Nick, our chairman, has spent extended time in Russia since 1989 and motor-biked across it in 2005. His wife, Katya Galitzine, runs the Friends of the Hermitage in London. In addition both Paul and Katie have visited on any number of occasions and we have our own subsidiary offices over there. In short there is no one to touch us in expertise.
Why we like Russia
There is still a grittiness and unpredictability to Russia that makes every visit a new adventure. The sheer size and variety of locations ensures that once is not enough. While Moscow and St Petersburg have become a showcase of western opulence, move even a short distance outside of the cities and you enter a world which has, through force of circumstance, retained its traditional ways where idyllic villages sit nestled in forests of silver birch.
What to expect on your Russian holiday
Russia is vast. Lake Baikal which is only two thirds the way across, lies east of Bangkok. The hotels and restaurants in the cities can be truly sensational but at a price. Be warned and choose carefully.
Traffic is hellish, particularly at rush hour, so consider travelling by metro which is efficient and clean and, particularly in Moscow, has the most beautiful art-deco stations.
Right across Russia you can expect a fairly high standard of hotel to be available in the cities, but move outside and standards drop dramatically. Do remember that most Russians, including your guide, will never be able to afford to eat in the expensive restaurants. It remains a very two tiered society of the have and have not.
Some ideas for a Russian holiday
- St Petersburg, arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
- Moscow. A very modern city but look behind the façade to find the treasures of traditional Russian architecture which are still there.
- Lake Baikal, or rather the surrounding area. The cities of Irkutsk and Ulan Ude are fascinating with the remnants of ethnic culture which escaped Sovietisation.
- The Trans Mongolian express from Moscow through to Beijing with breaks at all the interesting places en-route.
- The Golden Ring. The collection of ancient towns lying to the north of Moscow which are neither circular nor golden but steeped in history.
- Along the Mongolian border, in the rich green valleys of the classically beautiful Altai region, 250 varieties of peony grow wild while, in the far east, you will find the last refuge of the Siberian tiger.
- If you've seen the films Interstellar or The Martian, it may now be time to experience the real thing. Walk in the 'space boot' footsteps of Yuri Gagarin and rub shoulders with current cosmonauts. If, after lunch, your stomach is up to it try a spin in the centrifuge machine; all possible by travelling to Moscow with us and visiting Star City, home to the Soviet space programme.
Beyond the ordinary
Over the 25 years we have been selling Russia we have:
- Organised a wedding weekend for 300 people.
- Found a particular porcelain soup tureen in the vaults of the Hermitage.
- Organised for a private carriage to be attached to the Trans-Siberian Express.
- Helped find details of relatives in the Moscow archives.