So you plan to go to Russia because its summer and every frigging place on the earth is simmering (ofcourse obviously the south pole is not, and no I don’t consider the Aussie winter a winter) and the airfares to those friggin simmering places are simmering too. So Russia looks like the certain choice for the poor Indian service class traveler (which is me). And then you get greedy, real greedy and add the Baltics to it. Well. And then get extremely over zealous and add a part of Scandinavia to the trip. And not to mention, this is to be a family get together in Russia with trip members flying in from 3 cities across 2 countries. A recipe for disaster ? Well almost, but born in a family of crazier travelers, we sail right through it and emerge victorious. And just as all victories need to be commemorated, I commemorate it thus and with a glass of Red Label.
The trip itinerary
|Day 1||Moscow||Arrive at Moscow and tour city||Airplane||Aeroflot|
|Day 2||Vladimir and Suzdal||Day trip to Vladimir and Suzdal||Car|
|Day 3||St Petersburg||Arrive at St Petersburg and tour city||Train||Sapsan|
|Day 4||St Petersburg||City tour and Peterhof||Walk / City Transport / Hydrofoil||Hydrofoil operator – Any|
|Day 5||Helsinki||Arrive at Helsinki and tour city||Train||Allegro|
|Day 6||Helsinki||City tour and Suomenlinna island||Walk / City Transport / Ferry||Ferry company – Any|
|Day 7||Tallinn||Arrive at Tallinn and tour city||Ferry||Viking Line|
|Day 8||Tallinn||Tour city||Walk|
|Day 9||Riga||Arrive at Riga and tour city||Bus||Lux Express|
|Day 10||Riga||Tour city||Walk|
|Day 11||Home||Fly back to India via Moscow||Airplane||Aeroflot|
Where to Stay
In Moscow, preferably stay within the Garden Ring. Moscow is a huge city and hence you will most likely have to take a Metro to the places that you want to visit. You can also ditch the hotel and choose from a list of apartments that are rent out. We booked a 2 BR apartment in the Kudrinskaya Tower which is one of the seven sisters, seven sky scrapers commissioned by Stalin of which this one was the last one. Its a great option to stay in and is available on Booking.com.
Whilst in St Petersburg, stay within walking distance of the Hermitage and St. Isaac’s Cathedral and you will be able to walk to pretty much every place. We stayed in an apartment on the Morskaya road. The Gorokhovaya road which is at right angles to the Morskaya is a great location too. You can pretty much see the St. Isaac’s Cathedral from here and the Palace Square and Hermitage are just a couple of hundred metres. Plus you will have some amazing shops and restaurants to choose from.
We stayed at the Design District in Helsinki which is the centre of the design shops / workspaces in Helsinki and Helsinki being named the Design Capital of the World it may just be worth trying this area out. It is about 3 kms from the railway station and similar distance away from the Market square and the port. But honestly you can stay anywhere you wish to in Helsinki, its such a lovely lovely city and more importantly the places of interest are spread out across the city so you will definitely need to take a Helsinki transport Day Pass to commute.
While at Riga and Tallinn, do yourself a favor and stay in the old town. Although well connected with public transport and call taxis, walking around a city has its own charm. The entire periphery of the Old Town in both the cities is walkable and most of the restaurants and souvenir shops are here. Tallinn is like an open air museum and hence every other building has an important past. Imagine how you would feel when you see camera wielding tourists stopping by to take pictures of what you have called home for the next couple of days (it happened to me so I know it feels exhilarating). At Tallinn we stayed in Toompea in a 2 BR apartment which had its own sauna (I know, it is unbelievable) and again, the apartment is on Booking.com. We had the most stunning view of the Tallinn Old Town skyline about 50 mts from where we stayed. In Riga we stayed right behind a shopping arcade in the old town in the Hotel Man Tess with restaurants and all places of interests within walking distance. The bus station was also about 450 mts from the hotel.
Moscow for its imperial glamour and for the love of Putin (between you and me, I totally adore Putin).
St Petersburg for its beautiful grandeur and where you truly find that sometimes the inspired can overshadow the inspiration.
Helsinki for its simplicity and peaceful demeanor which reflects in its architecture as well as its people.
Tallinn and Riga for their old world charm (and also for their display of the KGB prison cells).
And above all, for the love of travel.
For detailed information and travel guides on each of these cities, please visit the city page on my blog (links below).