Our Flightie Jessica Koop loves to talk about travel and is always adding more and more places to her bucket list each year. She recently went on tour to Russia with On the Go Tours and shares some great tips with us. From loosing her luggage to learning about Russia’s rich history, she shares it all:
First of all I want to thank On the Go Tours for providing the best tour that I have ever been on. Big shout out to our Tour Leader Katya, who made sure that no one got lost in the metro and that we knew all of our options every time that we asked for them (even when we asked over and over again).
Now for a few simple facts about Russia that I thought was quite interesting: Did you know that Russia spans across 11 time zones? To fly from one side of Russia to the other side would take longer than to fly all the way from Vancouver to St. Petersburg. Yeah, it’s that big! Give yourself lots of time to explore this wonderful country.
I arrived into St. Petersburg one clear crisp afternoon in October. My excitement was dimmed somewhat as I had finally arrived into Russia but… my luggage didn’t. I cannot even begin to explain how utterly crazy it is to fill out a lost luggage claim in Russian. If this ever happens to you, suffice to say that my best advice to you is to not wait in any line ups to get someone’s attention. I found out the hard way, that you cannot be a polite Canadian and wait your turn while in Russia. You actually have to make it your turn (preferably with elbows) or be pushed aside by a very determined local. As someone once wrote, “my queue sensibilities were quite shocked throughout my journeys in Russia.” That’s putting it mildly as well. Trust me on this and stand your ground.
The one good thing about not getting my luggage for 3 days was that my travel insurance company (RBC) covered me for $400 for any emergency items that I needed. My items were some beautiful new suede boots as well as a red wool jacket. My only wish was that I bought more shoes as St. Petersburg has some fantastic shops to choose from.
Once my ordeal of the lost luggage was over and I was able to escape the baggage area of the airport, I found my ride and was taken to the Lenin Restaurant for dinner. The food is actually pretty good in Russia! It takes some practice ordering it though as you have to order your main dish, say Chicken Kiev, and then you order your side dishes from a different place on the menu, like potatoes and maybe a side of veggies. You will get served your chicken and then maybe 10 minutes later you will get your potatoes and then when you are finished those, your veggies. Don’t expect everyone’s dish to arrive at the same time either. If it’s ready – it gets sent out, so eat it while it’s still hot! (This isn’t in all restaurants though, just something that I noticed a few times). Try a place called MuMu’s; awesome priced food with lots to choose from. It looks like a cafeteria but with a large selection of food and a liquor license. Just look for the cow spots as it’s quite a fun place to eat for a really good price.
One thing that you can’t miss in Russia is a true Russian Banyan. What is a Banyan you ask? Well…. how to describe this…. you sit in a really hot WET Sauna (none of this dry sauna stuff you will see here in Canada) sweat all the toxins out of your body, then jump into a freezing cold lake to shock your system. After the swim, you run back into the heat of a sauna to warm up. It is one of the best things ever, I promise you. You don’t even have to do the lake part if you don’t want to, just the heat of the sauna, the wet birch branches and the people around you, make it totally worthwhile.
You can then follow up your Banyan with a nice hearty lunch and two shots of Vodka. Most Russians think that the best way to drink vodka is just out of the freezer, followed by toast with caviar, a pickle, or even an onion. To ask a Russian bartender for a vodka and juice will get you a very strange look, more like a frown. While mixed drinks are getting more popular over there, is just not the norm. You do not shoot vodka either, well you can, but it’s more thought of as a sipping drink to most Russians.
I could write about Russia all day, it’s such an amazing country, from its rich history to its historic sites; Mother Russia will forever leave you wanting more of it. The only way to find out for sure is to go yourself and I am quite happy to help you out with that.
Na zdorovje! To your Health!
Thinking about your next trip to Russia or want more travel info? Contact Jessica Koop, an International Travel Consultant at our Granville St location based in Vancouver at 1 866 249 8408.