My visa has arrived and my plain tickets are booked --> I guess I'm really going!
Here is my sample itinerary for your informed comments. The main purpose is to visit important battlefield of the Great Patriotic War + some relaxing and lots of walking around.
Moscow 2 days
Golden Ring - 3 day tour with a company
Moscow 3 days (including May 1 & 2)
St-Petersburg 5 days (including May 4-5 weekend)
Smolensk (2 days including the May 9 celebrations)
Kursk (1 day)
Oryel (2-3 days)
Volgograd (3days, including a Dog Show on May 19)
Samara or Nizny Novgorod (2 days - advice needed)
Moscow for the last 3 days.
Leave on May 25
I plan to stay in pre-booked hostels in Moscow and St-Pete's and to find hotels in the provincial towns when I get there(20-60/night).
I will probably need to fly for a few of the links, e.g, St-Pete's to Smolensk and there does not seem to be rail link without double tracking back to Moscow.
I also need an idea re. ease of booking train/bus tickets between the small towns without the need to reserve days in advance --> walkup to ticket booth, buy and go.
I would like it to be under $2000 US but can go to $2500 without any undue concern. From what I can tell this is a reasonable budget if I stay away from the fancy hotels in Moscow and St-Pete's
Thanks in Advance.... Fire Away!
If you choose between Samara and Nizhny Novgorod, you should undoubtedly go to the latter! Samara is not a very interesting city, but NN is a historical place with something beautiful to see. Some words about St. Petersburg (I like the city soooo much!): if you like cathedrals, you should go to three of them: the Kazansky cathedral, the Spas-na-Krovi cathedral and the St. Isaac’s cathedral. Museums: the first to see are the Hermitage, the Russian Museum, the Kunstkamera. Theatres: the Mariinsky Theatre (if you like ballet). You should see the Peter and Paul’s Fortress (the city started its history with it). It would be great if you had time to go to the SP suburbia: Peterhof, Pavlovsk or Pushkin (lovely nature and tsarist palaces).
[ Edit: sorry, no promos in the forum please. ]
Peterhof was definetly on my list for St-Pete's, however, I seems that the fountains are not on during the first week of May (from a guide book).
Is still worth a visit without the waterworks?
Yes it'd still definitely be worth a visit. It may not quite be as good as if the fountains were on, but it would still be really nice in both the front and back gardens. The photos might actually show out the full gold colour of the grande cascade statues better when the fountains are turned off, where as when the fountains are going the water blurred the statue section more. If you are lucky maybe the dates the fountains start going may have changed to be from the 1st of May seeing global warming is making the weather warmer earlier in the year (positive but probably unrealistic thinking). Maybe if you left it until your last day in St Petersburg (assuming it isn't a Monday as the Great Palace is closed on Mondays) that might delay it enough time, so that it's far enough in to May for the fountains to be on. The official website for Peterhof says they run from May - mid October so their is hope as it doesn't say it starts mid May like how it says they are turned off from mid October.
Have a great trip.
[ Edit: Edited on Apr 10, 2007, at 8:44 PM by aharrold45 ]
If you're planning such an extensive trip to Russia then we can only envy you! I've dreamt about something like this but too bad my age doesn't permit such great activities. Anyway, just thought our experience might be useful for you. My husband and I prefer flexibility when traveling and like being on our own and exploring cities in and out but when we went to Russia we decided to arrange for private guide services to feel secure in such a foreign country. We booked them on www.saintpetersburgtour.com. They organised almost everything for us like guide and driver, also airport transfers and even a nice mini-hotel (too bad we had to decline their offer as our travel agent had already prepaid another hotel for us. The guide was absolutely adorable and friendly, very knowledgeable so that by the end of the day our heads were so full of exciting stories and useful information that one would need one more full day to sort everything out!
Thanks for the input so far. It is probably not a coincidence that most of the suggestions are on Moscow and St-Petersburg, however I would appreciate some input of the less travelled places on my itinerary.