Russian Travel can change your view of Life
A Russian Travel experience can change your view of life. I have spoken previously of the need to give your mind a rest...to add space to the never ending conversation that goes on in your mind. Travel can give you that space. It increases your chance of living in the moment and can put a momentary stop to the constant stream of thought.
Nothing does this better than Russian Travel. I have been there often over the last 4 years (my wife is originally from Russia) and I must admit that I have a love for the country (to be perfectly honest, it is the people I love).
The people of Russia are very warm, inviting and giving. The friends I have been fortunate enough to make are the most honest group of people I have met. It is my hope that through Russian travel you will be able to get to know the people and culture of Russia and give your mind a break.
To see Pictures of my June 2011 trip to Russia, click here.
Why Russian Travel?
The most often asked question I get is "why Russian travel?" What makes it so different?
It is hard to explain, but the Russian travel experience is unique. The weather is unique, the infrastructure is unique, the architecture is unique, the food is unique and the people are unique.
The history, traditions, superstitions are all...well...unique. There is nothing like it anywhere in the world. What a great place to get your mind off of the daily grind.
What best describes Russia is the peoples attitude toward life. Russians very much live in the moment. The past is used as an instrument of learning and the future has not occurred so they do not give it much thought.
Most of Russia lives in the now. When they are at work, they work. When they are with friends, they are present and not thinking about other things. They simply know how to live a balanced life. It is a wonder to watch.
With the onset of the internet and the encroachment of western "values" this is somewhat slipping away. But overall, this attitude is still prevalent and a source of great joy.
The best way to experience this joy of living is to meet the wonderful people of Russia. Admittedly, this is hard to do. Most tour guides will take you to the wonderful sites of Russian history, you will stay in western style hotels, go to restaurants that serve western style food. So it is hard to get out and meet people.
I am looking for a tour company that will give you not only the beautiful sites, but also the local contact needed to really enjoy Russian life.
But for now, let me give you some basic advice...
How to get there
Getting to Russia is not that hard and surprisingly cheap (if you know when to go). Delta has direct flights from Atlanta to Moscow. To go to St. Petersburg, you will make connections in Europe. Usually this connection is Frankfurt, Germany.
Cost of travel varies depending on the time of year. Winter months (February through April) round trip can be as little as $800.00. December and January are holiday times and can be much more expensive. New Year is the big holiday so expect to pay more during this time. Also, many places are closed for several days during this period.
In summer months, tourism is high and many natives return to see relatives. The Ruble (Currency) tends to be strong during the summer months.
Click here to check latest currency values.
My favorite Russian travel time is February through April. Tourism is low. Hotels and restaurants lower rates. Ruble is a bit weaker (giving you more spending power). Flights are cheaper. Most of the usual tourist spots are still open but not crowded.
You just have to be able to put up with the cold. And it can get very cold. My first trip to St. Petersburg it was -40 degrees Celsius. But over the last couple of years (except this year) it has been more tolerable.
Dress for cold during the winter months. Layers are best. Layer you clothing for best results. Gloves, warm hat and scarf are a must.
To fit in during your Russian travel trip, dress like a Russian. Black pants, black shoes and sweater or regular shirt will do fine.
I once walked around and looked at shoe color (I know, strange...). I was surprised at the number of black shoes. I could count on one hand the number of non-black shoes there were.
This is practical in Russia. The streets tend to be dirty, especially in the winter months. Black shoes tend to hide the dirt a little better than shoes with color. (My wife told me that everything goes with black, so that is a good reason as well...although I dispute this theory...)
If you visit a Russian home, you will be expected to take your shoes off upon entering the home. This is tradition. But I expect it has something to do with keeping the home clean. Taking your shoes off keeps the street dirt at the door. You will be offered slippers by the host upon entering the home.
Some other traditions to be aware of:
1. Never whistle inside a home. This is bad luck. Means there will be no money.
2. Never put an empty bottle on the table. If you have finished the bottle, place it on the floor until it is thrown away.
3. If you are invited to dinner or party at someone's home, always bring a small gift. As the saying goes, never go empty handed. Flowers are always nice and welcome. Bottle of Vodka is also good.
4. Try not to smile in public. Russians will think that you are making fun of them. In private, with friends, is different and you can smile all you want.
5. Drinking alcohol is expected in social situations. Declining a drink will create awkward moments. If you do not drink, then it is best to tell your host that you have some medical condition or are on medicine that does not allow you to drink. This will save you and the host embarrassment.
Follow these basic, primary rules and you will have no problems. By the way, these same tips apply in many of the former Soviet Union countries.
For more tips and traditions to make you fit in, including "How to Drink Like a Russian and Survive," visit our page on Travel Tips.
Have a Russian Travel question, click here to contact us.
Have a great place to eat? Want to Recommend it to others?
We all have our favorite places to eat. Russia has many great restaurants and taverns. Give us your best and let us know why you like it and if anything interesting happened there! All great restaurants have great stories!