Classical Russia

An art-filled, cultural small-group tour of

Moscow & St. Petersburg

Dates 2015

May 22-30 * Jun 19-27 * Jul 10-18
Aug 7-15 * Sep 18-26 * Oct 9-17

Price per Person in Twin
May & Jun:  $3,250
Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct: $3,285

Single Room Supplement
May & Jun: $1,075
Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct: $840

Visas are additional.
The current Consulate fees are $220 & $330.

Your Tour Features

3 nights at the Hotel National, Moscow
*  5 nights at Hotel Ambassador (superior rooms), St. Petersburg
* 8 Buffet breakfasts
* 6 lunches with beverages at fine restaurants
* 6 Dinners with beverages at local restaurants or hotel
* 1 Dinner on the train
* Individual transfers on arrival and departure
* All visits with entrances
* Expert English-speaking guides in Moscow, in St. Petersburg and between cities
* Touring by modern air-conditioned minibus or mini-coach
* Business class seating on the high-speed train – Sapsan
* Participation limited to 10

Your Itinerary in Brief

Day 1, Fri:  Arrival Moscow.

Transfer to Hotel Meridien Royale Hotel National. Check into rooms and enjoy dinner at hotel.

Day 2, Sat: Tretyakov Picture Gallery * Novodevichy Convent * Gorky House *The Moscow Circus (B, L, D)

After breakfast we enjoy viewing the fabulous painting collections at the Tretyakov Picture Gallery, housed within a building that is something out of a fairy-tale – red brick and lots of gingerbread features. We will discover Russian Masters from the 17th through early 20th centuries, by artists whose paintings will give us an insight into Russian life. Our sightseeing continues at Novodevichy Convent, a white-washed brick kremlin, set in lovely grounds, with a lake. The Monastery was founded in 1524 to mark the recapture of Smolensk by Russian forces and is considered one of the most beautiful building complexes in Moscow. In its Cathedral are the tombs of Peter the Great’s sisters, including Sofia who was accused of plotting against him in the revolt of 1698 and confined to the convent for the remainder of her days.  Its cemetery is like a “Père Lachaise” of Russia: Some of the well-known Russian dignitaries whose graves are found here include: Khrushchev, Gogol, Chekhov, Stanislavsky, Mayakovsky, Chaliapin, Scriabin, Eisenstein, and most recently Yeltsin. We might glimpse the little lake where ducks congregate, which explains the reason a statue of ducklings was given to Russia by the U.S.A. during the administration of George H.W. Bush. After lunch we tour the exquisite Art Nouveau interior of the Gorky House Museum, within what was originally the Ryabushinsky house, a former mansion designed by Shekhtel, a renowned architect of the times. Its interior is considered one of the finest in Russia. Tonight, we enjoy a thrilling performance at the Moscow Circus – always fun! (B, L, D)

Day 3, Sun:  The City & Synagogue * Pushkin Museum of Fine Art * New Tretyakov

We set off for a city sightseeing drive.  We drive along Tverskaya Street, passing Pushkin Square, named for the illustrious poet Pushkin whose statue dominates the square.  We drive through the narrow streets of Old Moscow and cross over the Moskva River and drive through some of the chic residential areas and up to Sparrow Hills for a wonderful panoramic view of the city. We view the imposing buildings of Moscow University, elegant old churches  and new buildings almost everywhere.  Our city tour will also include an inside visit at the impressive and historic Choral Synagogue, Moscow’s largest.  After lunch we drive to the New Tretyakov Gallery, in the Park of Culture, often referred to as Krymsky Val – the street where one enters, and right across from Gorky Park, a favorite of Muscovites year round.   We will view the permanent unique collections of 20th century Russian art – Russian Avant-Garde from 1910 to 1920’s (with some early works by Kusma Petrov-Vodkin, Kasemir MalevichVasily Kandinsky and Marc Chagall); Socialist Realism of the totalitarian state of the 1930’s to 1950’s and Avant Garde from 1960 to 1990. This striking collection is housed within a huge modern concrete building.  This evening, dinner is at a popular local restaurant.  (B, L, D)

Mon, Day 4: Kremlin Territory & its Treasures * GUM & More * On to St. Petersburg by High-Speed Day Train.

This morning we enjoy a walking tour within the Kremlin Territory. We admire the magnificent red brick walls of the Kremlin Territory, built in the 16th century by Italian masons. We view extraordinary monuments such as the Bell Tower of Ivan the Great, the Czar Cannon and the Czar’s Bell and learn about their fascinating histories.  We visit elegant Cathedrals with their gleaming golden domes, and marvel at the dazzling icons and chandeliers within.  Our tour includes a special scheduled visit of the Armory Museum, considered the richest museum in all Russia, with dazzling royal treasures – thrones, jeweled crowns, and even some of the Faberge eggs. We tour the Diamond fund where we view diamonds of all sizes and colors – from large to huge, and other precious stones displayed along with the ‘baubles’ that have been created from gems of all types and fashioned into jewelry and other trinkets that amused the Czars and nobility. We tour the beautiful interior of GUM, now filled with high fashion shops, notable for its architecture  and enormous glass-domed ceiling, several floors of arcades and a sparkling fountain in  the center. We enjoy a short walking tour along the Arbat, a pedestrian street which dates back to 1493 and is rich in history. We then go underground to view a few of the more amazing Metro stations, each a work of art with mosaics, paintings, chandeliers and spotless station platforms. We are transferred to the train station for the afternoon high-speed train, Sapsan or Falcon to St. Petersburg.  We enjoy seating in the business section with dinner served on board.  On arrival in St. Petersburg, we are greeted by our local guide and transferred to Hotel Ambassador, in the historic downtown.  (B, L, D)

Day 5, Tue: The City, St. Isaac’s Cathedral *  Peter & Paul Fortress & Cathedral 

After breakfast, we enjoy a city sightseeing drive.  The drive takes us along Nevsky Prospekt,the city’s longest thoroughfare, lined with historic buildings such as Kazan Cathedral, the Lutheran Church of Peter & Paul, and the former Stroganov Palace, designed by RastrelliDom Knigi (House of Books), in what was once the Singer Sewing Machine Building, crossing over the Bank Bridge. We view the Admiralty, with its soaring spire, and at St. Isaac’s Square, we stop to view the monumental statue of Czar Nicholas I and to visit grandiose St. Isaac’s Cathedral, one of Europe’s largest and most lavish. The Cathedral, built between 1818 and 1849, was named for St. Isaac of Dalmatia, whose Saint’s Day coincided with the birthday of Peter the Great.  The opulent interior is “crowned” by a soaring painted domed ceiling by Bruyllov with a skylight.  At Decembrists’s Square we stop to admire the monumental equestrian statue of Peter the Great, known as the ‘Bronze Horseman’. We drive along the Neva and cross over to Vasilievsky Island to view the huge Rostral Columns, once lighthouses on the Neva, and we will view the immense façade of the Winter Palace, which houses the collections of the Hermitage Museum.  We tour the interior of the Great Synagogue built in the Moorish style and restored through the generosity of the Safra family.

After lunch, we walk in the cobbled streets of the Fortress of Peter and Paul, built as a look-out for ships on the Neva, but converted into a prison for revolutionaries.  We tour some of the sparse rooms where prisoners were once held. We learn its importance in Russian history before we explore the interior of its elegant Dutch-style Cathedral where the magnificent tombs of Russian rulers, from Peter the Great to Czar Alexander II, are entombed in splendor.  (B, L, D)

Day 6, Wed: Catherine Palace at Pushkin & Pavlovsk * A Cultural Evening

This morning we drive out to the suburbs to the town of Pushkin, once known as Tsarskoye Selo or “Czar’s Village” to explore Catherine Palace, begun in 1718 by Braunstein, for Peter’s wife, Catherine I, but later enlarged and embellished by Rastrelli.  We discover rooms where color themes are carried out in the upholstery, marbles and wall papers: the White VestibuleGreen Dining RoomBlue Drawing Room and the fabled Amber Room, as well as the Malachite Room, both now fully restored. Our guide will explain the fascinating history of this room, and we will admire the results of decades of restoration work by talented Palekh artists. The Ballroom was designed after the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, as Peter the Great was obsessed by the magnificent French palaces he had seen in his journeys.  After lunch  at Podvorje Restaurant, we explore Pavlovsk, the smallest of the summer palaces, built for the Czar Paul by the Scot Cameron.  This palace is more ‘somber’ in style, in a buff color with white trim, and no gold domes.  What makes this palace special is the fact that it was entirely destroyed during WW II, and subsequently reconstructed using paintings and drawings of the times. Within you will see the pictures of its destruction.  You visit its many beautiful rooms, with original period pieces used by the Czars, exquisite porcelains, and elegant chandeliers. This was a palace that was lived in, and used a lot by Paul’s widow, and subsequent Czars.   This evening, we enjoy a cultural performance at one of the fine theaters.  (B, L)

Day 7, Thu:  A Day at the Hermitage Museum & Its Treasuries

We  drive to immense Palace Square, formed by the façade of the Winter Palace and the curved façade of the former General Staff Headquarters, and we view the huge Alexander Column, a monolithic piece of red Finnish marble, weighing over 700 tons!  We spend a full day within one of the world’s greatest museums, filled with treasures of all kinds and all periods.  We tour the most popular and vast collections of Dutch Masters, many amassed by Catherine the Great, and an astounding collection of French Impressionists, many of which were loaned to the Hermitage by the Pushkin Museum of Fine Art.  We walk through some of the fabulous rooms of this former royal residence such as Malachite Hall, once the living room for the Czarina, with elaborate parquet floors, malachite columns, tables and fireplaces, and dazzling chandeliers.  We enjoy lunch on our own at the Hermitage Cafeteria before our scheduled entry to view the Gold Treasury, a collection of prehistoric Scythian gold pieces of incredible detail and beauty, and of the Diamond Treasury, which includes the diamond-studded miniatures of the crown, orb and scepter created in the workshops of Faberge as well as other gold objects – all of which are very interesting.   We will view other collections and rooms during our full day.  And you will have time to explore a little on your own before we leave this temple of culture. (B, D)

Day 8 Fri: Petrodvorets: The Grand Palace & Monplaisir * Yusupov Palace 

We travel into the nearby suburbs (by car or by hydrofoil) to Petrodvorets, also called Peterhof, the largest of the summer estates of the former Czars.  We explore the Grand Palace, designed by Braunstein and LeBlond in the early 18th century, and later enlarged and embellished by Rastrelli, which explains the baroque touches. We pass through rooms of great beauty such as the Red Silk Drawing Room, the Green Silk Drawing Room, the Music Room, the Chinese Room, and Chesme Hall.  We tour Monplaisir, the smallest of the palaces on this estate, and Peter’s favorite palace, with large windows looking out on the Neva, where Peter could watch the passing ships, which were his passion.  We admire the marble checkerboard floors, carved ceilings and Dutch and Flemish paintings adorning the walls, in what was the first art gallery in Russia.  After lunch, we return to the city to explore Yusupov Palace, a pale neo-Classical building on the banks of the Moika canal, built for one of St. Petersburg’s richest noble families, the Yusupovs, said to have been richer than the Czars.  The palace became notorious as the site of the assassination in 1916 of Grigory Rasputin who held great influence over the Czarina.  We visit the ground-floor rooms where wax figures depict how the assassination took place, and we tour all the special rooms that are available.  This evening we enjoy our Farewell Dinner at a fine local restaurant. (B, L, D)

Day 9, Sat:  Departure

After breakfast, individual guided transfers are provided to the airport depending on flight schedules. Da svidanya!  (B)