Introduction and planning
“For the next trip, let’s throw a dart at the world map. Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.”
OK, ready! Close your eyes… shoot! WHACK, Thud!
So, where do you think it landed?
Going by logic, since the eyes are closed, one tends to shoot at the centre as the worry is to miss the map altogether. And more than not, it would hit the left or right of the map’s centre.
So that means somewhere in central Asia / Western Europe?
Going by probability though, it should hit the country that is largest in area, no? That means the country which has a larger surface area than all of Pluto (sadly not considered a planet anymore… my favorite one when I was young(er) and also one of my favorite cartoon characters).
No prizes for guessing, but Russia is the answer!
All of the above may either sound exciting to some, or a complete clique to others. But the reality is – none of the above happened! LOL!
We were shortlisting the country we should go next and since my better half was expecting our second one, being mid-way her pregnancy,
- Reasonable (read 5-6hrs max) time of flight,
- Ideally no stops and
- A relatively safe country were the key filters in mind.
We went through the list. Japan came in mind, although her worries about radiation continued to veto that. Europe was out since flight would have been long and Maldives / Fiji etc. seemed bit dull considering this would be our last trips before delivery and having two kids so there is always a reason to get there later.
Russia seemed like a plausible destination! And it can be done, combined with India… wow! That sounds good. With parents, even better!
So Russia it is!!!
Psst, added bonus, now that it would get into our countries visited map, it is a big area that would be coloured! Will feel like a BIG addition! Vs. Singapore, HK, Mauritius that done even feel like places covered! Lol!
Read on for the planning fun, our 8-9day itinerary and other tips, else jump on to Moscow (and later St.Petersburg) city trip details!
The first thing we checked with friends and online was whether it was safe enough to travel with a toddler and a pregnant wife.
Second, whether infrastructure was developed enough to go on an individual basis rather than package tour.
Both were checked!
This was coming along really well now. India enroute, reasonable time of flight, with parents, safe and well developed country, something different to offer and a place always intrigued us, given the cultural and political history.
Not that we are history loving people, but then that shapes up the current culture and city life. And to experience a different city life, way of living and how systems work in a well developed communist country was intriguing enough.
We finalised that we will keep it simple and only do Moscow and St. Petersburg due to our limitations. Having said that, Lake Baikal and some other peripheral cities are some areas that we would have loved to go if not the above.
There is a lot of material online and after hours of research (let’s say about 2-3 days of 4-6hours of dedicated research), we finalized the following itinerary.
|Date / Time||Itinerary||Details||Logistics/Notes|
|Day 1, 0105||FLIGHT at 0105||Aeroflot SU0235, arrive Moscow Sheremet, Russia (SVO) at 0505am. Lingotaxi picks up from airport.||Alternately, can call 2412 (English speaking taxi calling service) and get taxi in 10-30min.|
|Day 1||Afternoon/evening||Walk around Red Square, Kremlin and Basel Cathedral. Lenin Tomb is also next to Red Square. Basil Cathedral visits are from 11am-5pm.||Best pic for Basel from the back of the monument|
|10 to 12noon||Start with Armoury chamber (bot tickets), then go to Diamond fund (closed 1-2pm), see crown of Russian empire in DF.||Diamond Fund is in the building of the Armoury Chamber, under control of State Precious Metals and Gems Repository. Open daily 1000 to 1700 with exhibit sessions starting every 20 minutes, break from 1300 to 1400. Thursday off.||Tickets to Armoury purchased online, only one entrance which is at intersection of Borovitskaya Pl. and Ul. Mokhovoya|
|3pm – 6:00pm||Afternoon lunch nearby and then walk to Cathedral architecture complex.||Assumption cathedral, Archangel’s cathedral, Annunciation cathedral, the Church of Laying Our Lady’s Holy Robe, the Patriarch’s Palace, the Faceted Chamber, Golden Tsarina’s Chamber and churches of the Terem Palace,
|Tickets to Cathedral complex purchased. Ticket office open at 930am.
|930-1pm||Metro stations trips||OPEN DAY, Cathedral of Christ the Savior (Kropotkinskaya station). Also walking distance from Ul. Mokhovaya road.
|3pm-7pm||Relax and street food / shopping in evening||Old Arbat street, Tverskaya Street||http://www.local-life.com/moscow/articles/arbat|
|930am||Kremlin in Izmailovo, Metro stations,
Park and street food
|Go to Teatralnaya, take train to Komsomolskaya (nice station), Novoslobodskaya, Mayakovskaya stations, Elektrozavodskaya. Stations are decorated at platforms so minimal walking between stations / trains.
Spend the day at Kremlin in Izmailovo and the park, both of which are quite scenic. Vodka Museum also nearby.
In evening, go to IZMAILOVO market, which is for trinkets and street food as well (till 6pm).
|Car takes 30min or train from Biblioteka imeni Lenina to
Cherkizovskaya(line 1, red line) Komsomolskaya, Elektrozavodskaya stations are must see.
|10 noon||New Maden Convent / space station / Central Museum||Go to New Maden᾿s Convent (near Sportivnaya Metro station). Relax at the park till train.
Alternatively, go to Cosmonaut Space station and return. Alternatively, can visit State Central Museum at 2km from hotel.
Tverskaya st., 21
|1535||Train to St. Petersburg||Take train to St Petersberg at 335pm. Book 2412 taxi from train / arriving station and specifying time. From train arriving to main gate takes less than 10min.|
|1935||Hotel||Hotel Nevsky Breeze
Galernaya ul., 12, St Petersburg, Russia, 191186
|+7 812 570-11-88|
|930 – 12 noon||OPEN MORNING, relax.|
|2pm onwards – Walk around to Palace Square, river side walk to get feel about the place.||Taxi to Palace Square, walk along Nevsky Prospkt to Church on Spilled Blood (great views from Nevsky Prospekt and back of canal)
|AT Night: Palace Bridge opening time: 125-250am, 310-455am. http://www.saint-petersburg.com/bridges/unmissable-palace-bridge/|
|Day trip to Petergof,
Famous for Samson Fountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site palace. Go to Lower Park and see Monplaisir palace.
Can see Upper but that is bit optional.
Day trip to Petergof, see Samson Fountains in Lower Park (500pp), Peterhof Grand Palace (600pp), and OPTIONAL – Monplaisir Palace.
|This is about 1.1hr car from St Petersburg.
Fastest is to take Hydrofoil boat but if see if you can take it one way only, going to Peterhof. Coz returning by it means you need to buy Samson fountains ticket again since there is no path fromLower/Upper Park to Hydrofoil without going through Samson and ticket entry is only once (flaw in that system).
|10am||Casual walk around||Walk to State Hermitage Museum (3.5hrs), Palace Square, Admiralty building,
|Hermitage – Daily 10:30am to 6pm. Last admission is at 5:30pm. Monday closed.
Walk into the Hermitage Museum can take 2-3 hours and lot of walking. Guided tour is always better to understand perspective. Entry valid for only one entry per ticket. If out, means out even if immediately.
|3pm onwads||Casual walk around||OPEN for EVENING. Walk beside river for relaxing. Or do Isaac’s Cathedral / sunset pics for Spilled Church or Isaac Cathedral|
|OPEN HALF DAY||Plan what is left to see or do in morning. Add-on: – Isaac Cathedral – Yusupov Palace
Can go to Peter & Paul Fortress for a quick across the river view.
|Daily 10.30 am to 6 pm. Last admission is at 5.30 pm.
|TRAIN at 1710 hours||TRAIN to Moscow at 1710 hours|
|Open day for morning, need to leave by 12noon to airport.|
|FLIGHT at 1520||Aeroflot SU 234 from SVO (MOSCOW SHEREMET) at 320pm|
Kremlin in Izmailovo
Saint Petersberg guide
The above itinerary actually turned out to be a great one since it allowed us to see almost all the things that the two cities are famous for AND keep it relaxed enough to walk around with a 2yr toddler and another one still on the way. On average, we were out for 8-10hours in the day excluding dinner time which we mostly had in the hotel.
Some other tips –
It is quite easy to stay near the city centres and in midst of the main attractions. We love walking when on trips / vacations and hence booking hotels at central locations was the best thing to do here. Moscow and STB can both be considered as Awesomely walkable cities!
Digitisation of Russia is quite amazingly advanced. Whether it is acceptance of credit cards, availability of ATMs or calling taxi through 2412 / Get Taxi App… (highly recommended), very smooth for those who want to travel cash-light!
Language – a barrier but people are warm and try to help. They do not look warm and usually talk plain face but I read that is a cultural thing. They like to be up to the point! Just like their top man! I used Google Translate with many people on the street, ticket counters to explain etc and they are all ready to read, understand and help. Use it!
Public Transport – Go not take the taxis on the road. Refer to Get taxi app. Very useful and price wise you won’t be up for surprises. Metros (subways/MTR/MRTs) are amazingly efficient and convenient. Recommended.
Phone Connections – MTS (MTC in Russian) is available from airport itself. Google Maps and Translate apps were very helpful using the phone data connection.
Food – Veggie options are quite easy to find. For us, Indian food was quite easily available in both cities as well, which for my parents was a delight! For me, well, I had to tag along, lol!
Drinking water – This is usually not a separate tip topic but in Russia, which was loosely our first European city to travel in (now technically UK is about to leave Euro zone), lack of complementary drinking water was a rude shock / surprise for us. Restaurants charge more for 0.5L of drinking water than a beer bottle at many places but allow BYOB (bring your own bottle) for water! Do that! Buy from a dept store near you when you need it. Saves
some lots of money!
Alright, over to Moscow (and later St.Petersburg) now!