5 Tips: How to Travel Like an Insider in Moscow, Russia
Russia is a “strange, alluring, enthralling, wonderful world,” in the words of author Nikolai Gogol. The domed Orthodox churches, world-renowned museums, high culture and down-to-earth street life make up a whole that is at once well-bred and wild, huge and intimate, formal and free-wheeling.
You need an insider to help you make sense of it all. And who better to be your guide than Douglas Grimes, the man who founded MIR in 1986? In the past 30 years, he’s been there more than 100 times.
To celebrate MIR’s 30 years of leading travelers to Russia, Doug crafted a new rendition of a classic tour to Russia’s greatest cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Insider’s Russia: Moscow & St. Petersburg Rediscovered underlines the intimate details that we find so appealing about Russia – conversations with locals, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and private moments in peoples’ homes. Travelers get to know the usual suspects – Red Square, the Hermitage – but also get to sit in on a ballet master class, talk to Russian business people over lunch and eat dinner at a country dacha.
Take a ride on the MetroMoscow’s Metro system is one of the largest in the world. The first Metro station opened in 1935, and today there are at least 194 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; Mayakovsky Station, with its slender stainless steel pylons and graceful arches forming domes highlighted with mosaics, and one of the most beautiful, butter-yellow Komsomolskaya, trimmed with white plaster filigree, murals and chandeliers.
Have a tasting at the Vodka MuseumEnjoy a private tour and tasting at the Vodka Museum. 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 considered to be a superior vodka. Discover the different methods of distilling various vodkas and liqueurs. Sample a selection of spirits, liqueurs, dessert beverages and nalivka, a Russian berry liqueur. Stroll across the Patriarch Bridge to the Cathedral of Christ the SaviorStroll across the Patriarch footbridge over the Moskva River leading to the gleaming Cathedral of Christ the Savior for wonderful views of Moscow. From the bridge you can see the imposing red walls of the Kremlin just one bridge away, as well as the gargantuan maritime monument to Peter the Great. Completed in 2004, the Patriarch 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. The beautiful bridge is illuminated at night, and is a favorite romantic walk.
The golden-domed Cathedral of Christ the Savior 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.
See a show at the BolshoiTake in a show at the iconic Bolshoi Theater after its long renovation. The Bolshoi was built in 1856 after a fire destroyed the original. Designed in neoclassical style, the theater is fronted by eight stately columns and topped by a bronze sculpture of Apollo, patron of the arts, driving his chariot. Several foreign tours in the 1950s made the Bolshoi’s ballet troupe and its opera company world famous, and it has never looked back. See St. Basil’s at nightSt. Basil’s Cathedral 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. The vivid exterior of St. Basil’s is especially striking at night when it’s fully illuminated.
Travel to Russia with MIR
MIR has 30 years of travel experience to Western Russia, with affiliate offices in Moscow and St. Petersburg offering on-the-ground support, and tour managers that clients rave about. MIR’s full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”
On MIR’s new tour, Insider’s Russia: Moscow & St. Petersburg Rediscovered, get to know Western Russia from the inside out. 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.
Top photo: Illuminated St. Basil’s, focal point of a Moscow night. Photo credit: Jonathan Irish
PUBLISHED: January 29, 2016