Russia in two weeks in December

Old Oct 23rd, 2017, 08:52 AM
  #1  
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Russia in two weeks in December

Hi all,
I am planning a two week trip to Russia starting December 16or 17 and ending on Jan 1st. I'll land and depart from Moscow.
My main question is - can I cover Moscow, st Petersburg and Kazan in these two weeks to some level of satisfaction? Or should I drop Kazan and instead bake in say Vladimir/suzdal? Given that it would be very cold, I'd focus on indoorsy stuff where I can - of course one would like to visit the main attractions - red square (st Basil's), and spilled blood, Peter Paul fortress in St Pete's etc.
What would be an optimal order? Fly into moscow, overnight train to Kazan, flight to St Pete and then last overnight train to Moscow again. I'm happy to travel platzkart class where available and sleep on a clean bunk but will spend on taxis (it is cold), and of course food.
Any thoughts would be great.
Thanks!
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Old Oct 23rd, 2017, 05:35 PM
  #2  
kja
 
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I think it really depends on what YOU want to see and experience. FWIW, I visited St. Petersburg and Moscow during the longest days of summer and thought 6 days in each city a reasonable amount to cover the highlights. As you note, you will need to travel somewhat differently.

If you don't already have your flights, consider flying into St. Petersburg and out of Moscow or vice versa. Once you consider the costs of ground transportation and your opportunity costs for backtracking, the difference in costs is likely to be at best minimal. Use the "multi city" search function on most airline search systems to identify options. (If you do that, you would be flying "open jaw," not booking two one-way flights.)

Another FWIW, if I had 2 weeks to include St. Petersburg and Moscow, I'd consider fitting in a few days in Novgorod, rather than Kazan. But that's just me.

Also, you might want to rethink calling it "St. Pete." I was there just after the city was renamed St. Petersburg, after years during which it had been called Leningrad. So many residents with whom I spoke noted have very glad they were to finally have the chance to call their beloved city by what they considered it's rightful name. Things could have changed, but IMO, St. Pete is in Florida; the magnificent city in Russia is St. Petersburg. JMO.

Hope that helps!
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Old Oct 23rd, 2017, 07:45 PM
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It does really help quite a bit, thank you. I was tempted by a low round trip air fare to Moscow hence the above post. St pete surprising brings up results from rtbh. Regarding my interests, well just a good slice of history and culture (grew up reading progress publisher books)- so at the min -
Moscow - Kremlin, armory, st Basil's , diamond fund (not totally sure as recently was at the Smithsonian and saw some really large diamonds and other gems), lenins tomb, GUM, a circus show, one of Stalin's skyscrapers, rest is foggy.
St Petersburg - Peter and Paul fortress, Hermitage, winter palace, peterhof, Catherine's palace, marinsky performance (if I can get a ticket), church on spilled blood.
The Hermitage is probably the highlight of the entire trip but also would like to get a good feel for Russian life (probably the wind will give it to me right out of the airport ��)...hence the thoughts of Vladimir/suzdal.
P.s. did you mean veliky or nizhny?
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Old Oct 23rd, 2017, 08:05 PM
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Sounds to me like you could easily fill your time with St. Petersburg and Moscow, and maybe Novgorod, which is between the two. Finding time for Kazan might be a challenge. But you need to work it out for yourself by plotting your wish list on a calendar.

"P.s. did you mean veliky or nizhny?"

Neither! To what, specifically, are you referring?

"results from rtbh"

Again, I don't know what you mean.

The Hermitage is extraordinary! Give it as much time as you are willing and able to give it.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2017, 10:05 PM
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Ah, apparently there are two novogorod's - veliky novogorod and nizhny novogorod. The latter is to the east of Moscow while Veliky is between Moscow and St Petersburg.

RTBH is Russia beyond the headlines - a website i was referring to get some inspiration

I think the tone of your post makes me think, it'd be better to stick to two or three cities and not move around too much. I'm coming in from India - I have lived in Minneapolis through the worst of winter (Jan-March) but then i was on work and not maximizing my outdoorsy sightseeing time - this is a vacation so perhaps less is more.

Kazan was / is tempting as it has Islamic influence. I like art and architecture, hence Russia.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2017, 10:29 PM
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Ah, that makes sense! Yes, I meant the city known as Novgorod, aka Veliky Novgorod, the one between St. Petersburg and Moscow.

St. Petersburg and Moscow have markedly different architectural styles, so I think you will find the contrast interesting. The Hermitage is incredible, and the Pushkin Museum in Moscow is also world class. Each city also has a museum of Russian art, and each is, IMO, well worth seeing. I think you will find much to enjoy in each city, and your wish list covers many of the highlights.

You might look into options to visit Sergiev Posad from Moscow.

I'm sure Kazan is interesting, too -- but its a LONG way from Moscow, so you would "lose" the better part of a day each way. Only you can decide if that's worth it to you.
https://www.rome2rio.com/s/Moscow/Kazan
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Old Oct 24th, 2017, 02:10 AM
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Thank you! re: Sergiev Posad. I wouldn't have known. This is exactly the kind of 'small Russian place' that ive seen pictures / paintings of - you know alyonushka tales?

Anyhoo, hopefully someone familiar with train travel in Russia will chime in too. I'd really like to do an ordinary train ride in Russia.

I've done several backpacking trips in India over the years - by bus, long distance train, jeeps in the Himalayas, but the advantage i had here was its my country and so i know the language and the currency. Outside of India, it's been visits to the US for work, and extended weekends there that allow for sightseeing.
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Old Oct 24th, 2017, 04:28 PM
  #8  
kja
 
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The classic resource on train travel anywhere in Europe (and elsewhere, for that matter!) is the man in seat 61:
https://www.seat61.com

If Sergiev Posad is not covered in the guidebook you are using, I strongly encourage you to get a better one!
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Old Oct 24th, 2017, 09:28 PM
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I'm quite familiar with seat61 - it's just that the pages on Russia are quite dated, was hoping if someone with personal experience can share. Thanks
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Old Oct 25th, 2017, 09:52 AM
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Just a quick one: there are overnight trains running between moscow and Kazan, no need to lose daytime travelling. If I were you, I'd go with "firmenny", or dedicated Moscow to Kazan train (such as the one designated "Tatarstan") - there are many other options, whereby Kazan is just an interim stop on a longer route - personally, I had some not very pleasant experience with some of them, so I'd advise against them.

Overall, if I were to choose between Novgorod (either one) and Kazan, I'd definitely go with
Kazan for a glimpse of Mudlim heritage.
If cost is not much of a concern, I'd do Moscow first, then St.Pete (via fast train), then back to Moscow for an overnighter to Kazan, then fly out of Moscow.
In any case, the sooner you book your rail tickets, the better.
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Old Oct 25th, 2017, 10:02 AM
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Oh, if by Smithsonian you mean the second floor of the Natural History museum in DC, there is no comparison.
The national gallery, though, is great - and if that's the kind of art experience you are looking for, the museums in Russia may disappoint (while their presentation is much more impressive and collections are beyond reproach, they are waay more crowded, especially the Hermitage).
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Old Oct 25th, 2017, 08:33 PM
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Yes I meant the place where the Hope diamond is (it was only mid September that I was in DC for a three day weekend - very rushed, but did soak in a good bit of the national gallery of art, air and space, American history, etc). Actually the museums in DC are so impressive, so many, and so tiring that I'd happily go back there but for the cost of flights and hotels (it is in general, more expensive i think).

I'm not very clear on your response - no comparison implies Smithsonian @ DC > Diamond fund?
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Old Oct 25th, 2017, 08:38 PM
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I can't speak to napoxoguk's reactions, but I can say that I found the differences between these various museums sufficient to justify visiting them all. JMO.
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Old Oct 26th, 2017, 09:48 AM
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Sorry about lack of clarity.
IMO, between the Smithsonian's gems, the British Crown jewels, and the Diamond fund plus Armory the Russian collection is the most impressive, but every single one is definitely worth visiting.

Last time I was in the National gallery (also mid September, on a school day), my kids and I were pretty much the only visitors (except in the cafeteria, the gift shop, and the impressionists' hall, which were reasonably crowded) - and that experience of having a little tête-à-tête with masterpieces is not something I was ever able to replicate in any museum in Russia (or anywhere else, for that matter).

If you are familiar with Alyonushka and other Russian fairy tales, you might want to look into visiting Vasnetsov's museum in Moscow - a charming little museum to complement your Tratyakov gallery visit.
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Old Oct 26th, 2017, 03:15 PM
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IME, how many crowds there are in DC's National Gallery varies tremendously. I've been there when I'm the only person in some rooms; I've been there when it is nearly impossible to move.
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Old Oct 26th, 2017, 07:38 PM
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Thank you so much both. What're your recommendations for the general areas where to look for hotels /hostels in Moscow / SpB?
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Old Oct 26th, 2017, 07:49 PM
  #17  
kja
 
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For Moscow: Depends on what you most want to see! Just be sure you are near a metro station, as you will almost certainly want to use it.

For St. Petersburg: As close to the historic center as you can afford. Again, near a metro station.
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Old Oct 26th, 2017, 09:41 PM
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I'd like to be able to be near the historic town centers in both places - so was thinking along these lines - I usually walk aimlessly getting photos when there's no planned sightseeing. It's a bit hard to decide on the area. There's arabat street in Moscow for example - so was looking for some general guidance.

I don't think i can edit posts here, so another question - if I have roughly four days each in SPB and Moscow, are the city passes good value? https://petersburgcard.com/en/what-i...sburg-museums/ and http://www.intourist.com/Excinfo.aspx?id=347004. They do not include the metro in Moscow, and in SPB I didn't see the Hermitage / Winter Palace / Catherine palace. Also many 'excursions' like the flotilla are unlikely to run due to the cold (river freezes?)

Wondering if it makes better sense to just be aware of the closing days (some museums are closed on certain days, Thursday and last Monday of the month for the museum of political history, for example), and buy the ticket at the entrance.

It's really hard to visualize what the impact of the cold and snow is going to be like, maybe it will slow me down a lot, which is OK, but will it totally destroy the possibility of using public transport? I don't want to take any more taxis than necessary - there's a very bad incident reported elsewhere on the forum.
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Old Oct 26th, 2017, 09:55 PM
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kja
 
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I don't think I can answer most of these questions.

As I understand it, the weather would have to be extraordinarily bad to have a serious impact on public transportation in these two cities with deep underground metro systems. Of course, extraordinary things do happen, and delays would not be out of the question. Plan accordingly.

Again, 4 days in each city is, IMO, exceedingly little, particularly given the limited daylight hours and weather at the time you will be visiting. Your trip, your call.
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Old Oct 27th, 2017, 08:57 PM
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Some bullet points (Moscow-Spb if IC):
1. I looked into city passes a couple of years ago, and back then they were not good value - too much small print (specific times, select events only, etc).
2."Flotilla" in Moscow runs a fleet of light-duty icebreakers and typically operates year round.
3. The weather is very unlikely to disrupt public transit services. Over the 20+ years in Moscow, I can think of exactly one event that disrupted public transportation, including metro, for more than 4 hours in an area covering about one third of the city, and it was not weather-related (the memorable blackout of Summer 2007 (or was it 2006?) - see, not so memorable after all...).
Public schools have no "snow days". Schools may close if temperature drops below negative 22 Farengheit.
4. To be able to walk aimlessly taking photos you might want to consider finding accommodation within the Garden Ring in Moscow (roughly coincides with the brown Circle line of the metro), but you could always venture out to places like Sokol, Sokolniki, Dinamo, Izmailovo, Universitet, Vorobyovy Gory, VDNKh, and Leninsky Prospect, to name just a few.
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