of fraud have been reported.

Reminder: Contact your credit card/debit card company a week or so before you depart the U.S. to let them know you will be traveling in Russia. This will help prevent your funds from being frozen.  Also, ask them what their fee is for international transactions so you can plan accordingly.

Traveler’s Checks: Not recommended.  It may be difficult or impossible to find a place to exchange them, and they may give you a poor exchange rate.

Climate

Weather everywhere can be unpredictable year round. Furthermore, personal perception plays a large role in your comfort in varying conditions. Some people are comfortable in a heavy sweater and windbreaker at 35°F, and others need a down parka. Thus, your personal preferences should be your guide in packing for this trip.

The average temperatures in Moscow in September are 50°F, with highs of 57°F and lows of 43°F.

The average temperatures in St. Petersburg about 50°F, with highs of 56°F and lows of 45°F.

As always, the best bet is to be prepared for a wide variety of conditions, spanning the range from hot, sunny weather to more average cooler early-autumn weather.

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Russia: Moscow and St. Petersburg Rediscovered

What's Included:

  • All accommodation based on double occupancy: Moscow (3 nights), Petersburg (7 nights)
  • All meals as listed in the itinerary: 10 breakfasts, 6 lunches and 5 dinners
  • Beverages with listed lunches/dinners: choice of bottled water, tea, coffee
  • Special Welcome and Farewell Dinners including choice of soft drinks, local beer and wine
  • Bottled water in vehicles during tours and transfers
  • Private coach for all tours and transportation per the itinerary
  • Arrival and departure group airport transfers for those arriving on the tour start date and departing on the tour end date
  • Tickets for the scheduled fast train Moscow-St. Petersburg via Sapsan in business class (1c)
  • All sightseeing and excursions including entrance fees per itinerary
  • Russian bilingual tour manager and bilingual guides throughout the entire trip
  • One AdventureWomen Associate/Escort
  • Special cultural features as stated in the itinerary including an evening at the Mariinsky or Mihailovsky theatre (depending on schedules) and a Master Ballet class
  • Baggage handling at hotels and railway stations where available

 

What's Not Included:

  • International airfare between the S. and the start and ending cities (arrival in Moscow and departure from St. Petersburg)
  • Gratuities to main guide, local guides, drivers:
    • Drivers: $5 per person/day
    • Local guides: $7-10 per person/day
    • Main guide: $10-12 per person/day
  • Visa and passport fees
  • Medical, trip interruption insurance, evacuation insurance
  • Food or beverages not listed in itinerary
  • Items of a personal nature such as laundry, alcohol, telephone expense, excess baggage fees, photo/video expenses inside museums (where allowed)
  • Other items not expressly listed as included

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Russia: Moscow and St. Petersburg Rediscovered

What To Bring:

It is highly recommended to travel with one reasonably sized checked bag that you can handle yourself as needed, and one carry on. Remember, travel between cities is by train and luggage travels aboard the train with you.

The best recommendation for this trip is to pack comfortable clothes that can easily be layered. All daytime excursions are considered casual. Plan to bring comfortable, versatile clothes, ideally ones that can be worn multiple times without showing too much wear. Water resistant or water proof jacket over a fleece is a good combination to adjust to the temperatures.

In addition to casual clothing that will serve for the majority of the trip, you may want to have one or two slightly nicer outfits along for evening events. Nothing too fancy, but a light sweater or sport jacket over a cotton-poly shirt or blouse can make any casual ensemble of pants or skirt into "evening wear" that will be appropriate for the theater.

  • A well broken-in, comfortable pair of walking shoes (maybe 2 pair to switch).
  • Comfortable shoes for the evening in hotels.
  • Socks – We like Thorlo hiking socks which wick moisture and reduce blistering. Bring plenty of socks!
  • Pants (loose and comfortable for walking) and two pairs of capris or longer walking shorts (if you like to wear shorts). Zip off pants are often the most versatile.
  • Shirts (long- and short-sleeved) and a few T-shirts.
  • Underwear, sleepwear.
  • Medium-weight jacket, fleece jacket, or sweater for cool evenings. Maybe a pair of lightweight gloves and hat.
  • Rain gear: You should be well prepared for whatever conditions occur. Therefore, it is very important to bring a good water PROOF (not just water REPELLENT) rain jacket or long poncho. Your rain parka can also act as a lightweight wind jacket.
  • A set or two of “smart casual” (skirt or pants) for dinner out and evenings at the hotels, and the theater!
  • Sun hat and sunglasses with securing strap.
  • A spare pair of glasses (if you wear glasses).
  • Swimsuit (hotels have a spa).
  • Day pack that is water resistant for carrying rain gear, camera, water bottle, etc., during the daytime (you can use this for your carry-on bag). If not waterproof, bring a garbage bag to line the inside of the pack.
  • Money belt, waist pouch, or a way to carry your money, passport, and airline tickets. You can leave these valuables at the hotels while out for the day.
  • One-quart water bottle. We recommend the 24 oz. Nalgene Everyday OTG Tritan Bottle. Made of Eastman Tritan™ copolyester, the bottle is completely BPA-free. Tritan™ copolyester provides excellent impact resistance and is suitable for both warm and cold beverages.
  • Bring 2 or 3 (100% cotton) for instant sweat bands and other uses too numerous to mention, some of which you have never even dreamed! Besides, it’s a tradition at AdventureWomen!
  • Ziploc bags of various sizes.
  • Travel alarm clock.
  • Small flashlight.
  • Toiletries, including Wash & Dries (or moist towelettes)
  • Lip balm with SPF.
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • We recommend Mack's Pillow Soft White Moldable Silicone Snore Proof Earplugs, which you can buy at most drugstores, or www.earplugstore.com. Good to 22 Decibels!
  • Small, lightweight binoculars for the theater/ballet.
  • Guidebook to Russia (we like the Insight Guides).
  • Electricity in Russia is 220 volts at 50Hz. Outlets generally take a plug with two round pins, the standard European non-grounded socket, the most common in the world. This adapter is also known as type C.

First Aid Kit

  • Prescription drugs (with the labels on.)
  • Systemic antibiotic (prescription).
  • Cloth, not plastic Bandaids; about 10 individually-wrapped alcohol pads; and a small tube of Neosporin or other antibiotic cream.
  • Acidophilus enzyme (available in capsules in health-food stores). This often helps your digestive system get in shape for "new" flora.
  • Immodium, Lomotil, or similar anti-diarrhea medicine.
  • Pepto-Bismol tablets and/or liquid (in leak-proof bottle.)
  • Laxative tablets.
  • Visine or similar eye drops.
  • Tweezers
  • Benadryl cream for itchy bites.
  • Aspirin/ibuprofen, etc.
  • Cold-symptom relief tablets, antihistamine, cough drops.

Camera Equipment

Since photography might be a large part of this trip for many women, we suggest you bring the following:

  • Digital camera, LOTS of extra memory cards and batteries, battery charger, and adapter.
  • Most digital cameras have a built in converter so you only need to bring an adapter. Adapters can also be bought while in-country.

Last Minute Reminders

  • Make photocopies of your airline tickets and the first two pages of your passport, and put them in different locations (suitcase, carry-on bag, etc.).
  • Bring 2-3 extra passport size photos to use in emergencies.
  • Your valuables should be insured for the duration of the trip, but better yet, leave them at home.
  • Remove extra credit cards, driver’s license, and personal items from wallet or purse.
  • Make sure passport and airline tickets are valid and in the correct name.
  • Check with airline to reconfirm reservations and departure time (most airlines want to hear directly from the client for confirmations).
  • Please leave all valuable jewelry at home!!!

Some Extra Items to Add to your "What to Pack" List 

We think these items help make your long airline flights much more comfortable and even more bearable:

  • Neck pillow - Inflatable neck pillow for blissful support and deep sleep. For packing, it folds into itself. Self-sealing valve means nothing to close. Soft microfleece cover removes for washing.
  • Sleep mask /Comfort eye shade - Ultra lightweight and comfortable, the Comfort Eye Shade screens out light and distractions for a cozier flight. Ultra-soft micro fleece for comfort. Adjustable elastic strap for a perfect fit. Made of Molded Polyester Micro Fleece.
  • Travel compression socks - Reduce ankle and leg swelling and reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis. These doctor-designed socks stimulate circulation through gradual compression that stops swelling and guards against (DVT).
  • Noise canceling headphones - Block out unwanted sounds of children crying and airplane engine drone, and/or enjoy great audio sound. Reduce distortion and increase perceived loudness so you can enjoy sound at a lower volume. Get the around the ear design, which is very comfortable.

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.