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The Volga was used by Peter the Great to open up Russia to Europe in the West. This cruise is in essence a cultural journey from West to East with the two great city civilisations of St Petersburg to the West and Moscow to the East. It is the perfect way to discover the enigma which is Russia. Cruises can start and end in either Moscow or St Petersburg.
Please note that a visa is required to travel to Russia.
Your cultural journey can either start or end in St Petersburg, a destination which will surely be one of the main reasons for your choice of the engrossing cruise.
St Petersburg was built as Peter The Great's "Window on the West" and is a stunning city of cultural and architectural treasures and priceless artefacts. Having witnessed so many dramatic changes in its history it is hard to believe that it is only just over 300 years old. Most cruises stay in St Petersburg for at least two days, so as well as guided excursions there is plenty of time to experience the city independently. The amount of photo opportunities is simply staggering.
So, in short, there is plenty to see.
Contained within the Hermitage is the world's largest art museum with over 1000 rooms and over 3 million artefacts, from Da Vinci and Michelangelo to the modern masters of Matisse and Picasso. The Hermitage is a village in itself and the Winter Palace, former home to the Tsars and Catherine the Great.
Peterhof gardens - built by Peter The Great to impress European royalty the gardens contain no less than 175 fountains.
Catherine The Great's Palace at Pushkin. The highlight of the tour has to be the, now restored Amber Room. Constructed from more than six tons of carved amber panels and backed with gold leaf and mirrors, it was a gift to Peter from the Prussian Emperor King Friedrich Wilhelm I and dubbed the eight wonder of the world. It was disassembled and stolen by the German solders during the Second World War and not seen again. The painstaking reconstruction was completed in 2003 and visitors can once again marvel at its splendour.
Cruising the Svir on "the Blue Route" to Mandrogi. Mandrogi is a reconstructed 18th century village which brings Russia's past vibrantly to life whilst enjoying a traditional shashlik picnic.
Lake Onega is the link between the Volga and the Svir and is Europe's second largest lake and one of the four UNESCO world heritage sites that you will be enjoying on your cruise deep into Russia.
Lake Onega is home to Kizhi Island which contains the remarkable Open Air Museum of Architecture built in 1714. Here you can wander through wooden house, windmills and churches, including the awe inspiring Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour. All buildings are constructed entirely from wood and do not use a single nail.
Commonly known as the "Golden Ring" this part of your cruise includes the beautiful cities of Uglich and also Yaroslavl, who's city centre is a UNESCO world heritage site and is known as the "Florence of Russia". The highlight is the church of St Elijah the Prophet and its interior of 17th century frescos.
Passing further along the river on your way to Moscow you will pass the quiet monasteries of the heartland such as in the village of Goritzy, a village far from anywhere.
Moscow as a city has been around since 1147. No visit to this bustling 21st century city is complete without the opulence of its most recognisable landmarks. Most cruises allow at least 3 days in Moscow to allow your own pace and independent discovery. Shuttle bus services between the ship and the centre are available on most itineraries.
St Basil's Cathedral with its multi coloured domes dominates the western end of Red Square. On your walk through Red Square to or from a visit to Lenin's tomb cements in the mind the influence of the more modern past and the beginnings of Soviet Russia.
The best way to explore Moscow is by using the world famous Metro stations, which are a discovery in themselves. Where else in the world is the metropolitan underground transit system adorned with crystal chandeliers and artwork. You'll never view a tube journey the same again.
Visit the Kremlin, a self contained 15th century city with palaces, armouries, 15th and 17th century cathedrals and a Medieval fortress. A visit to the Kremlin includes a tour of the Armouries museum home to treasures such as the Tsar's coronation robes and the famous Fabergé eggs.
Ships tend to offer an on board enrichment programme include russian language lessons and local historical topics from the Romanov Tsars to current leaders Putin and Medvedev.
Or perhaps take in a Russian Ballet performance at the Alexandrinsky Theatre
Those that have longed to discover Russia and who will enjoy the onboard enrichment experiences which compliment the historic sites and scenery.
Russian boats however currently tend to be at a more modest standard than some other European destinations but the enthusiasm of your hosts and the knowledge they impart will be priceless.
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