As I mentioned in my last post, since we were visiting a friend, we stayed at her suburban flat in Fruktavaya Street which is not the usual tourist stop and hence made the use of metro to reach to most of the tourist destinations.Using the metro could be a little tricky as there is hardly any signage in English, so would suggest to downloada Metro map which has stations name both in English and Russian and keep it as a print or as an image on your smart phone.
Use google maps before hand and get accustomed to the routes and the metro station’s names.
The nearest stations to us were Nakhimovsky Prospect and Varhsavskaya which were both well connected to all the touristy spots.
Day 1 – Red Square and the Kremlin
Highlights – Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Gum Mall, Kremlin & Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.
Kremlin is open on all days from 10 AM till 5 PM (except for on Thursdays). You can buy the tickets online here or through the ticket offices inside the complex. If you wish to visit the Armoury then we would suggest buy the tickets online as it is time specific.
Once you are inside the Kremlin you can make use of any of the guided tour apps available and visit around to see Assumption and Archangel Cathderals, Ivan The Great Steeple and the Bell Tower, Tsar Bell and Tsar Cannon, The Grand Kremlin Palace, Alexander Gardens, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Armoury.
We spent a good 3 hours inside the Kremlin and took an exit from Red Square side to be greeted with a breathtaking view of the St. Basil’s Cathedral.
A couple of hours later we headed straight to a Ukranian Tavern restaurant which was highly recommended by a friend- Korchma Taras Bulba, which proudly stood high to its name/standards and also our expectations.
From there we took a short metro ride to reach Christ the Saviour Cathedral which by far is the most beautiful church I have ever seen. The entry is free but conservative dress is a must. The Church is huge and if you feel the exterior of it is jaw dropping then just wait to enter inside and see the fresco covered interiors! Sadly taking pictures inside is not allowed, but we were lucky enough to witness a prayer session which was absolutely divine.
Day 2 – Kolomenskoye Historical and Architectural Museum and Reserve
Highlights – The Wooden palace
Lunch – took our own picnic basket and enjoyed a picnic at the huge grounds.
We had kept a trip to Kolmenskaye towards the end of our trip, but our local host insisted that we visit it before going to St. Petersburg as that would help us in understanding the marked difference in the architectural style that took place over the years.
Kolmenskaye is a huge estate which houses a replica of the erstwhile wooden palace of Tsar Alexis and two very old churches – one of which was built to commemorate the birth of the crowned prince, the future Ivan the Terrible.
Day 3 – Moscow State University, Sparrow hill, Stary Arbat & Bolshoi Theatre – many of the cafe’s at Stary Arbat.
Lunch – Shokoladnitsa (Шоколадница)
We chose the weekend for our trip to the magnificent Moscow University (which btw looks just out of the world!) and it was followed by a visit to the Sparrow Hill to get some spectacular views of the city. We also took a stroll through the Stary Arbat, a toursity street with many cafes, buskers and souvenir shops. Bolshoi Theatre was also nearby and we wanted to watch the Opera but sadly tickets weren’t available, so I would recommend you book early or rather buy them online here if you don’t want to be disappointed like us.
Day 4 – Gorky Park and a River Cruise on the Radisson Royal
Lunch – Flotilla Radisson Royal
This was our completely ‘relaxing day’ with no running around, where we got to enjoy the greenery and relax like locals at the massive Gorky Park. The highlight of the day for us was an awesome Lunch date in the floating restaurant @ Flotilla Radisson Royal.
Day 5 – Tsarytsino open air history and architectural Museum
Lunch- once again carried a picnic basket and enjoyed at the marvellous gardens.
Another one of those beeeautiful days where the Sun was out and shining bright, but the clouds kept playing hide & seek!
It’s said that the original construction wasn’t liked by Catherine the Great and was demolished and the new construction was interrupted by Catherine’s death. Sadly, her successor didn’t show any interest in completing the construction until very recently, but still for us this was a gorgeous palace, opulent and breathtaking!
So this was all about Moscow (well, almost all!)….hope it helps out those of you who are planning to visit anytime soon 🙂
Visiting Russia (well Moscow in particular) has been in our bucket list for a very long time. Ever since I was a little kid I have been fascinated by the architecture of St. Basil’s Cathedral and needless to say it was a dream to visit it!
This year as Ankita and I sat to plan our holiday, we both had Russia on our minds… her willingness to visit was on an all-time-high as her best friend from school hails from Moscow and they both had been wanting to meet each other for around 4 years now. So we finally decided for a good 2 week long holiday to Russia which included a 10 days stay in Moscow and 3 days in St. Petersburg.
Here’s a sneak peek to our visit…hope you’ll see the beauty of these cities through our eyes!
Visiting Russia for a holiday is still considered a bit offbeat and to be really truthful it is slightly tiresome for the usual tourists… reasons being that 1) it involves a tedious Visa procuring process and 2) the fact that language could be a big problem.
In our opinion – yes, it can get challenging…BUT very much achievable and trust us – totally worth the effort! Through this post I’ll try to simplify the Visa procurement process, how you can get a hang of the Cyrillic alphabets, highlight the absolute must do’s in Moscow as well as St. Petersburg and last but not the least, share the beauty of these two wonderful cities through a series of photographs. Let’s get started then, shall we!?
Visa Processes If you are travelling for leisure there are two options, one is the normal tourist visa and the other option is if you have a host there in Russia you would need to apply for a private visa. For any of these two visa you would need an invitation which would be provided to you either by your hotel or by your host and the same needs to be submitted for Visa procurement in original hard copy.
Once you have this invitation the whole process flows really smoothly. There are a few agencies in India you can get in touch with for the visa process, such as Vamana (vamanaindia.com) and then there is Russian visa center – IFS (Indra Visa Fiduciary Services) (india-ifs.com), you can refer to their websites for further information on the documents requirement and the Visa fee.
Learning Cyrillic Alphabets Learning Cyrillic Alphabets is a must. You would find very few sign boards in English in Saint Petersburg and even lesser in Moscow. So in order to understand and gauge routes, etc. through the metro map and decide route plans you must have a knowledge of Cyrillic alphabets (unless you are going with a private tour and have a guide with you all the time).
Another alternate is to use Google translate’s new function which converts Russian (or for that matter any language) letters to English (or any other desired language). We used this app extensively and felt it was really cool and useful to read menus, however not very effective to read sign boards which are way above you eye level.
There are several tutorials available on Youtube, the one in particular which I liked was rusianpod101.com, you can follow the link for it and can also buy/download a lot of lessons with a basic one month subscription at very nominal fee. If you would like to learn a bit more or if you have a knack for learning languages you can even go for their advanced courses.
Moscow Highlights 1. Kremlin & the Red Square
2. Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
4. Moscow State University and the sparrow hill
5. Gorky Park and the river cruise along the Moscow river.
6. Stary Arbat
7. Tsarytsino open air history and architectural Museum
St. Petersburg Highlights 1. Catherine’s Palace
2. Nevsiky Prospect & Church on the spilled blood.
3. Peterhof Palace
4. The Winter palace and the state hermitage
5. St. Isaac’s cathedral
6. Boat ride along the canals and the bridge opening at night.
Well thats’s all for now, but we promise to be back soon with more info on how to plan your Russia holiday with details about the above mentioned attractions, where to eat and what to shop :). Yes there is a lot more to Russia than you’d have expected.
‘The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man.’
So last night we were chilling in bed, curled up and looking through pictures from our recent trips together… reminiscing the glorious moments that we will forever cherish…when one particular trip took us back to that feeling of pure Zen… and I knew that’s what I wanted to share with you here on the blog.
We always try our best to plan our trips wisely, so we can make the most of them, explore the max, see and do everything that’s possible within the time frame… making our trips very ‘activity-heavy’, with maybe a day (max) to take it easy, kick back and relax. However, the last time we visited home (our hometown), Karan decided to surprise me with an unexpected 1 day trip… not very far from where we live.
I was excited, yes!… but at the same time also wondered WHAT it could be that we hadn’t explored yet, keeping in mind it was just an hour’s drive from where we’ve lived all our lives. So we packed light and our journey began early morning…we hopped into a cab that took us through the most Beautiful and Spectacular journey of my life! We drove for a little over an hour through roads that were surrounded by hills on one side and the beautiful Ganges rives flowing in all its glory on the other side…a moment I will never forget!
We checked into a quaint little place called the Tree of Life Himalayan Hideaway … a calm, serene, tranquil little hideaway that truly took our breath away! The place has beautiful cottages surrounded by lush green forests and the breathtaking Holy Ganga flowing below.
The minute we stepped in we knew this was not going to be anything like our usual getaways. Well, to begin – there is no cellphone network (maybe one odd spot on the entire property where you’ll get a weak signal), no internet and best of all – NO TV!
This place ensures that you rest, recuperate, be with ‘just yourself’, let go off to-do-lists and unfinished business and really become one with nature. I think Karan and I found the perfect place for a day to kick back and relax…because it was unbelievable how calm and at ease we felt after all the madness we go through in Mumbai….we truly found peace – within and around!
I think I’ll stop the rambling now and let you see for yourself why i’m smitten with this place ❤
I think they ought to put a board here that reads:
With that my lovely people, it is time to say goodbye…until we meet next…
Welcome back to Day trips from Krakow Part II- Today’s post features one of the most picturesque cities of Poland which was once a part of Germany, Czech Republic and even Austria. Let’s go right ahead and take a look at one of my favourites cities in the whole world, Wroclaw.
**Click on images to enlarge**
I visited Poland last year for a business trip and did my research beforehand on what all places I could visit in my free time and at a very initial stage of research I was pretty convinced that Wroclaw was a place I didn’t want to miss out on.
Wroclaw is just 3 hours away from Krakow, so I had booked just a day in advance through PolskiBus.com and it costed 29 zł one way (It is even more cheap if you book in advance). One could easily make a day trip if you have your base in Krakow like I did and enjoy the city’s various wonders. Though I strongly feel that one day is just not enough to explore this lovely city.
Since I was in Wroclaw only for a day I wanted to make the most of it and thus opted for a Free Walking Tour which was awesome. I strongly recommend it even if you are there for more than a day since it gives a great overview of the city and the interesting history to it. The guides are brilliant and pretty knowledgable and give you a great sneak peak into the history and culture of the beautiful city. Most of the guides are university students and conduct these tours out of sheer passion and one should not shy away from tipping them generously.
Wroclaw has some of the most quirky sculptures all over the city and equally quirky anecdotes/ tales/legends behind these sculptures. The one below is a memorial to slaughtered animals. Built bang opposite a row of art galleries this sculpture is a reminder of the street’s history.
Talking about legends and quirky sculptures the one which blew me off completely was a story about the head of a young boy jutting out from on of the walls of the Cathedral of John the Baptist. The legend has it that this head belonged to a poor boy, who fell in love with the daughter of a rich man who didn’t approve of this alliance and it made the young boy really angry and in his rage he burnt the rich man’s house and then climbed a tower to look at the spectacle. However punishment reached him as the walls of the tower tightened around his neck and absorbed him and what was left was just his head with an expression of grimace of horror.
Another one is about the dragon head shaped spouts called Gargoyle which direct rain water on to the floor. Some say it is there to scare off the evil spirits and then there are some who believe that Gargouille dragon was a good dragon which use to spout water and not fire but a priest casted a spell on it and turned it into stone. Soon people realised their mistake and carved it into the corners of every stone building as water ducts in honor of the beast.
Fun fact : Wroclaw is pronounced as VRAHTS-wahv
Unlike Krakow, communication might get a bit difficult here as not everyone speaks in English and the tram system is also a bit different. You can only buy tickets through your credit or debit card. I was lucky though to find a local who spoke English and even helped me with the tram tickets and directions. I found people all across Poland to be really friendly and charming, they are very approachable and always greet you with a smile.
Apart from the lovely buildings all across the old square what I loved the most were the mythical little sculptures of Gnomes, present all across the old city. Created in the form of a testimonial to the Orange Alternative Movement, these represent the underground protest groups that had peacefully opposed communist regime in the ’80s. You can get a special map or even download it from the internet and try to chase as many Gnomes as you can, Currently there are more than 300 spread all across the old town.
Wroclaw is often called as the city of hundred bridges, the best one being the Tumski Bridge. Though there are several love lock bridges all across Europe, this one is by far my favourite.
Another great sculpture which I found was of this ballerina wearing a skirt in shape of a globe. It was built as a visual metaphor for the World Music Days Festivalwhich had taken place in the city a few years ago.
There is much more to Wroclaw but unfortunately I had to return back to Krakow the same day and had to cut short my exploration. I really hope to come back again someday to this lovely city and would love to stay here for a few days so that I could do justice to all the great things which this city has to offer.
If you’ve missed out on the other Krakow posts…please do check them out 🙂
Zamek in Polish means a castle. Ogrodzienic Castle is about an hour and half ride away from Krakow. We had the privilege to actually take a private cab to the place; alternatively one may chose to opt for public transport which I believe takes more time and requires more than one change. Another option is to book through Viator.com who operate a three castle tour which apparently is top rated. Here’s the link for the same:
Ogrodzieniec Castle is a medieval castle dating back to 14th century and is said to be a haunted site and that a mysterious monstrous black dog can be seen here at nights. Stories apart, it’s a great ruin of a castle, takes you back in time and sets your mind to ponder how it would have looked like in medieval times. The views from the castle are stunning and it seems to be a top pick for film/music video makers. There was a production crew shooting an unofficial version of Pharrel William’s Happy whilee I was visiting :). Inside the castle there is a small museum if you are interested in its history, there are a few souvenir shops as well. All in all if you are in Krakow this place is not be missed, even if you are not a history geek you could still enjoy the spectacular landscape and enjoy great photo ops 🙂 Cheers! Karan