Travel Bucket List – Russia

“How to get a Russia Tourist Visa in Singapore” is one of the more popular posts on my blog. Obviously, by now, i have already been to Russia. More than a year ago in fact. This is a long over due post on how the trip turned out. In a gist, I’m certain I want to go again!

Russian people are among the most friendly I have encountered! I also appreciate their artistic ingenuity as manifested in the architecture and interior design. The motifs employed are out of the world, and i love their use of bold yet harmonious colours.

Some travel tips for those planning on a trip to Russia:

  • Data is dirt cheap in Russia (under S$10 for a few GB). Get a prepaid SIM card from any provider and you will have plenty of data. Be careful not to use data roaming with your Singapore SIM card, which I accidentally did and resulting in a crazy expensive bill. If you prefer to get everything set up before you go, you could sign up for M1 Europe Data Passport (S$50), Singtel ReadyRoam (S$35 for 1GB). Not cost effective though if you are traveling to Russia only.
  • Uber is inexpensive and popular – take advantage of it. Otherwise, be prepared to walk long distances if using the public transport. The stops are far apart.
  • The marshrutka (mini bus) is a cheap and efficient transportation option if you can muster the courage to try. They have a bus number just like regular buses, and they show up on Google map search results when looking for directions, so there’s no worry of getting lost. The bus conductor might even speak a little English and tell you where to get off. The fare is distance-based.

We arrived in Moscow late afternoon, and it took a long time to locate the tiny door that led to our hotel in Kazansky railway station. That’s right, it’s a hotel that operates right inside a railway station. The only reason i would stay here is, it is right across from Leningradsky Railway Station, from which we will be taking the Red Arrow Train to Saint Petersburg. And we do have a lot of luggage, plus two kids, so we definitely have to keep the hassle to a minimum.

First stop, Bolshoi Theater. It is possible to tour the inside without going for a concert (concert not doable with kids around) but the timing just didn’t coincide with the time we were in Moscow
Cafe Pushkin. Not overly pricey, actually, by Singapore standard. Beautiful ambience. Dr Zhivago is probably the other restaurant to try. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a seat there.
Still-working lift shaft
Kvass, a must-try when in Russia
Borscht soup. The best i have ever tried.
Beautifully presented
Beef Stroganoff. Lots of cream in Russian cuisine.
The desserts were the highlight at Pushkin cafe. Looks good and taste really good too!
I don’t remember exactly but i think this was some sort of Pavlova. Can’t recommend enough coming to Cafe Pushkin.
Mayakovskaya is one of the most highly recommended underground station to check out in Moscow. Only one stop from Cafe Pushkin.
Bolshoi at night
Chapel at the entrance to Red Square
Now you’ve been to Russia. Too bad there was a stage set up that was blocking St Basil’s Cathedral
The State Historical Museum is like a fairy tale castle
Somehow the museum did not attract that many tourists. It is worth a look in my opinion.
St Basil’s Cathedral is smaller than imagined. Cash only for admission.
I’ll post just one spoiler photo
The 9 chapels are joined together with walkways like this. Fascinating architectural design.
You probably should take a look inside GUM when at Red Square
Stolovaya No 57 is the logical place to do lunch. Don’t be surprised if you bumped into your own countrymen, because everyone has the same idea. The queue moves rather quickly, not to worry.
Price is clearly listed in English. Just order whatever looks good, there will be no surprises.
Quite a variety of desserts to choose from
The taste should be quite acceptable to international patrons
We try to order rice every time it is available because the kids have Asian appetite
GUM does look very appealing
Flowers aplenty late spring
You will most likely have to jostle with Chinese tourists on your way into the Kremlin
The Tsar Cannon dating back to 1586
Stepping into Cathedral Square is like stepping into another world
Ivan the Great Bell Tower. Separate ticket (limited availability) required.
Architecture that is truly unique to Russia
We took a bus to get to the Tretyakov Gallery. It was a lot of trouble getting to the bus stop though, having to cross under a bridge to get to the other side of the ten-lane road. Do bear this in mind when using public transport in Moscow.
Probably the most important piece you cannot miss at Tretyakov
The Red Arrow train pulling into the station. We made use of the left luggage service at the basement of the station so we could be more relaxed before getting ready to board the train, which departs at midnight. I decided on taking the Red Arrow train because it’s a hotel, transport-to-Saint-Petersburg and sampling-a-piece-of-history all rolled into one.
Frist stop in Saint Petersburg, Peter and Paul fortress. The Saint Petersburg card covers the admission. The advantage of the card is that it doubles as a public transport pass.
Summer Garden. We took a quick look in the interest of time.
The Church of the Savior on Blood is no less interesting than St Basil Cathedral
Pelmeni, with a teeny bit of Salmon caviar
Visited Petrovskaya Akvatoria since it is included in the Saint Petersburg card. A scale historical model of Saint Petersburg. Grand Maket Rossiya is the other scale model museum that would appeal to older kids
View towards Neva river from Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, the largest orthodox basilica and the fourth largest cathedral in the world
The Canal cruise was also included the Saint Petersburg card. It was an extremely tiring day and the cruise was a nice way to let the kids take an hour long nap
The underground stations in Saint Petersburg are no less elaborate

Catherine Palace is probably on everyone’s itinerary in Saint Petersburg. Unfortunately, it’s not covered by the Saint Petersburg card, and it’s quite expensive too. IMHO, it was not worth the money, but one has to see it for the sake of Catherine.

We just missed the train to get there, and in a way, that was a blessing in disguise. Someone touted to get us there for 1000 Rubles (S$21). Out of convenience, and since the price was still within reason, i decided to go with it, and we got to Catherine palace in half an hour. The train plus bus would have taken at least one and a half hours. On hindsight, it would have been better to hire a Uber car, and it would have been cheaper.

Completely destroyed during World War 2 and rebuilt. Now that i take a look at the palace again, it does feel feminine rather than masculine.
Hour long queue to get in. Visitors admitted in batches every 10 to 15 minutes.
The Great Hall
We didn’t stay in the palace for long. This was the last leg of our month long trip, and by this time, there was severe museum fatigue.
You could say this is Russian style. We had lunch at the “Hermitage Kitchen” restaurant, housed in a building that’s part of the garden, and as per the reviews, it was quite good. The bus stop was also nearby
The bus stops right at the entrance of Pavlovsk Palace
Many people mention that Pavlovsk was comparable or better than Catherine palace. That is a subjective matter. It is a smaller palace, but there are just a handful of tourists here, which makes it all the more pleasant
The garden is the highlight. It was beautiful, as per the review comments
Pretty sights abound
Apollo colonade
A long but doable walk across the park to get to Pavlovsk train station

I made two attempts to dine at Troika and was disappointed both times. The first time, it was closed (without any notice given). The second time, they could not accommodate us. I didn’t try to call ahead to make a reservation, and maybe i should have. Anyway, it is located right smack in the middle between two metro stations, a very long walk. Good thing i did my homework and had second choices of restaurants on hand, and i highly recommend checking out Suliko (‎Сулико), serving Georgian cuisine.

Pictorial instructions given – you’re supposed to tear the bread and dip into the sauce in the middle
This is like chicken curry. Same same but different.
This is almost exactly like the Chinese 灌汤包, dumpling with gravy enclosed, only much bigger in size.
Meat on skewer
The famed Nevsky avenue
There’s a supermarket at the basement of Galeria mall, next to Moscow station
You can find a wide range of caviar in the supermarket. This was a very cheap one. Buying from the supermarket is much cheaper than trying them in a restaurant.
Honestly speaking, the taste didn’t leave much of an impression. I wasn’t quite ready to try Sturgeon caviar, way too expensive. Maybe next time.

Somehow, my visit to Oranienbaum and Peterhof also did not go as planned. I don’t remember exactly, maybe the train tickets were sold out or something. But right outside the train station, there were Marshrutka buses with the label Peterhof. I thought, why not. My plan was to visit Oranienbaum first, and the bus conductor spoke English and could understand my intentions. We alighted at the very last stop, and nearby, there was a local bus that would take us to Oranienbaum. Google Maps has information on the bus routes, so it was no problem at all finding our way there.

I didn’t do my homework on this one, or maybe i did and have forgotten – Oranienbaum was closed for that particular day of the week. Anyway, the palace is undergoing restoration, which is evidence that tourism is booming in Russia on the whole.
Again, we took just a quick look inside the palace and i don’t remember a thing about it. The Saint Petersburg card gives entry to the lower park (pictured above) but does not cover the palace visit.
The fountain that is the main highlight of Peterhof. I still think Villa d’Este was more impressive.
Thankfully the Saint Petersburg card does cover the Meteor Hydrofoil boat trip back to Saint Petersburg, and we were able to relax after another long day

Less intensive sight-seeing for the final day in Saint Petersburg. No reason to rush now that the Saint Petersburg card has expired.

The Hermitage museum did not have that many visitors. Low season i guess.
There is much to see in the Hermitage museum, such as the peacock clock.
There was probably a national celebration going on, and a huge choir gathered at Palace Square to sing Katyusha
The bronze horseman
Breakfast before we depart for Helsinki – checked out Teremok to sample Russian fast food
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2 responses to “Travel Bucket List – Russia”

  1. Mel Avatar

    Thank you so much for sharing helpful infomations, beautiful photo, foodies pictures looks so delicious.
    We are so excited in planning forward to Russia in 2019. This informations really of good help.
    Thanks again

    1. yenkai Avatar

      You’re welcome Mel

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