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Travel Advice \ Travelers' Feedback \ Ms. Kelly Smeltzer & Ms. Samantha Crank

Ms. Kelly Smeltzer & Ms. Samantha Crank

Could have also been the guide and sadly we can't remember her name, but she was great, willing to comment on all sorts of things, politics, elections in the Ukraine, ethnic relations and now of course we know the real story of who killed rasputin:-), She also helped us get tickets to the Bolshoi were we saw the Opera. Actually with the holidays could have used another day as I didn't make it to the two art galleries I wanted to see. Also lots of confusion at the Kremlin with other activities and limited opening times, so we did not make it into the armory, but the gods were looking down on us, as the Faberage Eggs where actually on exhibit at the Hermitage for the month of January, so we so them all, in a lovely setting without any crowds!

As you may arleady know Putin gave everyone a 10 day holiday, it was a public holiday the entire time we were there, thus we saw almost no traffic in both Moscow and St. Petersburg, which gave us a bit more time on our excursions, which was nice.

Natalia, the guide in St. Petersburg was also excellent, and you were so right not sure how in the world you could do the Hermitage on your own or frankly even get out. I loved St. Petersburg and the mariinksy was stunning, although i prepurchaed on the web, we still had to stand in a long line to pick up the tickets and when we got the the front of the queue the women in the box office was going on a 20 minute break, "to air out the room", luckily Natalia was with us and convinced her just to run off my tickets!

FYI - Tatiana is now in tourism, no longer teaching english, so she can do the Visa registration for you if need, we did scare her when she thought we had not done any registration and asked about it a bit late and with the the big public holiday, we didn't end up registering in St. petersburg and it was fine. Homestay was a great choice as well, loved the contrast between the public area of that building and her very nice apartment.

One thing i really liked in Moscow and St. Petes is that we had the same driver and guide all three days, i feel that really added to the experience, and I think winter is a fantastic time to visit, athough we did get off light with the weather, it even rained in St. Petersburg, the last two days. only thing you really miss are the fountains, open air museum in Suzdal and the big crowds:-) Even with the holidays and school groups out, we really queued very little. Its a family time and thats what we saw lots of families out, which made it a unique experience.
So glad we went to Suzdal and Vladamir and the little town in suzdal with the slieghs and kids sledding, very quant and a nice change from the city. Both guides we got at the centre in Suzdal were wondeful as well. However the organisation on this part, wasn't up to the standards of the Moscow/St. Petersburg. Not sure if its the nature of getting out of the big city or time of year. The car ride was a bit of an adventure, we weren't sure it was going to actually make it, Irina was very nice a spoke a bit of English, however we had snow storms both ways and we never could actually see out of the front window. The car was really falling apart. Sam and i laugh that it was the only time we were scared in Russia:-). Bit more confusion when we arrived, and i do appreciate that language did pose some barriers, we got a note from Irina in English that if we wanted her to continue to drive it would $10 an hour, but then on arrival we were moved to Vladamirs car, so that seemed a non issue. I guess i had not really given much thought about transport whilst in Suzdal. But at the end of the day Vlad asked for 600 rubles for the "taxi", which mind you isn't a great deal of money, but may be easier just to include as part of trip in winter as prior discussion was not possilbe, i do reaise that in summer it would be great to walk around. We also didn't end of staying at the b&b on our itinerary, but we were taken somewhere else, which was neither good nor bad, although could have used a good scrubbing around the corners. It merely lacked character and hospitality, and in my mind bad value for the money. It in no way diminished our Suzdal experience, but probably the only disappointment on the trip and of course no way to really ask questions to gather what was going on and you just have to go with the flow, which we did.

So thats probably more information that you'd ever care to know about our trip, but here are my top ten (in no particular order) in caes you get another client as annoying as myself:-), and wonder what they might like.

-Hermitage (with the Faberage Eggs!!)
- Opera at the Bolshoi
- Ballet at the Mariinski
- Red Square, snowing, with the New Year lights (which we saw the next night, bit gruesome weather on NYE!)
- Georgian Meal in St. Petersburg
- Town of Suzdal in Winter
- Red Arrow from Moscow to St. Petersburg (plus 3 hour people watching at moscow train station)
- Russian Museum St. Petersburg 20th Century Avent Guard Art
- Russian (ok Georgian) Champagne - cheap and good
- the beautiful fur coats and hats, especialy in Kolomenskoe estate on New Years Day

Well thank you once again for all your help and planning, it really was a fabulous trip. Will someday still do the trans mongolian (even Sam is up for that now plus she loved Moscow and wants to go back!)

Kind Regards
Kelly Smeltzer

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