Ask anyone about Russia and the first few words that comes to their mind is usually vodka, largest country, military, snow, Red Square and St. Petersburg.
For us, Russia is one of the most beautiful winter destinations in the world. Winter in Russia is a bit like stepping inside a snow globe—its beauty and culture are never more pronounced than when it is covered in a blanket of snow. We fell in love with this winter wonderland and how! We’ve experienced winter driving in Russia three times in a row.
The expedition officially began in Moscow, where all the participants from across India gathered together for an unforgettable and icy cold experience. Moscow has beautiful architecture created over the centuries and its many historical and cultural sites are waiting to be explored. From the onion domes Cathedral to ice skating rings, there’s so much to see in Moscow that one visit is never enough. After some sightseeing, the whole group got together for some authentic Russian style dinner with folk music.
The next day had us frowning a little as we were not ready to bid goodbye to Moscow so soon, but once our sight landed on our knight in shining armour – the UAZ Patriot Vehicle, the only emotion we felt was that of excitement. Like young kids in a candy shop, we couldn’t wait to lay our hands on these mean machines and start manoeuvring them on the snow-covered roads.
After driving for a few hours on the icy fields, we reached Sergiev Posad, also known as the “Russian Vatican”. The city is located amongst picturesque forests on the shore of the large and circular Lake Plescheevo. Here, we visited Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, which is one of the most famous Russian monasteries and the spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church. By the time, we completed the snow walks, tough snow drives and an elaborate guided stroll of the church, we were left with no more time and had to give the Toy Museum a miss.
While driving through several towns of the famous Russian Golden Ring, the only thing that accompanied our convoy for long was the snow-covered pine trees. After an hour of driving on the highway, we entered the remotest forest roads and it was here that the true adventure began. En route, a tree had toppled over the road due to heavy snow fall. The whole group stepped out of their SUVs, got together and cut the tree with axe in hand to clear the route. After driving further, the cars got stuck on the slippery, sloppy snow-covered roads. Fortunately, we had packed an axe, shovels and air pumps which came in handy. And just when we thought that we had enough adventure for the day, it started to snow, covering the roads almost knee deep. Even our Patriot 4×4 SUV was finding it to be a bit of a challenge to move through snow.
But to be honest, this whole experience made for a great team building exercise. Everyone got together whenever a car got struck. Some helped with the shovelling of snow, while the rest used the pull-push and front-back technique to get the cars out of snow. We didn’t realise how time flew by and we managed to reach Koprino at 1 AM. Phew! what a day?
Having a rest day in Koprino had everyone excited. While we wouldn’t have mind spending our whole day sleeping and relaxing in our hotel, but we had other fun activities to look forward to. We did snow-tubing, visited fishing villages, rode a snow bike and even went for a ride on the frozen lake on a hover craft. All this and still no one looked a tiny bit tired. Witnessing the beauty whilst driving in snow was a memory in itself.
Next day, after eating a hearty breakfast, we got back on the road and headed towards Vologda. Here, you get first-hand experience of their strong traditions, rich history, cultural background. After resting overnight, the following day we drive towards Tikhvin. It is a long drive so we start early as we have 450 km to cover. En route Tikhvin, we admire the vast expanses of the Russian land, old wooden houses and the villagers who have chosen a simple measured life, as we drive through the quaint towns.
Happy souls but tired bodies got some free time in Karjala Park as a rest day and what does one do when they are free? They play music right. Local musicians taught us a few rhythms to play with and we would but where are the instruments? Everything’s an instrument said the musician. You must have heard about husky-sledging but ever heard about horse-sledging? We did both. Trust us, you have to experience it to understand what we observe
Nearing the end of the trip the whole group got to ride on the amphibious SHERP ATV. SHERPs are monster trucks, seats four and can tread anywhere quite literally. We rode on land, water, snow and potholes the size of a bus.
No talking , just driving after all, the drive from Karjala Park to St Petersburg is the longest driving day of the journey. We drove through Staraya Ladoga, which claims to be the first capital of Russia. We ended our expedition in St. Petersburg which is arguably one of the most beautiful city on earth and we second that with full conviction
This trip was a memory in more ways than one. Past 11 days have been something we’ll be talking about for the rest of our lives. Dasvidaniya Russia! We are definitely coming back soon.