Hacking Russian Travel

We’ve just passed our 6 month travelversary! I can’t believe it. Ryan and I are already halfway through this crazy year.

In mid-October we completed the Trans-Mongolian Railway and arrived in Moscow. In one of our upcoming posts I will write about that epic train journey. But, for now, here’s a bit about our time in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Moscow. Moscow really kicked off the “European” part of our world tour. The mix of Soviet and baroque orthodox architecture across the city really stood out. The metro stations around the city are amazing. Each one was designed by a different Russian architect during the Soviet era.

We spent our first full day wandering around the city center, taking in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and beautiful views while walking along the Moskva River. Along the Moskva, we walked through the Muzeon Park of Arts next to the Tretyakov Modern Art Gallery. The park is now home to many Soviet-era statues featuring Stalin, Lenin and other figures.

We also went to GARAGE Modern Art Museum while in Gorky Park, like Moscow’s Central Park, to view an exhibit of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. After the park we made our way over to the Музей советских игровых автоматов or the Museum of Soviet Arcade Games where for only $7.50 you can step back in time and play some whacky 80s games.

86B1B07C-A9F4-47FC-9EC9-A5FCEA4E17AA.jpeg

Cathedral of the Annunciation inside the Moscow Kremlin

Of course we went to the Moscow Kremlin and Red Square. I found the collection of the Armory Chamber inside the Kremlin Museum to be particularly interesting.

Cosmonaut Monument

Tsiolkovsky Monument

One of the best parts of our time in Russia was visiting with my buddy Nick, an old friend from DC who now lives and works in Moscow. Thank you for hanging out with us and taking us to eat delicious Georgian food!

On our last day in Moscow, I spent the day recuperating from a nasty cold and Ryan headed off to the Cosmonaut Museum. In his words: “The best part was the dogs. The remains of the first two space dogs have been stuffed and mounted. I learned that the Soviet Union had a shuttle program.”

 

St. Petersburg. After spending literally weeks on trains across two continents, it felt incredibly luxurious to catch the high speed train between Moscow and St. Petersburg. Only a few hours later and we were at our destination.

8A5256C9-42F2-4B0B-972F-93AAC0AF2536

The Peter and Paul Cathedral inside the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg. The imperial tombs at the cathedral house the remains of almost all the Russian emperors and empresses from Peter the Great to Nicholas II.

A highlight of St. Petersburg for me was visiting the Fabregè Museum. For some reason, my mom and I are both pretty obsessed with the imperial Fabregè eggs. It probably started when I was a kid and we visited the Hillwood Estate in Washington, DC, which has two of the eggs in its collection. Between 1885 and 1917, the House of Fabregè manufactured 50 imperial Easter eggs for the royal Romanov tsars and family. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond also has the largest collection of eggs, five in total, outside of Russia and Ryan and I used to live across the street from the museum. After our time in Moscow and St. Petersburg I can happily say I’ve now seen 25 of the 43 eggs still around.

St. Petersburg is obviously known for The State Hermitage Museum, the largest art museum in the world. Ryan and I wandered around the Hermitage for over 5 hours and still didn’t get to see the whole thing. Its an incredible collection and enjoyable peek into the opulent imperial palace. I also found the information on how the museum protected its collection both during the revolution and WWII of great interest.

Hong Kong to Helsinki by train 🚂

Who has two thumbs and is abysmal at keeping the travel blog up to date? 🙋🏻 This girl! Sorry! Here begins my attempt to get caught up…

Last week, Ryan and I completed nearly two months of travel from Hong Kong to Helsinki all by train. Through China, Mongolia, Russia & Finland, traveling by train was an amazing way to see these countries and experience the epic Trans-Siberian railway.

By the numbers, we spent 12 night sleeping on overnight trains. Our longest single journey between Irkutsk, Siberia and Moscow was 75 hours long over 3 nights. From Hong Kong to Helsinki we covered at least 13,600 km or around 8500 miles. That’s just a rough estimate, so its likely more than that. That is the equivalent to driving cross-country in the US three times.

As I try to catch up the blog, I’m going to start backwards with our last 3 days in Finland.

HELSINKI, FINLAND This was an exciting stop because Ryan’s great-grandfather immigrated to the United States from Finland. A couple times someone even noticed his Finnish last name and commented approvingly. We only spent three nights here and while it cold and rainy we still had a great time.

The Finnish sauna at Löyly was probably the highlight. Sauna seems to be a way of life in Finland. Many Finns have a sauna in their homes & summer cottages. We chose Löyly because it had two unisex public sauna rooms and was right on the Baltic Sea. Normally a public sauna is divided in male and female rooms.

The building’s architecture was absolutely gorgeous. And the experience of running from the hot sauna into the freezing cold Baltic Sea was oddly addicting.

Despite rainy & cold weather, we also went sightseeing around Helsinki. We walked around the downtown landmarks like Senate Square, we visited the National Museum of Finland and the Sibelius Monument. Ryan made a pilgrimage to see the statue of Paavo Nurmi, the “Flying Finn,” at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium. And we ate delicious Korvapuusti, the Finnish version of a cinnamon bun with cardamom.

Next up, I’ll be posting about our time in Russia!