12th June – 10th July 2017
We have recently completed our month in Russia, the first country in our year of travel. During our time in Russia we have physically travelled an extremely long distance, starting in St.Petersburg and ending in Ulan Ude. The distance travelled has been amazing and is incomparable to any distance you can travel in England. We are now about 7000km from home and have crossed from Europe into Asia.
During this first month we have seen stunning palaces and ornate orthodox churches, particularly in the West. We have learnt about Russian history including the ruling Tsars and the October Revolution. As we have travelled further East we have explored more Russian countryside through hikes and mountain bikes. During the last week we spent four days on an island in Lake Baikal, the largest fresh water lake in the world.
We crossed Russia using only trains and have decided to not go into much detail about travel in this post. We will be doing a separate post on our full experience of the trans-mongolian railway in a couple of months time when we finish the route in China.
One thing we must admit about Russia, and that we were both surprised about, was the lack of vodka we had. I guess sometimes stereotypes are not always reality.
We both enjoy reading travel blogs and seeing other travellers tips and recommendations for places we are going to visit. For this reason we have also made a note of our recommendations and tips from our personal experiences. We will try and do this for each country we visit on this trip.
Elesh (Traditional Tartarstan food)
An ‘Elesh’ is an odd recommendation however had to be included. This meat filled pastry (seen above) reminded us both of England, more specifically Cornwall. It was an exact replica of a Cornish Pasty just shaped in a square rather than the more recognisable semi-circle.
Herring Under a Fur Coat
This is a traditional Russian salad served often around New Years. It consists of pickled herring on the bottom and then layers of grated vegetables on top. The vegetables include potato, onion, carrot and beet (or beetroot) which gives it a very distinctive purple colour.
This dish originates from Georgia however when we arrived in Russia we learnt that due to Western Russia’s proximity to Georgia that they are influenced heavily by their cuisine. This breaded dish has a well in the middle filled with cheese. We had one that also had a egg in the centre.
Additional note – For all travellers sticking to a tight budget look out for Stolovaya’s. These are canteen style restaurants where you can get a really cheap hot or cold lunch or dinner for approximately 300 rubles. They always serve local dishes and you are often eating amongst the locals so you know it can’t be bad. In Kazan one night we had dinner for £1.51 each.
St Petersburg and Moscow
Both these European cities were an amazing start to our Russian travels. They are full of fabulous palaces, large ornate church’s and lots of Russian history.
Olkhon Island, Lake Baikal
Olkhon Island is just off the western shore of Lake Baikal. Lake Baikal is the largest fresh water lake in the world. It’s depth being 1642m. Here we stayed in a yurt and explored the the Russian outdoors. We did a one day tour, a day mountain biking and a day of hiking. It was amazing to get out of the cities and see some amazing scenery.
Suzdal is in Russia’s Golden Ring area, a region surrounding its capital Moscow. It is not on the railway which has meant the town has not grown too large and so it offered us a great insight in to a more rural Russia. We spent most of our time here wandering around viewing it’s many small churches.
Things we learnt
- Don’t expect politeness from local strangers. Russians will only smile when they mean it. They will not smile when it is not necessary or if they do not know you.
- We learnt quite quickly that everyone has slippers or specific indoor shoes. When you enter any hostel or home they will expect you to take you shoes off in the entrance hall and then put on your slippers.
- Always take plenty off cash when visiting Olkhon Island. This is a bit of a silly one but there are no cash points on Olkhon Island and so it is best to be prepared and get some extra cash before you arrive. We did discuss doing this but then completely forgot to actually do it. So we did spend a bit of time panicking as we walked around the town centre finding shops that had card machines and would give us cash back.
Top three phrases/words
- Can I? - Mozhno (Можно)
- Thank you – Spasibo (Спасибо)
- Bye – do svidaniya (до свидания)
Travel Statistics for Russia
Beers drank: 30 (each)
Beds slept in: 14 (each)
Bribes paid: 0
- Plane: 1
- Bus: 17
- Minibus: 13
- Metro: 13
- Train: 9
- Tram: 2
- Boat: 3
Spending in Russia
Currency Conversion: £1 = 76.775 RUB
Number of days in country: 29
Breakdown of spending -
Food & Beverage: £409.98
Total (together): £2119.06
Total (per person): £1059.53
Average Daily Spend (together): £73.08
Average Daily Spend (per person): £36.54
Please let us know if you have any questions