In this latest series, I will be going through all the countries I’ve travelled to on my mission to visit every single country in the world. In this article, we will be covering country #88: Russia. If you haven’t gotten a chance already, read this story first to find out why I’m trying to visit all 193 UN-recognized countries.
VIDEO – Country #88: Russia
Blog post on Russia
- My Spending Breakdown While Travelling In Russia, Malta, Cyprus, Ireland
- 4 Days of Travel To Moscow and Saint Petersburg in Russia
- Golden Ring of Russia – Exploring Vladamir and Suzdal
- Russia Visa For Canadians – What I Did Wrong & How You Can Prevent It
Arriving in Moscow
I travelled to Russia with a friend from Vancouver who moved to Finland with his wife. His name is Allen Chao and after going through immigration in Moscow, we took a Yandex (Russia’s Uber) to go to our accommodation.
We didn’t know it at the time but when you purchase the cheapest Yandex service, the driver you get is oftentimes from Central Asia. These guys drive like a maniac. We later found out that if you pick the second tier of service with Yandex, then you get a safe driver instead. Not that I’m complaining, the crazy driving of these Central Asian people are is pretty fun.
We ended up staying in a Marriott hotel in Moscow since Allen gets a discount for working in an airline. I went to sleep right away as I felt dead exhausted from flying so much during this time period.
Journey to the Golden Ring cities
The next day, our goal was to travel to the Golden Ring cities. While there are several Golden Ring cities, we chose Vldamir and Suzdal as our destination since both cities are beside each other.
We made our way to the train station and before long, our journey to Vladamir began.
To be honest, Vladamir is not the nicest looking city. It looks like an old Soviet industrialized city which is very obvious the moment you step out of the train.
During our time in Vladamir, we checked out several monasteries and museums.
All the museums we visited was in Russian so I didn’t know what was going on most of the time. The best I can do to appreciate these places is just to take pictures.
After sightseeing, we grabbed some lunch at a local Russian restaurant. I didn’t know it then but I ended up ordering a $50 steak from the menu. Purchasing this overpriced steak was one of the biggest blunders I’ve had during my trip.
After Vladamir, Allen and I took a Yandex to Suzdal. I’ve got to say, I like Suzdal a lot more than Vladamir.
We started our exploration of Suzdal by checking out the Venerable Belltower.
We purchased our tickets and scaled it to the top.
Both Vladamir and Suzdal was freezing cold despite being September. After reaching the top, we quickly went back down.
From there, we took a taxi to see the Monastery of Saint Euthymius. This monastery was awesome. This is my favourite part of all the Golden Ring cities we have visited thus far.
After spending several hours exploring the monastery, Allen and I left as soon as it was closing time. We took another Yandex back to Vladamir. Then, took the train back to Moscow to wrap up our day.
Making our way to the Red Square
The next morning, after breakfast, Allen and I would be exploring the Red Square to see St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin.
We started this adventure by taking the infamous Moscow metro.
Allen was very impressed by how well designed the metro system in Moscow was.
Before long, we arrived in Red Square.
St. Basil’s Cathedral
We arrived rather early and spent some time taking selfies just outside St. Basil’s Cathedral to kill sometime before it opens.
As soon as the cathedral opened, Allen and I gunned it right away to avoid the long lineups.
I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the Cathedral. They even had singers on the second floor. One of my favourite things about travelling is listening to music and hearing the singers sing was a real treat for me.
After exploring St. Basil’s Cathedral, we went and bought tickets to enter the Kremlin. Some rude tourist from China actually shoved Allen as he was buying tickets. He felt taken aback by what happened.
The Kremlin is beautiful but it was also overcrowded with tourists.
As a matter of fact, while lining up to enter one of the cathedrals, Allen once again gets disrespected by Chinese tourists. One of them smacked him on the face with the tour guide flag. The poor guy was not having any luck dealing with other tourists.
After checking out the Kremlin, we went and grabbed some Georgian food. I’d say the food was good overall despite the relatively small portions.
Flying to St. Petersburg
After our sightseeing adventures, I bid farewell to Allen as he was going to fly to Finland that evening. As for me, I flew to St. Petersburg where I would be meeting my Russian friends who I met while backpacking in Venezuela.
I took the S7 airlines to reach St. Petersburg and people were nuts in this aeroplane. One guy brought his entire oversized luggage in the cabin which caused some chaos. He was forced to check it in which finally allowed the plane to depart.
Reunion with my comrades
Upon arriving in St. Petersburg, my friend Irina picks me up from the airport and we have a nice warm reunion. We then took a ride-sharing service back to their apartment where we would wait for her husband Aleks to come back home.
It was good to see both Aleks and Irina as soon as my friends Aleksander got back home. I haven’t seen them in a while and I do miss travelling with them.
They got me an inflatable mattress to sleep in their kitchen. I was an idiot and didn’t seal the air in the mattress. When I woke up the next morning, the mattress deflated and I was down on the ground.
The next day, Irina went to work and Aleks had a dentist appointment so they won’t be able to join me on my trip to Saint Petersburg until later in the day.
They helped me get another version of Yandex to the Hermitage which is my first destination in this city. I made sure to get there bright and early to avoid the crowd.
And thankfully, this strategy paid off as the Hermitage was not overcrowded yet by the time I went exploring in this famous museum.
My favourite part of this museum is the Central Asian exhibits which I normally don’t read about in other museums. After three hours, the museum started getting really packed and that was my cue to exit. Outside, Aleks would be meeting up with me to show me around, Saint Petersburg.
A long walk with Aleksander
Aleks and I spent around 8-hours walking what felt like the entire Saint Petersburg. I saw so many things from government buildings, mosques, ships, and the river.
We also took a few breaks to grab food and pastries. I’d say that Saint Petersburg has some pretty good food.
Before long, Irina also got off work. They took me to a place called Apraksin Dvor where apparently, a lot of sketchy things happen. Unlike the other parts of the city, this place is pretty beaten up. Since we explored during the day, it was relatively safe.
Our last stop is a hipster place called New Holland. This place was very beautiful and Aleks and Irina told me it’s the beginning of a cultural revolution in this place.
Farewell and taking the train to Helsinki
After a long day of exploring, I would be travelling back to Finland that night. We quickly got some food to eat before Aleks and Irina dropped me off at the train station.
I said goodbye to my homies before boarding the train heading to Finland.
I always say that the best part of travel is the people you meet. An even better part of travelling is being reunited with old friends from past travel experiences. And that was my favourite part of going to Russia was visiting Aleks and Irina in their home. I hope that one day, they get a chance to visit me here in Canada.
Russia is a very interesting travel destination and a polarizing one at that. Polarizing is a good thing because it means that the place was interesting. I’m definitely returning to Russia one day and taking the Trans-Siberian railway across the country. My dream is to take the longest train ride in the world spanning from Vietnam all the way to Portugal. And part of taking this train ride involves taking the Trans-Siberian railway.