Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Memories of Moscow

Finally got around to uploading photos from my last holiday. Oh the memories; good and bad.

Russia was probably the most complicated holiday I ever booked. Not that many travel agents specialise in Russia and the few that do seemed intent on selling me a group tour. Not against group tours but prefer to do my own thing in my own time.
Booked flights directly with BA, into Moscow out of St Petersburg – easy enough. Hotels there are all overpriced in my opinion but managed to get a slight discount booking them via an agency. Actually I managed to get the Kempinski in Moscow at a decent rate.

The real headache was getting the visa and invitation letters so just used an agency which did it all – for a hefty fee of course. But I still had answer the reams of questions ranging from a list of all the countries I’d visited in the last 10 years to information on any specialised skills I possessed in nuclear matters or biological chemicals! And I still had to ‘register’ my visa when I got to both cities and depending on the hotel they’d be an extra charge for that.

Then there was booking the trains from Moscow to St Petersburg, via which routed back through an agency so about 30% extra for their commission … oh the joy.

So everything was finally booked and I should have been looking forward to the holiday right? Well, reading some of the advice of the FCO’s website was quite concerning.

Then there was the terrorist attack on the train from Mos to SP in late November where 26 people lost their lives. This did nothing to help ease my already over concerned mind.

And just as I was tempted to think that I had experienced every headache planning a holiday could bring, BA cabin crew vote in favour of 12 day walk out over Christmas. Was one holiday really worth it I asked myself?

Finally make it to bag drop, but it’s not smooth sailing yet. Check in lady had to check, re check, triple check the visa then phone for one of the visa experts to come and check it because there’s some good fakes out there and if we got to Russia and it was proved to be a fake then they impound the plane for a £25,000 fee.

But it was worth the effort of getting as all my fears were unfounded I had a completely problem free holiday.

Holiday Highlights in pictures

Eventually I was there, the largest country in the world! 3 nights in the capital city, 1 night on an overnight train, 4 nights in St Petersburg.

Kempinski Moscow. The only bad thing about this hotel is just how hard it is to tear yourself away and see the sites.

Traditional Slavic resturant

Flights to Moscow £280 pp. Stay at Kempinski £200 per night. A kiss in front of St Basil’s, in the snow … priceless

Beats London Underground

Overnight train to SP. Not quite value for money compared to flying (train tickets £116 each, 7 hours. Flight £57 each, 1 hour) but a nice experience.

Hermitage in the snow…. So worth the effort of getting here

Father Frost, as he is known in Russia. They celebrate Christmas on 7th January
Feel yourself Russian – folk show at the Nikolaevsky Palace theatre.

Only took this photo in passing, didn’t go in.

Stuck in the snow

How cold??

Church on the Spilt Blood, St Basil, St Isaac’s Cathedral. You can’t beat Russian architecture.

New Years Eve in Palace Square

Father Frost band
It was a great holiday. Shame they make it so complicated and expensive to get there. My next visit to Russia will hopefully be on Trans-Siberian Express!


  1. I know you were concerned about all the stuff you read before going so good on you for again being a fearless traveller and just going for it! Pictures look great but NO WAY would I go at that time of the year - you're crazy girl!

  2. Only just getting up to speed with yr blog. Some good stuff. Don't know how you find the time (or money). Japan sounds great and yr Russian pics are good. Hope all yr plans for 2010 work out - cause I'll be travelling vicariously through you!

  3. Glad you enjoyed it. We're hoping to check out the white nights in SP later this year. What's the food like?

  4. Vicky - don't knock it till you've tried it girl!
    Kev - I think I'll write a blog on maximising your days off.
    Amy - quite mixed cuisine so something for everyone I'd say. One of the best dishes I tasted was Beef Stroganoff, and I don't even like beef.