MOSCOW TO ST PETERSBURG
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Only a week's visit but jam-packed full of highlights: - 'Swan Lake' at the Bolshoi (for the audience as much as for the dancers). - The extraordinarily beautiful Moscow metro stations (who knew!?) - The public banya in Novgorod (every Russian is a passionate expert in how exactly it should be done) - Walking the streets of St Petersburg in bright sunlight as midnight approaches.
What did you think of your group leader?
Olga was an exemplary group leader. She was attentive to all the diverse needs of the group and very keen to make sure that everyone was accommodated. I occasionally read reviews that complain that tour guides are not flexible enough. Olga went out of her way to be both organised and flexible which would have been a big challenge in such a jam-packed itinerary. She was able to adapt things when necessary, and to take advantages of opportunities as they arose. We were not only able to fit in everything that was scheduled, but also lots of things that were not - having dinner with a local family, picnics in the park, and above all the visit to the extraordinary gardens and fountains of Peterhof which was not on the original itinerary. Olga's personal experience and history in Russia made her a fascinating guide with a very real passion for her country. Indeed all the local specialist guides impressed with their detailed knowledge and enthusiasm. One of the real highlights of the trip were the Russians we met - both the Exodus guides and the ordinary people who were keen to tell us as much as they could about their country and its history.
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Be prepared for lots of walking - we were on our feet continually for the best part of eight hours on the day of the walking tour of St Petersburg and the visit to the Hermitage. It was worth it. The more you can explore on foot, the more you will get out of this holiday. To get a good night's sleep during the 'white nights' you should consider bringing an eye mask as the curtains in the hotels can be quite thin.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would definitely suggest adapting the itinerary to include a scheduled visit to Peterhof on the way from Pushkin to St Petersburg, as we did on this trip. It was a major highlight and wouldn't require too many logistical changes to incorporate.