31 July 2008

Fun in Russia

What is big, bizarre, cold, hot, dangerous, exciting, historic, and new? Russia! And the best place in Russia for westerners to visit is the old capital city of Saint Petersburg.
There are tricks to visiting Russia in general, and Petersburg in particular. You of course still need a visa, and we at VSC can help you with both the visa and the visa support.
My favourite time to visit Petersburg is at the end of June for the white nights. It is dark for about 30 minutes per night then, and the city is alive at all hours.
No trip to Petersburg is complete without a visit to the world's greatest art collection: the State Hermitage Museum. The best way to get tickets to the palace is on-line through the museum's own website. You can avoid the long lines at the ticketing office in the museum by purchasing tickets online from the museum website. Get a single day ticket for US$17, or a two-day pass for all their facilities for only US$26. Do not buy from touts or ticket agencies.
Not all culture in Petersburg hangs on the walls. The arts are alive in Petersburg, and one of the best, classiest, and most historic places to see them is at the Mariinsky Theatre, formerly called the Kirov, and originally called the Mariinsky. This is the stage upon which the original Swan Lake was performed. This is a wonderful grand theatre, and the home of the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet. Get tickets directly from the theatre for the best prices and selection. Weekday box seats near the stage can cost as little as US$35, and you can take your own food and champagne! At these prices touts and ticket agencies will get you seats in the rafters. Get tickets directly from the theatre on-line, for low prices. Dress up and have fun.
Russia, like Britain, has been vilified for poor cooking. But Petersburg is alive with great places to eat. For fine dining in the great Russian tradition, I recommend the Taleon Club in the old Eliseev palace just south of Nevsky Prospect on the Moika canal near the Hermitage. Dinners and luncheons are superb. Brunch is served every Sunday from noon until 16:00, and comes with black and red caviar, lobster, champagne and lots of other delicious dishes for only US$45. Look at the Taleon Club and hotel website to see how wonderful it really is, and then reserve a table on-line.