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Madison, WI, USA
Last updated 10/2/2012
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Country Recap: Russia

I wish we had more time in Russia. After so much trouble getting our visa, it’s too bad we couldn’t see more of the country. But we had family and friends to meet in Italy, so we couldn’t dawdle in this country. Still, we saw several influential cities and some really neat sights. And the train ride through Siberia wasn’t awful either. Here’s what we thought of the largest country in the world.

Top three experiences?


  1. Seeing the Red Square in Moscow.
  2. Seeing downtown St. Petersburg.
  3. Seeing the Winter Palace and the Hermitage.


  1. Riding the Trans-Mongolian Express. Seeing the scenery fly by was a surprisingly fun experience.
  2. The Winter Palace and Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Its size is unfathomable, and there was a huge collection of great paintings and stunningly ornate rooms.
  3. St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow is exactly what you think of when you think of Russia. The building is in immaculate condition, and we saw it near sunset when its colors are brightest.

Bottom three experiences?


  1. Finding our hostel in St. Petersburg. (They gave us really bad directions.)
  2. All the bureaucratic silliness with our visas and registering. We kept hearing conflicting reports about the visitor registration rules, so we ended up not doing it at all. Luckily, we didn’t have any problems leaving the country.
  3. Spending money so quickly. It’s going to be hard to stay under budget in Europe.


  1. Russians were unhelpful and somewhat unfriendly. They weren’t rude, just somewhat cold.
  2. Finding our hostels in St. Petersburg and Moscow were difficult. The directions weren’t written very well, and streets weren’t consistently signed.
  3. Getting a visa for Russia in the first place was a huge pain in the ass. There’s a lot of conflicting information on the Internet and the costs are very high for Americans. We weren’t sure we’d even be granted access to Russia when we entered Mongolia. (Fortunately we were, because we would’ve had to take an expensive flight out of the country.) I’d like to put a plug in for Everbrite’s Russian information site, since her information helped us get into the country.

Best meal?

Nikki: Believe it or not, I’d say it was a dinner we made! Just BBQ chicken and potatoes, but it was really good.

Brad: We grilled up chicken with BBQ marinade and boiled little potatoes in our hostel one evening. It was simple, but delicious.

Worst meal?

Nikki: Whatever I got at a food court in Moscow. It looked like a pizza, but it had a (bad) meat crust.

Brad: The instant noodle dinners on the train got old after a while.

Favorite person we met?

Nikki: David from Spain was quite entertaining.

Brad: I’m having a hard time remembering that night, but I think I enjoyed talking with David in St. Petersburg.

Worst disaster?

Nikki: We didn’t have any major disasters!

Brad: The vodka and 2 liters of 9% beer didn’t go over great. I wasn’t feeling very well that night. 

Favorite place we stayed?

Nikki: The Soul Kitchen Hostel in St. Petersburg was awesome! Clean, good facilities, convenient location, and great atmosphere. It was one of the best places we’ve stayed.

Brad: The Soul Kitchen in St. Petersburg was really nice.

Worst place we stayed?

Nikki: The hostel in Novgorod. Our room was clean and new, but the rest of the building was decrepit and there wasn’t a kitchen.

Brad: The “hostel” in Novgorod had decent rooms, but it lacked both soul and a kitchen.

Best thing we didn’t blog about?

Nikki: Spending a few hours in Gorky Park. It was a really nice park to relax in.

Brad: I enjoyed hanging out in Moscow’s Gorky Park waiting for our night train to depart. There was a fountain show to music, a good hot dog stand, and a crazy-good rollerblader.

Weirdest thing?

Nikki: The huge escalators and ancient train cars in the Metro subway system.

Brad: In Novgorod and St. Petersburg, sunset was around 10:45PM, and dusk ended around midnight. It’s very strange looking out the window after 11 at night, the sun’s only setting, and people are still walking through the streets like it’s only 7 at night.

Favorite Soviet arcade machine?

Nikki: The snake game where you have to eat the bunnies, but not the carrots.

Brad: I liked the “Soviet Boi” game. This site has information on how the game works, and you can even play it online!

Statistics for Russia

  • Days in the country: 10
  • Places we stayed: 3
  • Rainy days: 1
  • Blog posts: 3
  • UNESCO World Heritage sites visited: 4
  • Photos taken: 610
  • Photos uploaded to SmugMug: 167, 27% of all photos taken
  • Geocaches found: 3
  • Hours traveling overland: 112
  • Overnights on trains: 5
  • Distance covered on train: 6,649km (4,132mi)
  • UNO wins: Brad 44, Nikki 35
  • Best Tetris score: 50,698 (113 lines)*
  • Hours of daylight in St. Petersburg: 20
  • Time zone changes: 6

Statistics for the Trip

  • Countries visited: 15
  • Days on the road: 325
  • Places we stayed: 138
  • Rainy days: 57
  • UNESCO World Heritage sites visited: 33
  • Photos taken: 13,701
  • Photos uploaded to SmugMug: 3,313, 24% of all photos taken
  • Geocaches found: 27
  • Hours traveling overland: 763
  • Overnight buses, trains, ferries, and planes: 21
  • Time zone changes: 16

* Tetris & Dr. Mario on ZSNES

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