A visit to Russia today is an encounter with an undiscovered land. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, visitors have a fresh opportunity to explore a vast array of exciting and ancient cultures, from the glittering imperial Russia of St. Petersburg to the fabled onion domes of the Kremlin in Moscow. One of the most notable features of present day Russia is a renewed celebration of the wealth of its past and its potential for the future. Russia is a nation of enormous diversity and tremendous vitality. It is as if the cultural traditions of a century ago have re-awakened with a newfound strength – rebuilt ancient cathedrals, colorful markets with the hum of activity and the arts are regaining the creative renown they enjoyed decades ago. A new Russia is now in full bloom.
Participants of our Russia group tour July 2 to July 13, 2012 experienced the blooming of the new Russia on our 10-night tour of St. Petersburg and Moscow.
Our tour began in the city built on water, St. Petersburg, with our first stop at The Hermitage. It is one of the most famous museums in the world, which occupies a grand ensemble of buildings including the former Winter Palace of the tsars. The museum is accessible and provides an accessible restroom for visitors. Accessible entrance to the museum is located at the exit for the general public.
Another famous residence of the former tsars is Peterhof. With its commanding views of the Baltic, Peterhof is a perfect expression of triumphalism. The stunning fountains and palace grounds are the main feature with the most extraordinary being The Grand Cascade featuring gold gilded statues. The palace grounds of Peterhof are accessible along with a couple of the cafes. Again, a special accessible entrance is provided to the gardens with accessible toilets located near the entrance.
One of our favorite sites on the tour was a day at the lavish imperial palace at Tsarekoe Selo or better known as Catherine’s Palace. The palace and grounds are both accessible but prior arrangements are needed to enter the palace if you use a wheelchair or scooter. The hassle is well worth the effort in order to view The Great Hall and of course the famous Amber Room. Accessible restrooms are available near the gift shops in the palace and the outdoor café is accessible for lunch.
Compelling our tour of St. Petersburg, we visited the Church on Spilled Blood; St. Peter and Paul’s Fortress, home to the burial place of the tsars; enjoyed the Swan Lake ballet and had a wonderful dinner at the Russian Vodka Museum.
The next part of our tour began with an accessible high-speed train ride from St. Petersburg to Moscow. The high-speed train has an accessible car with an accessible restroom; again prior arrangements are needed to make a reservation in the accessible car. The train journey is only four hours from central St. Petersburg to central Moscow.
Moscow is a very large city with a lot of traffic. Accessible public transportation is rare so it is important to arrange private transportation in advance for your tour. Our group toured the city and surrounding with an accessible motor coach arranged by Flying Wheels Travel.
No visit to Moscow is complete without seeing the famous Red Square and Kremlin area. Although worth the visit, be aware of rough cobblestone areas. Accessible restrooms are available in the GUM department store located on Red Square.
In addition to seeing Moscow, our tour also allowed us to visit some of the surrounding areas outside of the city. A highlight of the tour was a visit to the Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius, located 47 mile from Moscow. The monastery was founded in 1345 in the town of Sergiev-Possad and is one of Russia’s most important religious centers and place of pilgrimage. The monastery was closed by the Communists in 1919, but was allowed to open again in 1946, when it became headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Church.
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