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Moscow & St. Petersburg

Old Jul 4th, 2001, 08:49 AM
  #1  
Margie
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Moscow & St. Petersburg

One more month and we will be in Moscow and St. Peterburg. I thank everyone for their suggestions, and if there are any recent travelers to Moscow and St. Petersburg, please share some information with me. This site is just a wealth of information! I think our tour is General Tours, we booked with Liberty Travel and we are leaving August 2, 2000 from New York. Anyone going on this trip?
 
Old Jul 4th, 2001, 09:13 AM
  #2  
Marty
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I just returned from 2 weeks in Russia, but I went to work with teachers at Smolensk Lakelands National Park, so I only spent two days in Moscow. Spend as much time as you can viewing the various stations of the Moscow Metro; they are truly amazing. We missed Lenin's tomb, because it suddenly closed, and our Russian hosts really could not understand why we were so interested in it! Facing the GUM on Red Square take the street on left of the GUM and on the left side of street right behind the pink and green church is a new restaurant called Wood. The Russians were very excited to go there, and we did have a good meal in a nice setting at a very low price. There was a buffet which was a great way to sample a lot of different things. Be sure to try cranberry flavored vodka; it is available everywhere. If you can arrange a banya, it is a true Russian experience, but find out ALL of the details before you go! The Ismailovo Market was amazing. When you enter, walk to the far left. About 7 or 8 stalls down on the right is a great earring place. They are enamaled onto silver, and at $2 a pair, they make great gifts. In fact, I am asking a Russian friend to bring me more when she comes to the US next month. The college nesting dolls were big hits when I got home, so I had a friend who was staying an extra week to bring some more. They get the players that they include in the set from the internt. DO NOT pay more than $12 each, because the price will be double if you show interest. If I can help any more, let me know.
 
Old Jul 4th, 2001, 07:00 PM
  #3  
Debbie
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Margie-We returned last month from our 1st trip to Russia. We usually travel independently, but went with a General Tours escorted tour of Moscow/St Petersburg-it was wonderful. The client services manager(Anna)was teriffic-very organized, knowledgeable and detail oriented. Our Moscow tour guide-Natasha-couldn't have been better-a true professional. The tour will keep you moving, but you do manage to see a lot in a short amount of time. We opted not to take the monestary tour offered on Sunday, but rather enjoyed a full free day in Moscow(just one day doesn't begin to scratch the surface)and rode the Metro to Izmalovsky Park(a weekend flea market not to be missed-in fact, riding the metro shouldn't be missed). Took the overnight train to St Petersburg(a 9-hr journey). We had a 1st class, 2 berth sleeper compartment which was very elegant. You're given a small meal(rolls, yougurt, some packaged meat, etc)for your breakfast. You'll arrive in St P, make a breakfast stop at the hotel, then tour the city. We were fortunate to see a ballet at the beautiful Mariinsky Theatre that evening. Toured the Hermitage next morning, then off to Peterhof, the summer home of Peter the Great-oh my, was that beautiful. Next day, we opted not to take the tours, but rather explore St P on our own. Speaking no Russian and not having the 'security blanket' of your guides to help out should you need them is somewhat daunting, but we wouldn't have missed that opportunity for anything. St P is in preparation for their upcoming 300th anniversay in late May, 2003, so some of the buildings/monuments are covered in scaffolding. Lots of road repair work going on-and the traffic is horiffic.

Make an attempt to learn the Cyrillic alphabet, rather than learing the language. You can string the letters together to understand the words that way. Don't drink the water, especially in StP-take some bottled water with you. There's plenty of places to purchase it over there for just a few cents/bottle. Take cash with you, not travellers checks. Convert some dollars to roubles(exchange booths conveniently located in your hotel), as not all places take dollars, only roubles. Many places accept credit cards.

Russia is amazingly beautiful, clean and safe. English is not widely spoken. Your client services manager and city guides are excellent sources of useful information. They'll guide you effortlessly through the crowds at the Kremlin, Red Square and the Hermitage (and wherever else you may choose).

We were very pleased with General Tours and would definitely recommend them. We didn't encounter one problem on our trip.

Please e-mail directly if you have other questions. Happy Travels!!
 
Old Jul 12th, 2001, 02:00 PM
  #4  
Sharel
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I too want to thank everyone for the information that I have noted here for our trip. We leave on August 30th for 3 weeks, and are so excited about this trip.
Marty, did you pay for those dolls and earrings at the market with roubles or dollars?
Would love other information re: shopping.
Thank you
 
Old Jul 13th, 2001, 04:55 AM
  #5  
Marty
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Sharel: So as not to confuse you, Ismailovo Market and Izmalovsky Park are the same place. The Russians I was traveling with referred to it by the shortened market name. I mostly used roubles at the market, because I had changed out some and wanted to use them up. Prices were usually offered in both, with dollars being offered first; I often had to ask for the price in roubles. At the flea market, I did not see credit cards being used at all. If you are interested in Christmas ornaments, you will find many wooden, hand painted ones. I bought some beautiful moveable, skiing Santas (or Father Frost). My friend bought embroidered baby clothes with smocking. We saw a lot of table linens and things made of linen. There were hand made canes with unusual silver knobs on the handles. We saw many, many old military souvenirs. Upstairs, there are antiques. Plan to spend no less than two hours there, and look around first before you buy. I didn't do a lot of shopping in Moscow, because we left to go to a national park where we spent our time. Beware in buying baskets. The birch wood baskets are unusual and beautiful, but if they appear shiny with a "finish", smell them. We bought some beautiful baskets in a village market, but they were finished in a tar from the center (like a shellac) of a burned tree and have a very strong smell. Candy is a good present to bring home, because there are some very different kinds. Go into a grocery story and buy the loose, individual pieces from candy counters, rather than bars or boxes. We bought some interesting things in hardware stores. We also bought some of the wooden trim that you will see above windows and door of dachas. It came in about 6 ft. pieces which were only 80 cents or so, and we had them cut in half so they would fit in our suitcases. The kiosks around Red Square had many, inexpensive silver Russian Orthodox crosses with the extra bar at the bottom that Protestant crosses do not have. Take lots of pictures, because we did not find many postcards at the sites we visited. I was looking for them, because I always want good shots of the places I see. I like pictures of the insides of churches, but they were just not available in most places. Neither did we see a great amount of t-shirts for sale My husband collects t-shirts from our travels, and I only found one place to buy him one. Arbot Street is supposed to be a good souvenir and shopping street, but we ran out of time before we got there. If you get out into the villages, ask if there are artists in town. We took walks in our free time in the afternoons to villages around the place where we were staying, and we found people selling incredible, hand made things out of their homes.
 
Old Jul 15th, 2001, 06:09 PM
  #6  
Margie
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OK, now it is down to approximately two weeks before we leave for Russia.Thanks to Marty & Debbie for great information. Questions? How long is the flight from New York to Moscow? Share with me more information about learning the Cyrillic alphabet in place of learning the language, not that I will be able to accomplish this. Of course the flea market sounds wonderful, and I will be there. Do you really think cash will be better than Travelers checks? I travel frequently around this wonderful planet, and always take Travelers checks, and have lost (I mean stolen) Travelers checks and had them replaced with no problems. Also is Lenin's Tomb closed? Also can you buy "Faberage" eggs in Russia? Of course, jewelry is always so wonderful to buy for gifts, as it doesnt take up much room, so thanks for the jewelry suggestions. Again endless thanks...
 
Old Jul 16th, 2001, 04:38 AM
  #7  
Marty
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I was very spoiled on having to learn any language at all, because I was traveling with 4 other women, and we had 2, and sometimes 3, interpreters with us at all times. A Russian teenage sitting beside me on the plane wrote out the alphabet for me on the way over. I never had to rely on it, but it was very interesting to cipher out words while I was there. I was not in the market for them, but my friends who had been there many times before told me that in jewelry stores the minature eggs that you see in jewelry stores here are much less expensive in Russia. Do go into the jewelry stores. I bought silver rings with traditional Russian designs on them for about $3 each. That was another place where we saw such beautiful crosses. I have never used traveler's checks, so I can't help you there. I took money with me, and I was glad, because my experience was that the places where I went did not take credit cards, and I saw almost no ATM machines. The trip about 9 hours, I think. I didn't keep up very well, because I set my watch to the "new" time as I am leaviing the US. Coming back from Russia, I had to ride 9 hours to get to the airport, wait in line at immigrations for about 3, and then fly home, so I was lost in space! My trip was very different from what yours will be on a tour, so you will at the same time have to figure our more and less on your own. Just be prepared for Russia and life in Russia to be much more different that you might expect.
 
Old Jul 16th, 2001, 05:09 AM
  #8  
Gretchen
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If you can learn the Greek alphabet it will help you almost as much as the cyrillic. There are a few extra letters in the latter but their sounds are very difficult.
 
Old Jul 16th, 2001, 12:34 PM
  #9  
Marty
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Margie: I forgot your question about Lenin' tomb, and I thought of it while I was out shopping today! Yes, it is open, but on a very sporadic schedule. Our interpreters took us to Red Square, and we were very excited about Lenin, but they were not. They did not understand at all why we wanted to go in. They went to check, and it was open; by the time we got everybody together and walked across the square, it was closed! We were anxious to find out when it would open again, but they told us there was never any certainty with it. Again, in the little time that you have left, I don't think you can do enough with the language or the alphabet to do you any good. Learn a few words like "thank you" from your guide book. When asking prices, if you point to their calculators, unless they are using abacuses which does happen, they will show you the price. If it is in roubles, if you drop a zero and divide by 3, you will get a pretty accurate price in US.
 
Old Jul 16th, 2001, 04:04 PM
  #10  
Debbie
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Margie-So envious of you and your upcoming trip-take lots of film, as there are many (more than you think) opportunities for beautiful pictures. Not all museums/churches will allow inside photography, and those that do charge(30-40 roubles-just over $1)for the privlidge. Not speaking any Russian-when I wanted to buy a photo sticker to put on my camera allowing me to take pics, I just held up my camera, pointed with 1 finger to it, put my $ on the counter, and, voila, sticker in hand. Yes, Lenin's tomb in open-in fact, when his tomb is open, Red Square itself is closed (baracaded so you cannot walk across it), and when his tomb is closed, down come the baracades. Check with a tour book for specific hours, as times can change. You are NOT allowed to take any packages(backpacks, cameras, shopping bags-anything)with you inside-you will be stopped if you bring one with you. Now, as for travelers checks, yes, in other parts of the world they're definitely the way to go, however, not in Russia-they are almost an unknown entity. Better off taking cash, then converting to roubles at your hotel-the hotel should have a currency bureau open almost 24/7. ATM machines aren't everywhere, as they are here. Converting cash to roubles is very easy, in fact, you don't even need your passport to do so. The conversion rate should be about 29 roubles to the $. You might want to have some roubles with you should you need to use a restroom when you're out, as some places will charge you to use the facility-which brings me to this-take some t.p. with you-like ATM machines, it's not always readily available. As for Faberge eggs, there's a wonderful collection in the Armory museum in the Kremlin, however, quite honesty, I was a bit disappointed in the collection. Personally, I think the collection in the Forbes Museum in NYC is bigger. But, can't say that I was disappointed in seeing the Trans-Siberian Railway egg-it was gorgeous. As for purchasing the eggs, no, you won't be able to get the real thing, but there are plenty of copies available for sale everywhere. Izmalovsky Park, kiosks around town, even the gift shops in the hotels will have them. Prices vary by size, but should be quite reasonable. As for flight times, we flew to Moscow via Helsinki-in total, you're going thru 8 time zones. The airports in Russia were surprisingly small, but when you think about it, air travel is quite expensive for Russians, plus they have a wonderful train system that's only the fraction of the cost vs flying. Also, the airports aren't used as 'hubs' as they are in the States, so traffic should be kept to a minimum. We breezed thru immigration and customs, and off we went. Oops, getting back to the money issue, if you can, take along a converter with you-my husband made a 'cheat sheet' of some values(like $10=how many roubles)and so forth, giving you an idea of what something will cost as you're
purchasing it. Some prices may be already converted to $, and will be indicated by 'y.e.', so the price you see is what you pay if paying in USD.

We purchased a 'learn Russian' tape, which we found useful. A good guidebook will have the Cyrillic alphabet in it, but you can also find that on the web.

What hotels are you staying at in Moscow and St Petersburg?

If you have other questions, we'll be there for ya! Happy Travels
 
Old Jul 16th, 2001, 04:37 PM
  #11  
Kevin
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I lived in Moscow for 5 years in the 90s and agree that cash is the way to go so long as you remember to hide it in small portions (on your person, in your suitcases, etc.). Mosco, esp., is home to many pickpockets. Re ATMs: They are found in every bank, most western style hotels and in the lobbies of many metro stations.

One more rec to add to the other excellent comments here: In Petersburg you can find excellent artwork for sale at very low prices. The best places are a.) on Nevsky Prospekt b.) inside small art shops on Nevsky, and c.) in the shop at the Russian Museum, where you can sometimes find works by
Chagall, Shemiakin and other modern artists. Art is legal and easy to carry, and I haven't seen such great quality in any other city of Europe.

Have fun -- It's a wonderful country!
 
Old Jul 23rd, 2001, 01:39 PM
  #12  
Anton
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Don't miss a chance of seeing Moscow, St-Pete and smaller towns in the vicinity.
You will get to know about REAL Russia by visiting Russian family households and living with
hospitable people who are ready to settle you and guide round their places.
Choose homestay! Details: www.russia-at-ease.narod.ru
 
Old Jul 23rd, 2001, 02:24 PM
  #13  
Christi
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Margie, please let me know about your trip to Moscow and St. Petersburg upon your return. My husband and I leave on Sept. 4th and plan to stay until the 13th. We are staying with American friends in Moscow. Marty was very kind to email information to me. I also really appreciate all shopping info as I am always looking out for great buys when traveling overseas. Hope your trip is great and ds sveedanya!

Christi
 

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