A Trip to Russia

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reggiesimpson
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by reggiesimpson » Thu Dec 07, 2017 9:42 am

JordanIB wrote:
Thu Dec 07, 2017 9:12 am
Someone above mentioned Uber, and I second that suggestion. Removes the language barrier with taxis and helps you avoid scams. Not sure if pricing has changed in the last year or two, but it was obscenely cheap as well, to the point where I felt ashamed at how little the drivers were getting. A dozen or so trips criss-crossing St. Petersburg probably cost us $25-30 total. (This was before in-app tipping was introduced).
Great info. Sounds like the way to get around!
Thanks again,
reggie

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Sheepdog
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by Sheepdog » Thu Dec 07, 2017 9:58 am

reggiesimpson wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 5:23 pm
azurekep wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 5:03 pm
An excursion from St. Petersburg to Tallinn, Estonia might be worthwhile. (I haven't done it, but would if I were in St. Petersburg.)
Thanks, We do plan on looking outside the main cities.
reggie
Also you should look at the possibility of visiting Vilnius, Lithuania. And or Kaunas, Lithuania. Great cities and culture and they love Americans. We went there by train from Moscow.
I was there and in Moscow in the Soviet days (December 1990-January 1991) That was interesting times just as the Soviet collapse was beginning and Lithuania revolted to leave the Soviet oppression.
In regards to Russians. They were and are very friendly. For example, on New Year's eve 1990, we were invited to attend a special party. This was out of the blue. They saw us, and invited us. New Year's Eve is their Christmas.....Father Frost (like Santa) and the Snow Maiden (a much younger Mrs. Claus). We received gifts out of the blue...lots of vodka and cognac. We were invited to their homes. No we didn't speak Russian and they didn't speak English, but we communicated.. That was fun. Back then, to get a ride, all we had to do was raise up a pack of American cigarettes and cars would give a ride almost anywhere. I don't know why, but my wife and I felt safe. We did that a lot of times. We were told to take several cartons of Marlboros to use as money. That was THEN, and not now. I wouldn't do that today.
I know some who have immigrated to the US and love it here. We met them and became friends. You can believe this about Russian women, they ARE wonderful and hospitable.
People should not say everything they think. They should think about everything they say.

reggiesimpson
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by reggiesimpson » Thu Dec 07, 2017 10:03 am

Sheepdog wrote:
Thu Dec 07, 2017 9:58 am
reggiesimpson wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 5:23 pm
azurekep wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 5:03 pm
An excursion from St. Petersburg to Tallinn, Estonia might be worthwhile. (I haven't done it, but would if I were in St. Petersburg.)
Thanks, We do plan on looking outside the main cities.
reggie
Also you should look at the possibility of visiting Vilnius, Lithuania. And or Kaunas, Lithuania. Great cities and culture and they love Americans. We went there by train from Moscow.
I was there and in Moscow in the Soviet days (December 1990-January 1991) That was interesting times just as the Soviet collapse was beginning and Lithuania revolted to leave the Soviet oppression.
In regards to Russians. They were and are very friendly. For example, on New Year's eve 1990, we were invited to attend a special party. This was out of the blue. They saw us, and invited us. New Year's Eve is their Christmas.....Father Frost (like Santa) and the Snow Maiden (a much younger Mrs. Claus). We received gifts out of the blue...lots of vodka and cognac. We were invited to their homes. No we didn't speak Russian and they didn't speak English, but we communicated.. That was fun. I know some who have immigrated to the US and love it here. We met them and became friends. You can believe this about Russian women, they ARE wonderful and hospitable.
Thanks Sheepdog. My neighbor married a Russian woman and we have attended many parties there. Yes you are quite correct they are a very hospitable people.
reggie

riverguy
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by riverguy » Thu Dec 07, 2017 10:49 am

reggiesimpson wrote:
Thu Dec 07, 2017 9:32 am
killjoy2012 wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 8:16 pm
We spent 2 days in St. Petersburg with a tour guide as part of 2 week Baltic cruise. We had a great time and I was glad we had the guide for multiple reasons -- language, skip some lines at the major attractions, knew where to go in the most efficient manner, dedicated van w/ driver following us around all day and dropping us at the door steps, etc. It optimized our short 2 day stay. At least for myself, what I was expecting and what we experienced in those 2 days were 180* opposites, for the better. St. Petersburg is pretty much on par with some of best major cities in Western Europe.

If you decide to DIY, be aware that the tourist entry visa is expensive (~$200) and very time consuming to obtain (months, usually). I can only imagine it's worse now given the US-Russia politics going on. I've also traveled throughout Europe and parts of Africa, and while I'd say you could probably get by w/ only English, expect a harder time than most parts of Europe.
Thanks killjoy2012. Yes ive heard of the expense and general hassle of acquiring the visas especially now. Poste haste seems to be the order of the day.
reggie
Like I said, buy a soccer ticket and you can enter between June 4th and July 15th. You can leave Russia on the FAN ID until July 25th. Better weather than October as well. Peterhof fountains turn off midsept as well. Would be a shame to miss those. No hassle on the FAN ID. You do an online application and upload a picture of yourself. Soccer tickets are $105.

And if you go June-July you'll be there for White Nights

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friar1610
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by friar1610 » Thu Dec 07, 2017 4:09 pm

I've been to Russia twice and I agree with virtually all of the comments you've already received regarding places to see.

We were there on two separate cruises:
1. Moscow to St. Petersburg river cruise with Uniworld. About 2 weeks with 3 days each in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
2. Two day visit to St. Petersburg as part of a 2 week Scandinavian/Baltic cruise.

If you go on a longer cruise (like the river cruise) or a land tour you will need to get a visa. Can't remember how much they are but they are not cheap, like $300+/ea IIRC. If you just stop for a day or two on a cruise that includes a lot of ports you will not need the visa. However, you are severely restricted in what you can do without the visa. You can basically just go on tours with your group. And even if you have a tour in the morning and another in the afternoon, you can't just go wandering off to find a place for lunch. If you have the visa you have much more freedom to wander around on your own. So, all things considered, I would recommend having the visa.

Didn't see the World War II Museum in Moscow mentioned - I enjoyed it and would have liked to have spent a whole day there. (Forget it's formal name - Museum of the Great Patriotic War or something like that.) As an aside, you will be amazed at the profound impact the Great Patriotic War had on the Russian psyche. There is virtually no town, no matter how small, that doesn't have a monument of some sort to the war or the heroes who fought in it. Still plenty of monuments to Uncle Joe as well since he was in charge when the war was won.

Never, ever, under any circumstance go off for the day without a roll of toilet paper tucked in your pocket book or day-pack. When you see the toilets in many places the wisdom of this recommendation will become more apparent.

The Moscow subways are certainly on the "must" list. (I have not been in them in St. P). But be very, very careful. One person on our cruise had his pocket picked. The other had the lens pulled off his SLR camera and stolen. And we had a guide!

The Orthodox churches are magnificent but after a while I reached my icon threshold. There is a Roman Catholic church (St. Catherine) on the Nevskyy Prospect in St. P and going in there and seeing how simply it was decorated was a welcomed and refreshing change.

If you decide to do the river cruise, don't stress too much over which cruise line you use. All the river cruise ships are owned by the Russian Government and then leased to the cruise lines complete with staff. The cruise lines provide a few management people (and I assume do the interior decorating) but they are essentially all the same. Not quite as posh as, say a Viking Long Ship in France, but perfectly adequate in all respects.

I had studied Russian very intensively for a year many years ago but had lost much of it. I spent about 6 months prior to our trip boning up the language and found it a worthwhile effort (for reading signs, chatting with people - only simple stuff, no discussions of War and Peace).

The crews on the river boats (at least the wait staff and room cleaning people) are largely Russian college students who are anxious to use their English and were all very nice. Once a few of them discovered I was trying to use my Russian, they were very helpful about correcting my mistakes, humoring me, etc.

Didn't mention before that I am 72 and my spouse is 71. The first trip was about 5 years ago and the shorter one was this past summer. At my age I would not want to do a trip in Russia on my own. I would have jumped at the chance 25 or more years ago.

If you go I hope you enjoy yourself immensely. Fee free to PM me if you have any specific questions. I'll answer them based on my experience.
Friar1610

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dm200
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by dm200 » Thu Dec 07, 2017 4:44 pm

Never, ever, under any circumstance go off for the day without a roll of toilet paper tucked in your pocket book or day-pack. When you see the toilets in many places the wisdom of this recommendation will become more apparent.
When there is toilet paper, you may think it is sand paper. :)
The Orthodox churches are magnificent but after a while I reached my icon threshold.
St Isaac's has magnificent green stone (malachite) and mosaics.

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VictoriaF
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by VictoriaF » Fri Dec 08, 2017 7:54 pm

an_asker wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 4:25 pm
VictoriaF wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 4:14 pm
[...](3) You will meet the most beautiful, stylish, intelligent, and good-natured women you have ever seen. Approach them at your own risk.
(4) It's an authentic experience you can live without.

Enjoy!
Victoria
#(3): What's so bad about the women? Especially as OP is going with his wife? Did you mean to say that about meeting Russian women unaccompanied by DW?
#(4): Was that a typo or intentional?!!
#3 - Russian women don't discriminate against married men.
#4 - that was in reference to Russian toilets.

Victoria
WINNER of the 2015 Boglehead Contest. | Every joke has a bit of a joke. ... The rest is the truth. (Marat F)

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VictoriaF
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by VictoriaF » Fri Dec 08, 2017 7:58 pm

Puakinekine wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 5:33 pm
We also had ice cream, which tasted very different then any other ice cream that I have had--almost as if it was made with sour cream? Is that correct Victoria?
The Russian ice cream is different from ice cream I tried in the U.S. or Europe. But I don't know what the secret is. They make it with whole milk, but the same is true for many American brands.

Victoria
WINNER of the 2015 Boglehead Contest. | Every joke has a bit of a joke. ... The rest is the truth. (Marat F)

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VictoriaF
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by VictoriaF » Fri Dec 08, 2017 8:04 pm

dm200 wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 6:04 pm
In August 1969, on a boat going up the Volga River, having stayed away from drinking until then - I "lapsed" into drinking Vodka and Champagne - and one of the Russian women there was named "Victoria" (I think she may have been with Intourist). BAD, BAD combination - I have never been so drunk in my life before or after and have NEVER had such a hangover.

Fortunately, nothing else bad happened to me - I eventually sobered up and the hangover symptoms went away.
Hello, father! {giggling}
dm200 wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 6:04 pm
I really doubt "practice" drinking can prepare an American :)
My cardinal rules for staying relatively sober were:
1. Line up your stomach with a lot of fat before you leave home. Have a lot of butter or sour cream or both.
2. Never mix different types of alcohol. It's better to drink vodka throughout a drinking event than to have a cocktail, and then some wine, and then some beer, and then some brandy.
3. Never have coffee or other hot drinks after you had alcohol. A hot drink will accelerate the absorption of the alcohol into your blood.

Victoria
WINNER of the 2015 Boglehead Contest. | Every joke has a bit of a joke. ... The rest is the truth. (Marat F)

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Artsdoctor
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by Artsdoctor » Fri Dec 08, 2017 8:27 pm

Rule #1: Read VictoriaF's first post. Everything is true.

I've been there several times over the past 30 years and am amazed at how things have changed, although some things have not.

I would get the best guide you can afford. October won't be too bad although you're still going to experience lines at the tourist attractions and your guide will bypass the lines altogether; you will also have special access to rooms and exhibits which are not usually open. They will also provide you with a driver and a nice car, something you might find comes in handy. The last time I was in St. Petersburg, our car was T-boned by a cheap Russian model which was destroyed (as was the infant in the car); I got out with broken ribs only.

Rule #2: Re-read VictoriaF's first post, and then read her second, and then the third.
Last edited by Artsdoctor on Fri Dec 08, 2017 9:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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dm200
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by dm200 » Fri Dec 08, 2017 8:28 pm

My cardinal rules for staying relatively sober were:
1. Line up your stomach with a lot of fat before you leave home. Have a lot of butter or sour cream or both.
2. Never mix different types of alcohol. It's better to drink vodka throughout a drinking event than to have a cocktail, and then some wine, and then some beer, and then some brandy.
3. Never have coffee or other hot drinks after you had alcohol. A hot drink will accelerate the absorption of the alcohol into your blood.
Back then, so many years ago, I did not follow any of these rules :( :(

The better rule, with 20/20 hindsight, would be to not drink any alcohol.

retired recently
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by retired recently » Fri Dec 08, 2017 9:26 pm

I lived/worked in Moscow for 4 years in the late 90s and then travelled back and forth very frequently with my job until I returned to the US in 2009. We took my son there (and to St Petersburg) in 2015 for a short visit and hope to return again soon. My wife is Azerbaijani but was born in Moscow. Russia has changed significantly and you should not have any problem getting around without speaking Russian. Unfortunately, both Moscow and St Petersburg are quite Westernized compared to the 90s so you will see Wendy's, KFC, McDonalds, etc all over the place. I strongly encourage you to avoid any Western restaurants. Like any large city, be aware of your surroundings and use common sense.

In Moscow, the metro's are wonderful, so is Red Square, GUM Dept Store, the Bolshoi Theatre. Also the trains in from Sheremyetovo and Domodedovo are fine and typically faster as traffic is terrible. Summers are wonderful but October should be fine too. Consider taking an overnight train between St Petersburg and Moscow. Most Russians I know are very warm and friendly, they are patriotic too, so be respectful as you should in any country.

In St Petersburg, Nevski Prospekt is nice, the Hermitage, Peters Palace and Catherine's Palace. I am sure I am slaughtering the names of these but you can take a nice boat out to Peters and a train to Catherine's. They are worth the day trips out there.

I have not made it to the Baltics yet but I understand they are great. I would highly recommend either Baku or Tblisi though, if I had to choose, probably Tblisi, but once again it is pretty easy to travel between them and they are quite different. Language will not be an issue in either country.

If you have any questions/concerns, feel free to PM me.

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VictoriaF
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by VictoriaF » Fri Dec 08, 2017 9:52 pm

retired recently wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 9:26 pm
I would highly recommend either Baku or Tblisi though, if I had to choose, probably Tblisi, but once again it is pretty easy to travel between them and they are quite different. Language will not be an issue in either country.
I have visited Tbilisi many years ago, but not Baku. Is it true that after the 2008 war, they have replaced Russian-language street signs with English-language signs? These signs are in the second language, the Georgian being the primary language.

Georgian people are very friendly. If you smile at them at a restaurant, they may send a bottle of champagne to your table. Last August when I was in France I've met a Georgian man who is now living in Germany. We had a mixed group, but the main languages were French and English. His English is not great, and I was translating for him parts of the discussion into Russian. Now, I have a new best friend and an open invitation to come to Germany and to stay in Germany as long as I wish. The point is not that I am a good translator; the point is that the Georgian people are the warmest and kindest people on the planet.

Victoria
WINNER of the 2015 Boglehead Contest. | Every joke has a bit of a joke. ... The rest is the truth. (Marat F)

SrGrumpy
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by SrGrumpy » Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:35 pm

VictoriaF wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 9:52 pm
retired recently wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 9:26 pm
I would highly recommend either Baku or Tblisi though, if I had to choose, probably Tblisi, but once again it is pretty easy to travel between them and they are quite different. Language will not be an issue in either country.
I have visited Tbilisi many years ago, but not Baku. Is it true that after the 2008 war, they have replaced Russian-language street signs with English-language signs? These signs are in the second language, the Georgian being the primary language.
I did the South Caucasus 3 years ago. Baku is, by far, the most amazing city with some stunning buildings and ruins. Just don't mention the Armenians. At the other end of the democracy scale, Georgian police stations are made of glass to symbolize transparency. I don't recall the street sign situation, though it would not surprise given the recent 2008 war and the fact that westward-facing Georgia exited the CIS. I don't recall them being overly friendly, tbh. Regardless, the former Soviet republics are easily the most fascinating bits of Europe.

None of this really helps the OP unless he wants to make a pit stop en route to the Motherland.

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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by retired recently » Sat Dec 09, 2017 7:02 am

I agree that not helpful unless he wants to make pit stops but for anyone living in the US and making such a trek it is worth it if time/money allow since you are so close. Even if for just a few days.

I do not recall the street signs either but I do know you will have absolutely no problem getting around. When I first got to the region in about 2000, Georgia was incredibly corrupt and in decay. He is certainly not loved by everyone but when they overthrew Shevernadze and Saakashvili (now stirring things up in Ukraine) came in, it was amazing the transformation that took place in a very short time. For me, the food is amazing and I think the Georgians are very warm and friendly. I feel the same about the Azerbaijani people but I am biased.

It will be a great trip.

azurekep
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by azurekep » Sat Dec 09, 2017 3:26 pm

SrGrumpy wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:35 pm
I did the South Caucasus 3 years ago. Baku is, by far, the most amazing city with some stunning buildings and ruins.
My mental image of Baku has been one of miles and miles of oil derricks. I just did a search for images of Baku and it looks like a vital city worth visiting. And not an oil derrick in sight. Where are the oil derricks?
Regardless, the former Soviet republics are easily the most fascinating bits of Europe.
I once read an account of travellers in Tajikistan and have been fascinated by that ruggedly beautiful country. At the time, and probably still, it's only for the most intrepid of travellers.

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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by retired recently » Sat Dec 09, 2017 4:11 pm

There was a Bond movie a while back that showed him driving through an area full of oil derricks. This area is just outside of town and there are others nearby if that is what you want to see.

If you go, check out the cave drawings in Gobustan. They also have a huge percentage of the world's mud volcanoes that are kind of interesting and located near Gobustan. There is also an area not too far from the airport where the ground burns from gas seeping up.

Traffic is really terrible, and the driving is frightening, but you can walk to a lot of things.

As I mentioned in another post, I would highly recommend seeing both Baku and Tblisi. The food is wonderful in both places and the people are very friendly.

reggiesimpson
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by reggiesimpson » Sat Dec 09, 2017 4:21 pm

Once again many thanks to all my fellow Bogleheads who have responded on this thread and the many PMs I have received. Over the years that I have been a member the BH community has never failed to provide timely and very informative and helpful advice. Thank you all once again.

reggie.

an_asker
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by an_asker » Sun Dec 10, 2017 10:03 pm

VictoriaF wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 7:54 pm
an_asker wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 4:25 pm
VictoriaF wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 4:14 pm
[...](3) You will meet the most beautiful, stylish, intelligent, and good-natured women you have ever seen. Approach them at your own risk.
(4) It's an authentic experience you can live without.

Enjoy!
Victoria
#(3): What's so bad about the women? Especially as OP is going with his wife? Did you mean to say that about meeting Russian women unaccompanied by DW?
#(4): Was that a typo or intentional?!!
#3 - Russian women don't discriminate against married men.
#4 - that was in reference to Russian toilets.

Victoria
I meant - like OP responded as well - that his wife would be his bodyguard against "Anna Chapman"s.

I didn't realize that there was a one-to-one correspondence between the two lists you'd put up!! :oops:

Bill Bernstein
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by Bill Bernstein » Sun Dec 10, 2017 11:27 pm

One other option, at least one way: Helsinki is a great city, a 4-hour high speed train trip from St. Petersburg, half the price, for some reason, westbound. Might or might not save you a few bucks on airfare.

I second the safety of traveling around on foot, Metro is fabulous. Do not ever hail a street taxi; at least outbound, your hotel will be able to hire a car and luxury car driver inexpensively.

Luxury hotel recommendation: the oddly named Official State Hermitage Hotel. Top flight, and for what you get, not expensive. Even more oddly, not that close to the Museum . . .

Bill

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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by retired recently » Mon Dec 11, 2017 7:48 am

+1 on travelling by metro. Traffic is terrible and the metro is wonderful, especially in Moscow.

azurekep
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by azurekep » Mon Dec 11, 2017 11:50 am

retired recently wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 4:11 pm
There was a Bond movie a while back that showed him driving through an area full of oil derricks. This area is just outside of town and there are others nearby if that is what you want to see.
Definitely would not want to see the oil derricks. :)

I had just thought the city was supposed to be ugly. because of the oil.

I did a quick skimming of articles and it seems two things have happened:

1. The existing oilfields are being depleted.
2. The Azerbaijani government is making Baku tourist-friendly and ripping out a lot of ugly stuff (like old, abandoned oil rigs) and making the city green and beautiful.

There still apparently is oil, but it's mostly offshore (I think), though I haven't seen any pictures of offshore installations.

WhiteMaxima
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by WhiteMaxima » Mon Dec 11, 2017 1:12 pm

Kitchen 57 in Gum.

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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by retired recently » Mon Dec 11, 2017 1:16 pm

The city is definitely not ugly these days and even in the oil boom they did not have oil derricks downtown.

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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by Valuethinker » Mon Dec 11, 2017 6:04 pm

VictoriaF wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 4:14 pm
I have left the USSR over thirty years ago and have not been back. Obviously, a lot has changed since then, but some authentic experiences probably remain:
1. Take an over-night train from Moscow to St Petersburg, or the other way around, and try a real Russian tea served by the train conductor.
2. Try Russian ice cream that they sell on the streets of major cities.

Be careful about:
1. Your electronics.
2. Drinking with the Russians.
3. Russian women.
4. Public toilets.

(1) Your laptop or smartphone is likely to be hacked. Bring something that does not contain sensitive information or is thoroughly hardened.
(1.a) Be careful about using ATM machines, your account may get depleted before you turn around.
(2) If you do plan to drink with the Russians, learn the rules of drinking without getting too drunk, and practice ahead of time.
(3) You will meet the most beautiful, stylish, intelligent, and good-natured women you have ever seen. Approach them at your own risk.
(4) It's an authentic experience you can live without.

Enjoy!
Victoria
I nearly fell out of bed laughing at this.

Had to hastily explain to my spouse what was so funny.

The advice re Russian women is well taken. They grow them hard in Mother Russia.

On the other hand I know several late middle aged Russian women in the west. They will merely overawe you with their intellect ;-)

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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by Valuethinker » Mon Dec 11, 2017 6:17 pm

friar1610 wrote:
Thu Dec 07, 2017 4:09 pm
I've been to Russia twice and I agree with virtually all of the comments you've already received regarding places to see.

We were there on two separate cruises:
1. Moscow to St. Petersburg river cruise with Uniworld. About 2 weeks with 3 days each in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
2. Two day visit to St. Petersburg as part of a 2 week Scandinavian/Baltic cruise.

If you go on a longer cruise (like the river cruise) or a land tour you will need to get a visa. Can't remember how much they are but they are not cheap, like $300+/ea IIRC. If you just stop for a day or two on a cruise that includes a lot of ports you will not need the visa. However, you are severely restricted in what you can do without the visa. You can basically just go on tours with your group. And even if you have a tour in the morning and another in the afternoon, you can't just go wandering off to find a place for lunch. If you have the visa you have much more freedom to wander around on your own. So, all things considered, I would recommend having the visa.

Didn't see the World War II Museum in Moscow mentioned - I enjoyed it and would have liked to have spent a whole day there. (Forget it's formal name - Museum of the Great Patriotic War or something like that.) As an aside, you will be amazed at the profound impact the Great Patriotic War had on the Russian psyche. There is virtually no town, no matter how small, that doesn't have a monument of some sort to the war or the heroes who fought in it. Still plenty of monuments to Uncle Joe as well since he was in charge when the war was won.
29 million dead. Best estimate. Including 8m Red Army soldiers.

Little surprised the war is remembered. Imagine if USA had lost say 20 million in Ww2 instead of 450k or so?

Uncle Joe? He won Ww2 but he also nearly lost it for them.

It was the USSR that beat Nazi Germany, w help from American Lend Lease. The western allies were mostly a distraction.

"British airfields. American machines. Russian blood" was Stalin's succinct summary.


Never, ever, under any circumstance go off for the day without a roll of toilet paper tucked in your pocket book or day-pack. When you see the toilets in many places the wisdom of this recommendation will become more apparent.

The Moscow subways are certainly on the "must" list. (I have not been in them in St. P). But be very, very careful. One person on our cruise had his pocket picked. The other had the lens pulled off his SLR camera and stolen. And we had a guide!

The Orthodox churches are magnificent but after a while I reached my icon threshold. There is a Roman Catholic church (St. Catherine) on the Nevskyy Prospect in St. P and going in there and seeing how simply it was decorated was a welcomed and refreshing change.

If you decide to do the river cruise, don't stress too much over which cruise line you use. All the river cruise ships are owned by the Russian Government and then leased to the cruise lines complete with staff. The cruise lines provide a few management people (and I assume do the interior decorating) but they are essentially all the same. Not quite as posh as, say a Viking Long Ship in France, but perfectly adequate in all respects.

I had studied Russian very intensively for a year many years ago but had lost much of it. I spent about 6 months prior to our trip boning up the language and found it a worthwhile effort (for reading signs, chatting with people - only simple stuff, no discussions of War and Peace).

The crews on the river boats (at least the wait staff and room cleaning people) are largely Russian college students who are anxious to use their English and were all very nice. Once a few of them discovered I was trying to use my Russian, they were very helpful about correcting my mistakes, humoring me, etc.

Didn't mention before that I am 72 and my spouse is 71. The first trip was about 5 years ago and the shorter one was this past summer. At my age I would not want to do a trip in Russia on my own. I would have jumped at the chance 25 or more years ago.

If you go I hope you enjoy yourself immensely. Fee free to PM me if you have

Seasonal
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by Seasonal » Mon Dec 11, 2017 6:44 pm

There are many suggestions in this thread to use a guide. How would we go about finding an excellent guide?

Our main interests are art and architecture. Seeing the Hermitage, palaces and the like would be our main reason to got to St Petersburg.

Thesaints
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by Thesaints » Mon Dec 11, 2017 6:49 pm

SrGrumpy wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 6:35 pm
The city was empty and I had the Hermitage to myself, but had ethical qualms about all the stolen property on display.
Yeah. The Louvre and Getty’s Villa are pretty bad themselves...

aqan
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by aqan » Mon Dec 11, 2017 9:27 pm

obgraham wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 12:05 pm
Are you taking an arranged tour? Unless you speak Russian, it's not easy to do Russia by yourselves.
I travelled to Moscow in 2000 with some friends and at that time I don't think we ran into any english speaking people. Oh yeah the highlight of the trip was that we got cornered by a army jeep a, bunch of commandos jumped out of the back and held us at gun point while one of them said something in Russian. We figured he's probably asking for our ID and we just handed over our passports. he checked the passports and let us go :)

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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by obgraham » Tue Dec 12, 2017 12:28 am

How would we go about finding an excellent guide?
We went in a Road Scholar group of about 15, which then split to two groups of 7-8 each. Both the guides in St Petersburg were superb. Ours told us he also does individual guiding, advertised on the internet, but I'm not sure how to tell one from the next. I also recall Rick Steeves might have some advice re guides.
Our main interests are art and architecture.
Well, that's what St Petersburg is all about. It's exquisite!

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friar1610
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by friar1610 » Tue Dec 12, 2017 10:28 am

obgraham wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 12:05 pm
Are you taking an arranged tour? Unless you speak Russian, it's not easy to do Russia by yourselves.
Here's what one guide told us: Almost all Russians (I believe she was referring to those in the larger cities) speak a 2nd language. If they are older, it's likely German; if they're younger, English.
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Re: A Trip to Russia

Post by retired recently » Tue Dec 12, 2017 11:10 am

Probably almost all Russians learned another language in school and most that I met do know some words/phrases in English or another language but I do not think "almost all" could carry on any sort of a conversation in another language.

My experience travelling in countries (35 so far) where English is not spoken is that if you slow down your speech and focus on key words only you can usually find out what you want to know even if the person does not speak English. Also, if you are patient and polite, you can typically find someone that speaks English pretty well.

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