Shalin Sarvaiya & Neeta Samat
Winter Drive in Russia 2018
Ask anyone about Russia and the first few words that come to their mind are usually vodka, the largest country, military, snow and Red Square. 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. If you are curious about the average temperature in Russian during the winter season, it’s between -10 and -50 degrees Celsius. On this expedition, you will also get a chance to drive on the glass-like surfaces of frozen lakes and rivers. You will get to discover the historic cities of Moscow and St Petersburg, drive through age-old towns like Koprino, Vologda and Petrozavodsk, and be a part of a rare group of travellers as you explore the biggest country in the world.
Home to the famous Red Square, you will arrive in the beautiful city of Moscow. The city is said to date back eight-and-a half-centuries. It has beautiful architecture created over several centuries, and its many historical and cultural sites are waiting to be explored. You will be directly transferred from the airport to the hotel where you can relax before you start discovering Moscow. From ice skating rinks to ice sculptures and snow parades, there is a lot to see. The city is also home to the world-famous Bolshoi Theatre, for those who prefer more classical entertainment. At the hotel, meet your fellow travellers and remember, you will be hugging these same people when the trip ends, who appear as strangers to you on this day.
You will be introduced to your home for the next 10 days, i.e. the iconic UAZ Patriot 4x4 SUVs and after a brief orientation, we will hit the snowy tarmacs of Russia as we begin exploring the harsh winter of Russia by road. We will start driving on snow-covered roads on one of the most extreme driving experiences of our lives. There are some crazy things you can do in Russia, and we will start our expedition with a tank ride and a military-style lunch. After this unique adventure, we will continue our journey onwards and reach Sergiev Posad, also known as the “Russian Vatican”. We will be visiting the Trinity Lavra of St Sergius, one of the most famous and revered monasteries in Russia.
Have you gotten accustomed to driving on the slippery, sloppy snow-covered roads? Today, you will be driving towards Koprino, which is located on the Rybinskoye Reservoir coast, 40 kilometres from Rybinsk city. The only thing that will accompany our convoy for long will be the snow-covered pine trees. On the way, we will drive through several towns of the famous Russian Golden Ring like Uglich and Myshkin. The Golden Ring is a collection of historic Russian cities, northeast of Moscow. It is perfect for anyone who wants to enjoy a quiet and peaceful life in the Russian province, beautiful countryside views, and ancient architecture. En route, you will also get a chance to experience driving on frozen Volga River (if it is permitted), which is the longest river in Europe.
Wake up in a fairy tale world and embrace the unknown as we have planned a day full of surprises and fun activities. Choose to relax and unwind at the wellness centre or enjoy the great outdoor options. You can indulge in cross country skiing or snowboarding and admire the beautiful views of the frozen lake around the resort. If you don’t feel like carving the slopes on skis, get on board a hovercraft as we go for an adrenalin rush joy ride on the frozen lake. It is truly a unique Russian experience and a fun activity that can only be experienced in extreme winter conditions. You can also try your hand at ice fishing and finally, end the day with Russian vodka shots in a makeshift open Ice Bar.
After breakfast, we get back on the road and head towards Vologda, a city in northwest Russia. En route, you will be driving through abandoned villages located in the middle of dense pine trees that are fully covered in snow. The drive to Vologda is going to be one of the most beautiful drives of your lives. We will move slowly, taking time to soak in the beauty of this winter wonderland. Later in the afternoon, we will visit the Vologda Open Air Museum of Architecture and Ethnography. It welcomes you to the world of a northern Russian village of the late 19th and early 20th century where you will get a first-hand experience of age-old Russian traditions and cultural background.
Today is going to be a long drive, so after hot cups of tea & coffee and a scrumptious Russian breakfast, we will start our journey towards Tikhvin. Admire the vast expanses of the Russian land, old wooden houses and the villagers who have chosen a simple measured life, as you drive through the quaint towns. We will reach Tikhvin by evening. The town was founded on the site of a miracle; this small settlement has had an outsized role in the history of Russia’s northwest. Its name derives from the Tikhvinka River, whose name itself is rooted in the word for “quiet” or “still”. The highlight of this small, quiet town is a beautiful monastery established in 1560 by decree of Ivan the Terrible.
Post a hearty breakfast, start your drive towards Verkhniye Mandrogi. It features a collection of old wooden houses and is geared towards showing visitors what a traditional Russian village resembled in the past. After an elaborate lunch, you will get to ride in a sleigh drawn by horses. We will take a walk through the village where you can witness demonstrations of wood carving, lacework, and pottery. From here, we continue our journey and reach Petrozavodsk, the capital of the Republic of Karelia. Set on a bay on vast Lake Onega, it is the launching point to two of the region's biggest attractions: Kizhi Island and Valaam Monastery. Its neoclassical facades, a large student population and connections with Finland all make for a distinctly European atmosphere.
If you are a dog lover, then you are in for a treat. Today, get a chance to familiarise yourself with beautiful, ferocious and energetic Siberian Husky breed and a tour of their kennel. Their wolf-like features are hard to miss, and their piercing blue eyes will have you transfixed. Enjoy activities like Husky walks and Husky sledding. You will be able to communicate with these intelligent and affectionate dogs and feed treats to them. You will also get a short theory course on sledge riding and briefing on safety. Post which you can enjoy the ride as a passenger on a dog sledge with an experienced instructor. Enjoy the speed of the ride and the sparkling snow as you experience the beauty of Karelia flashing by.
We have already ridden tanks, horse carts, hovercraft and dog sledges. Our winter drive in Russia has reached its’ final driving day, but the good news is that today is the longest driving day of the journey. We will be driving through Staraya Ladoga, which claims to be the first capital of Russia and also visit the Staraya Ladoga Fortress. Visiting this soulful old place and wandering around its crumbling ramparts will make you feel as if you’re in a Tarkovsky film. With enough experience of driving on snow and ice, we will cruise through beautiful landscapes and terrains on our way to St Petersburg. Once we reach St Petersburg, pat yourself on the back for completing the winter drive in Russia.
Spend your rest day exploring the beautiful city of St. Petersburg. Admire the beautiful architecture, the Church of the Spilt Blood, Hermitage Museum or simply walk down the streets and admire the beautifully decorated bridges, monuments and the buildings that once housed Russia’s nobility. If you are an art connoisseur, the Hermitage Museum is a must-see which is home to more than 3,000,000 pieces of art. It is one of the world’s greatest museums, with priceless works by Rembrandt, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Rubens and more. In the evening, we will get together for a farewell dinner! Remember how you shook hands and formally introduced yourself to your fellow participants on day one? Be assured; tonight you will be hugging each other tightly with a promise to keep in touch!
A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; the largest country in the world takes some getting used to, but offers delights galore for those who make an effort to worship at the altar of Mother Russia. The past 10 days will be something that you will be talking about for the rest of your lives. The expedition concludes this morning, and we fly back home. However, in case you wish to extend your holiday and stay back in St Petersburg for a few more days, we will be happy to assist you. If the great cities of Europe competed for the title of ‘Most Beautiful’, St Petersburg would be right up there. With its canals, world-class museums and art-filled public spaces, the ‘Venice of the North’ has much to offer visitors.
Rs 3,35,000 + 5% GST Per Person (EMI Option Available)
Shalin Sarvaiya & Neeta Samat
Winter Drive in Russia 2018
Mustafa Moiz Lokhandwala
WINTER DRIVE IN RUSSIA 2018
WINTER DRIVE IN RUSSIA 2018
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