(Mid-February – good time to experience minus temperatures and snow)
This time the journey takes us to Moscow and Sochi – two cities quite different in what they can offer to tourists…
Who doesn’t know something about Moscow already?
Moscow’s changing and growing at the same time… Numerous building projects can be seen while driving from Sheremetievo airport, through suburbs of Moscow to its central district. The streets are snow and ice-free, despite the recent snowfall and traffic seemed normal. The temperature was – 5 ⁰C, which in the following three days reached – 11⁰C … brrrr
We arrived at Petrovka Street, which is one of the oldest in Moscow and derives its name from the Vysoko-Petrovsky monastery located here. Some of the other famous buildings on that street are:
– The Bolshoi Theatre – the main theatre in Russia;
– The TsUM building – high-end shopping mall in Neo-Gothic style;
– The Gulag History Museum and The Russian Federation Prosecutor’s General Office share a building that is The Vorontsovs – Rayevskys Manor one of the few building that survived the fire of 1812.
A visit to the Bolshoi Theatre is a must as it is a great cultural institution. However one should buy tickets in advance due to the constant high demand for its performances. We watched the children’s musical ‘’The Fables of the Vixen, the Duckling and Balda’’ in the Theatre’s Beethoven Hall. The performance was fun and engaging for all adults and children. It is performed in Russian (the singing and storytelling). However it is easy to follow the pantomime even if Russian is not one of your languages.
Near the Bolshoi Theatre is the Red Square and Kremlin, along with other monuments and attractions. A stroll around the area is a must – plenty of historical artifacts await the tourists to take a picture and get a feeling for Moscow’s past and present.
Where can you see one of those villages with log-houses that are pictured in the Russian fairy tales?
In the park grounds around the New Jerusalem Monastery located in Istra town, Moscow Oblast one can see log-houses, including wooden mill. The Monastery itself was founded in the 17th century and was recently renovated – it is a beautiful complex built on a hill with a modern museum building in its vicinity.
What about the food?
There are plenty of restaurants in Moscow of course. We wanted to try something different a friend recommended Selenge – Buryat Baikal cuisine restaurant, which turned out a very good experience. We had our first time dishes such as grilled Baikal omul fish with steamed veggies, delicate fern and meat salad, steamed dumplings with meat or veggies, sour cherry cake with cream, traditional tea and nastoyka (fruit infused liquor).
And now a little about Sochi
A two hour flight from Moscow takes you to Sochi airport. The city is on the Black Sea coast and one of the longest spreading over 145 km. The Valley of Mzymta River leads to the ski resorts of Krasnaya Polyana and Roza Khutor.
The city hosted the XXII Olympic Winter Games and XI Paralympic Winter Games in 2014, as well as the Russian Formula 1 Grand Prix from 2014 until at least 2020. It will also be one of the host cities for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The ski resorts are modern and well connected, ideal for winter sports. There are number of ski schools where one can hire a guide for snow walking, instructor for Nordic or alpine skiing. The guides of Tirol ski school were very friendly and professional.
After a long day out in the snow, one should certainly enjoy the swimming pool, Russian banya, sauna and steam room of the hotel. Most of the big hotels have them, so why not indulge.
In Sochi one can go to the Olympic park for a rickshaw (electric tree- wheeler) tour with a guide, who explains in details about the park, its grounds, events held and who also is happy to take pictures of you while on the tour.
The taxi drivers don’t usually speak English and it would be wise to ask the hotel to explain/write to them where you want to go.