Since studying Russian history for my A Levels I became slightly obsessed with the country and it was an obvious first point for my gap year. Also the fact that I don’t know anyone that’s been, it inspired me to venture here more!
Travelling to Russia was a unique experience. You are required to get a visa if you plan on staying in the country for more than 3 days. The visa process involves filling out a humongous online form in which you have to list every country you’ve been to in the past 10 years and when you visited them! I had in excess of 21 countries listed that I could remember! Once you’ve finished this form the next step is to take it along with your passport and your LOI (letter of invitation) to the visa application centre in London. Here they take your finger prints and check all your documents and once you’ve paid the fee (£120!) you’re done!
I assumed Russia would be cold all year round – how wrong was I!
So with no fur jacket in hand I flew to Saint Petersburg, and passed border security easily. The architecture in the city was unbelievable! Every time you turned a corner you got that “WOW” factor, there are so many unique and beautiful buildings. I had no expectations as to what Russia would be like, and was very nervous that it wouldn’t live up to the picture I’d built in my head but it exceeded them ten times over.
I spent a week in this beautiful city, visiting incredible museums, art galleries, the ballet and most importantly easily navigating the famous metro systems. Before travelling many family and friends were worried that I would run into trouble, but I encountered no problems with the locals being very friendly and willing to help (after you get over the language barrier).
Another great wish of mine was to travel on the Trans-Siberian Railway which I used to travel onwards to Moscow. I was in the lowest class of the 11 class Sapsan train, but it was more luxurious than any English train!
- Church on the Spilled Blood
- The Hermitage / Winter Palace
Moscow is so opposite to Saint Petersburg. Imagine London 20 years ago and you’re almost there. The reserved and traditional older generations are contradicted by the growing young movement who desire more from the country and its political system and they are finding their voice.
Red square really is a beauty to behold with Saint Basil’s Cathedral on your left, the Kremlin in front and the Russian State Museum on your right you can’t help but feel very small and in awe of its beauty.
From intense architecture and history to days spent on giant beanbags in Gorky Park and even spending a day in a Banya – single sex steam rooms in which you don’t wear clothes and can pay for someone to whip you with big branches. I have never visited anywhere with so much history and culture and it was a perfect start to my year out.
An all round incredible and eye opening trip and I can’t wait to go back and discover Siberia one day!
Thanks for reading
- Russian state museum
- Lenin’s Mausoleum
- Saint Basil’s Cathedral