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Moscow: The Heart of Russia (optional St. Petersburg extension)

Moscow: The Heart of Russia (optional St. Petersburg extension) Moscow: The Heart of Russia (optional St. Petersburg extension)
£ 1595

Tania Illingworth (née Tolstoy) returns to Moscow for this ‘one-off’ long weekend to Moscow – the capital of the Russian Federation – dramatically changed since the fall of Communism.

Tania, a descendant of Leo Tolstoy, will focus on art and history with a private visit to the famous novelist’s romantic country estate. We include the UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Kremlin complex – uniting the original fortress, the medieval churches and the Armoury Museum – the unique repository of national artistic treasures. We also see The State Tretyakov Gallery – the richest museum of Russian national art – as well as the Pushkin Museum of Fine Art famed for its superlative collection of Impressionist and Old Master paintings.

There will be an opportunity to attend a ballet or opera performance at The Bolshoi Theatre (programme will be available 6 weeks before departure).

There is an optional extension with Tania to St. Petersburg visiting Oranienbaum (closed during Soviet times) to see the ‘Chinese Palace’, an architectural jewel dating from 1762, as well as Peter the Great’s Palace on the Gulf of Finland (these palaces only open during the Summer months). Also see highlights in The State Hermitage with an excursion outside the city to enjoy more treasures of the museum’s unrivalled collections.

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5 - 8 days from
per person
Single Supplement:
Tour Date:
19th May 2022 -
23rd May 2022
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    Moscow: The Heart of Russia (optional St. Petersburg extension)

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    Detailed Itinerary
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    Day 1 London / Moscow
    London / Moscow

    Suggested flight (not included in the cost of the tour) with Rossiya Airlines SU2581 departing London Heathrow at 10.40 hrs arriving Moscow Sheremetyevo at 16.35 hrs. On arrival, transfer to the 5-star National Hotel for a stay of four nights. The hotel is located on the famous Tverskaya Street in the city centre. Optional tour of the Battle of Borodino Panorama and Field Marshal Kutuzov’s House. Field Marshal Kutuzov was in command of the Russian army defending the capital in 1812 and, after the most bloody and indecisive of all Napoleonic battles, the Russian forces retreated leaving Moscow abandoned to the French. Return to the hotel. Dinner at the hotel.

    Day 2 Moscow
    Moscow

    Your tour of Moscow begins with a short walk to the station to take the Metro to the State Tretyakov Gallery. Moscow’s metro stations – ‘Palaces of the People’ – were built on the orders of Stalin during the 1930s and are extraordinarily lavish with mosaics, chandeliers and sculptures. The State Tretyakov Gallery holds all of Russia’s major and most important Russian works of art – appropriated by the State after the Revolution. The roots of Russian art derive entirely from Byzantium after Russia adopted Christianity in the 10th century and the gallery holds the finest collection of Russian icons worldwide. Portraiture follows naturally after icon-painting. See 19th and 20th century arresting portraits by Kramskoi, Petrov, Repin and, above all, Serov (Russia’s Sergeant). Also see wonderful landscapes by Shishkin, Polenov, Surikov as well as the internationally known artists such as Chagall, Malevich and Kandinsky.

    Lunch at a local restaurant. This afternoon drive past the Novodevichy Convent, built originally in the 16th century, with massive white encircling walls and blue and gold onion domes. Considered Moscow’s finest baroque architecture, it was the most important convent in Russia fortunately escaping the Napoleonic Invasion in 1812. Continue to Leo Tolstoy’s town home, which has remained intact since the world-famous Russian novelist died in 1910. Return to the hotel. Dinner under own arrangements.

    Day 3 Yasnaya Polyana
    Yasnaya Polyana

    This morning take a fast train to Tula and drive on to Yasnaya Polyana (translation ‘Clear Glades’) to see Leo Tolstoy’s country home – Russia’s number one Historic House. See the picturesque estate unchanged since the large family lived there. Despite World War II, all the furnishings and contents remain intact and are reverently preserved. Tour the estate and visit Leo Tolstoy’s humble grave. Time permitting see the local market in Tula.

    Lunch at the museum’s restaurant. This afternoon drive to the 16th century fortress, the Tula Kremlin – historically a noted armaments factory and silver workshop but now an art gallery and folk museum. See both the 18th and 19th century cathedrals. Return to the hotel by fast train to Moscow. Dinner under own arrangements.

    Day 4 Moscow
    Moscow

    This morning there is a city tour by coach to include the main architectural sights such as Kutuzov Avenue, Stalin’s Seven Sisters, the Kremlin Embankment and the Cathedral of Jesus Christ the Saviour (inside) built in just five years to mark the millennium. This immense cathedral was built on the same site as the original church destroyed by Stalin in 1931 during the atheist years of the U.S.S.R. (1922-1991). The site would have then been the colossal ‘Palace of the Soviets’ but Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 so all construction ceased.

    Lunch at a local restaurant. Transfer to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Art renowned for its hang of French paintings, especially the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist schools mostly acquired after the Russian Revolution in 1917, when the Soviet government nationalised all private collections. See works by Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Cezanne, Gauguin, Matisse and Picasso. Also see works by Corot, Delacroix, Rubens, Rembrandt, Murillo and van Dyck. Enjoy seeing the remarkable Fayum ‘mummy’ portraits (1st-4th century AD). Time permitting see the Treasures of Priam – a cache of Troy gold and other artefacts dating from 2450BC discovered in Turkey by the German multi-millionaire archaeologist H. Schliemann in the late 1870s. With other war booty at this time, these incredible treasures were plundered by the Soviets in Berlin in 1945 and have been on permanent display in the Pushkin Museum of Fine Art only since 1993. Return to the hotel. Optional dinner at Pushkin Café.

    Day 5 Moscow / London
    Moscow / London

    Walk to Red Square, built in the 15th century, originally called ‘Beautiful Square’. See St. Basil’s Cathedral, built in the late 16th century and Lenin’s Mausoleum (exterior only). Along the walled cemetery the remains of leading Soviet politicians including Stalin, Brezhnev, and Andropov are buried. From the balcony of the Mausoleum Soviet leaders watched the great military parades. See GUM, the State Department Store during the Soviet era. Walk to the Kremlin itself, built as a fortress in the early 16th century – the historic heart of the capital. Tour the Kremlin territory (a UNESCO World Heritage site) which is both the seat of Government and a museum with prime ecclesiastical treasures, Russian State regalia, historic carriages, porcelain, jewellery, works by Fabergé; an unrivalled collection of 16th-17th century

    British silver and diplomatic gifts. Optional and time permitting, visit the spectacular Diamond Treasury displaying Imperial Russia’s precious stones and coronation jewels.

    Lunch at a local restaurant. Transfer to the airport for a return flight to London Heathrow. Suggested flight (not included in the cost of the tour) Rossiya Airlines SU 263 departing Moscow Sheremetyevo at 19.10 hrs arriving London Heathrow at 21.25 hrs.

    Day 5 Optional Extension: Moscow / St. Petersburg
    Optional Extension: Moscow / St. Petersburg

    After the Kremlin morning, transfer to the station for your train to St. Petersburg with lunch on board. Arrive St. Petersburg in the early evening and transfer to the Garden Street Hotel, a family-owned hotel, located in the historical centre but secluded from hustle and bustle of the city and with an interior which echoes the architecture of St. Petersburg. The hotel has two restaurants, the Garden Street Restaurant which offers traditional Russian and European cuisine and the panoramic Sky & Garden Restaurant which offers stunning views of the city. With your guide enjoy a canal cruise past palaces and mansions built at the height of the Russian Empire. Optional dinner at Aragavi Restaurant serving Georgian cuisine.

    Day 6 St. Petersburg
    St. Petersburg

    Meet your guide and drive to Oranienbaum, (formerly Lomonosov) to see the Chinese Palace, an unique masterpiece by Rinaldi in the then fashionable Chinoiserie style. Completed by 1768 as a private retreat for Catherine the Great, the palace contains exquisite rococo interiors (in particular the shimmering Glass Beaded Salon). After Catherine’s death, in 1796, the palace was owned by the Mecklenburg-Strelitz family who did not change much. The palace remains the only unaltered 18th-century palace in St. Petersburg having survived the ravages of World War II and the years of Communism. Walk through the meadow to view Catherine the Great’s Sliding Hill Pavilion built for the entertainment of the Empress’ guests. See the intimate restored palace of Peter III close by. Return drive past the Great Prince Menshikov Palace (exterior only).

    Lunch in Peterhof. See the dramatic fountains and cascades while walking through the Lower Park of Peterhof. Visit Monplaisir Palace – the charming fully furnished summer residence designed by Peter the Great and his preferred retreat – including the Royal Bath pavilion or Catherine Wing. Return by hydrofoil to the city across the Gulf of Finland. Dinner under own arrangements.

    Day 7 St. Petersburg
    St. Petersburg

    Drive to the city’s most impressive building – The Winter Palace. Built in the mid-18th century in baroque style by Rastrelli, the palace was once the winter home of the Imperial family but is now The State Hermitage – Russia’s premier museum housing one of the greatest art collections ever gathered in one place. Apart from the sumptuously furnished State Rooms, see the unrivalled European sculptures (mainly by A. Canova) and Old Master paintings, the majority amassed during the reign of Catherine the Great.

    Lunch at a local restaurant enjoying modern Russian cuisine. This afternoon drive to see the Hermitage Storages – this remarkable project was designed to display securely and scientifically the vast wealth of the Hermitage not on view in the main museum. Using state-of-the-art storage, the impressive display includes beautiful paintings, furniture, carriages and costumes of the tsars. Return to the hotel. Dinner under own arrangements.

    Day 8 St. Petersburg / London

    Transfer to the airport for a flight back to London. Suggested flights (not included in the cost of the tour) Rossiya Airlines SU11 departing St. Petersburg at 10.40 hrs arriving Moscow Sheremetyevo at 12.10 hrs connecting with SU2582 departing Moscow Sheremetyevo at 13.30 hrs arriving London Heathrow at 16.00 hrs.

    • We would strongly recommend Ultimate Travel as an ethical and imaginative travel company for bespoke and truly unique holidays.

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      AB, January 2021