I plan to visit from April 22 --> May 13. The focus of the trip is to visit important sites of the Great Patriotic war with some culture thrown in (14 days in St-Pete's, Golden Ring and Moscow) for good measure. I am having a hard time making the itinarary flow... (probably because of Murmansk) suggestions welcome.
Land Moscow ( 1 day) - Lay low, jet lag adjustment
Train to Kursk (2 days) - Low key start to finish jet lag adj.
Train to Volgograd (3 days) - Flights to Murmansk 2/week, which days?
Fly to Murmansk (2 days)- Party in the North!
Fly to St-Petersburgh (5 days) - Culture, culture, culture
Train to Suzdal and Golden Circle (3 days) - Relax between St-Pete's and Moscow
Train to Moscow (6 days) - May 9 Parade in red Square!
That's an ambitious trip! Will you have an assistant? Or are you doing this solo? If you are doing it solo and don't know Russian, it's going to be a challenge.
Five days is a good amount of time for Saint Petersburg. I think you could actually stay busy there for 7 to 10 days.
I think Moscow is good for 2 to 4 days. The rest I can't give any opinions on.
I've got a ton of hotel info for those 2 cities at: www.hotelinspector.com You can research your hotel (and hostel) options there. Saint Petersburg has added a lot of new hotels and hostels in the past 2 years, so my list of 170+ places no longer covers it all. I actually just added a bunch of info on Kiev, Ukraine hotels there too.
I can hook you up with professional guides in Saint Pete and Moscow, but not for the other places. Send me an email if you want info on that.
I know my lack of language skills will lead to a more expensive trip and probably a few snags along to way. I have hired a tutor for 2 months to get the very basic Russian needed for travel. I have also been listening to a couple of Language CD's for the last few months. I will bring a Russian phrasebook and a pictogram book.
I am also fluent in French, and find that many nouns (french stole russian words) are very similar and some "modern" russian words are taken from english. The verbs seem to be harder to get... isn't this always the case?
I don't expect my basic spanish to be of any use.