Cultural Experience | St Petersburg

10 Reasons Why You Need to Visit Russia

When you think of Russia you might think of a man with a big fur hat, drinking vodka, riding a bear in the middle of Siberia! Alright, maybe it’s not like that… except the vodka part. Here are ten reasons why you need to look up those visa requirements right now and book your plane ticket to Russia!

1. The Magnificence of it All
Russia is the biggest country in the world, and the splendor of the palaces and parks reflects that. Take Catherine’s Palace for instance. Located in the Pushkin District of St. Petersburg, it’s enormous inside with high ceilings and intricate gold detailing in every room. Catherine’s Palace is also where the opening scene to Anastasia, the Disney movie, takes place.

Catherines Palace

2. Iconic Action Films
We all saw Agent Ethan Hunt infiltrating the Moscow Kremlin to gain access to super secret files in Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol! And how can we forget The Bourne Supremacy where Jason Bourne finds himself in Moscow for the epic climax of the film? Boom! You can almost hear the James Bond theme music when you’re there. And yes, you should sign all you postcards with, “From Russia with Love”.

3. Russian Architecture
It’s so colorful, and unlike any other architecture you will see. With roots from Kievan Rus’, an Eastern Slavic state, the famous architecture has deep roots in history. The Renaissance Russian architecture is most apparent in St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. Many times the known Russian bulbous architecture are referred to as onion domes.

St. Petersburg

4. Photo Ops!
There’s perfect weather with blue skies in the warmer months, but in those colder months watch out! St. Petersburg is known for record-breaking icicles, which can be dangerous if you aren’t careful, but make for beautiful photos at a distance. With a light dusting of snow, Russia is the definition of picturesque. With the Griboedov Canal right next to it, the Church of the Savior on Blood is breathtaking both outside and inside, day or night.

5. Easy Transportation
St. Petersburg and Moscow go together like bread and butter. You just can’t visit one without seeing the other! You can go by plane between the two, or you could just hop on a train. Depending on what you’re willing to spend, you can get between the two destinations from 3½ to 10 hours. Traveling in an overnight train with bunk beds like Smena-Betankur you can just sleep on the way there!

6. Russian Cuisine
There’s the thin pancakes called “blini” and a type of lemon pie called “lymonnk”. There’s also some other types of food like kholodet, also known as studen, which is a kind of meat jelly. They also have knishes though, which can never fail you. Russian cuisine isn’t well known, but it’s very unique in flavor and definitely worth trying.

7. Matryoshka Dolls and Gzhel
The adorable Russian nesting dolls come in all shapes and sizes, and many are handcrafted. It’s mesmerizing seeing so many together covering the shelves. There’s also Gzhel, white and blue ceramics made in the village of Gzhel southeast of Moscow. Matryoshka Dolls and Gzhel are perfect for souvenirs or gifts.

8. Nature Walks
The parks are enormous and especially in the Pushkin district there are a number of places to enjoy the scenery. The wildlife are actually so used to people walking around that it’s not unlikely to find squirrels climbing up you and birds landing on your outstretched hand. You’ll find yourself wondering if you’re in Russia or if you turned in Snow White. You’ll also find beautiful gardens, fountains, and statues along the nature walk paths.

Russian nature walk

9. Vodka and Pickles
Some Russian’s may say that vodka is great, “because it doesn’t give you a hangover”. With vodka like Russian Standard made in a distillery based in St. Petersburg, they have the best vodka around! And what do they say it pairs well with? Pickle juice! If you want to try something new and drink as the Russians do then have at it! Drink responsibly.

10. The Experience of Red Square
Right next door to the official residence of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Red Square is the center of Moscow and where you want to be. Entering under the red archways, there’s such a sense of excitement that you’re about to see St. Basil’s Cathedral, and you’re in a country so pivotal in world history. There’s the GUM department store, which is so much more than a mall. Inside there’s antique cars, sometimes a fountain filled with watermelon and squash, and stores from high end designers to American retro style  stores with Russian flare. Walking around Red Square at night when it’s all lit up is magical. If you’re going to Russia, then don’t miss Red Square.

Red Square

Travel tip: Getting to Russia with the visa requirements can be tough. Use Travisa to obtain your invitation, communicate with the consulate, and get your visa to you in a timely manner. Plan well ahead with your visa and keep your “immigration receipt” and passport on you at all times after leaving customs. Have fun and explore!

Samantha McIsaac

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth | 9 stories

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