The Ultimate Travel Album
Sarah and Simon Roberts spent a year traveling across Russia covering over 75,000 kilometres and taking in more than 100 destinations. They journeyed in numerous taxis, fifty-five buses, thirty-six trains, twenty-two trams, sixteen passenger planes, nine ferries, eight reindeer, seven trucks, six helicopters, six horses, three jeeps, three speed boats, two cargo planes, two cable cars, one cruise ship, one motorbike and side car, and one armed convoy. Having sent dispatches from Kamchatka, Eastern Siberia, the Caucasus and the Altai region, here our explorers have provided us with another of their five top Russian travel suggestions.
Pskov & Pechory Monastery
Pskov is one of the oldest and most historic towns in Russia. Much of medieval Pskov still exists today, including the ancient and atmospheric Kremlin, which dominates the town’s skyline and harks back to a time when Pskov was the centre of a thriving and wealthy principality. The Pechory Monastery, a short drive away, is a stunning 14th century religious centre that miraculously survived the atheist years of Socialism. There are shrines located in shallow caves that are occasionally open to the public.
Universally acknowledged as one of greatest train rides in the world, the Trans-Siberian is a ‘must do’ Russian travel experience. You can spend six days journeying directly from Moscow to Vladivostock across 9446 kilometres, but with so many potential places of interest along the way, it makes sense to break up your journey and visit some of the best places. To see some of Russia’s busy and exciting centres try Novosibirsk, Omsk and Tomsk where capitalism is beginning to benefit the city’s inhabitants and there is a tangible sense of an emerging new Russia.
Ulan Ude & Ivolginsk Datsan –
Ulan Ude is the capital of the Buryatia Republic, which stretches to the south and east of Lake Baikal. It is a beguiling mixture of East and West with a prosaic dash of Soviet socialism thrown in. Here you can marvel at the largest bust of Lenin in the world, except that really it’s just his head on a plinth, disembodied and surreal but strangely compelling. Not far from the city is the Ivolginsk Datsan, Russia’s largest Buddhist centre, set in rolling hills and home to some thirty future lamas.
Volga River & Volgograd
The Volga river isn’t just a river, it’s a symbol of Russia’s vast beauty and an imposing female entity in its own right, the subject of numerous ballads, songs and poems. Travelling along this ancient waterway is to take a trip back in time as you pass landscapes that have remained unchanged since the time of Tolstoy. Interspersed with scenes of rustic beauty are the large, historical towns of Kazan, Samara and Astrakhan, and a stop in Volgograd is practically mandatory; the awe-inspiring Mother Russia statue is a dramatic monument to the city’s desperate struggle for supremacy during the Great Patriotic War.
Although difficult to access (you need a permit from none other than Abramovich’s office) this is one of the most remote and beautiful landscapes in Russia. Visually stunning, with vast expanses of tundra that is particularly spectacular in autumn, Chukotka boasts rich marine life, excellent whale and bird watching, and the opportunity to visit the many indigenous peoples that populate the area and still live and hunt in traditional ways.