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Mere words cannot describe the kaleidoscope of images and impressions of Russia. Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the dawning of Glasnost and the breaching of the Iron Curtain, to most people this country remains a mystery Yet Russia offers something for everyone with its culture rich in imperial and military history, legendary writers and musicians and architecture which reflects influences from both the west and the east.

Russia’s varied landscape ranges from the frozen tundra in the north, through endless taigi forests of birch and larch to the vast treeless steepes. Two masterpieces in this land of diversity are the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg.

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St. Petersburg - The Venice of the North

The classic beauty of St. Petersburg contrasts with its turbulent history, reflected in the changes of name. The capital of Russia between 1712 and 1918, the city was returned to its original name in 1991 after periods as Petragrad and Leningrad.

Founded on the Gulf of Finland by Peter the Great who wanted a European -style capital, his vision is as inspiring today and few cities in the world match its sheer beauty. Highlights include the Winter Palace, home to the Romanov family: the world-famous Hermitage art gallery, originally started by Catherine the Great, the Peter and Paul Fortress where many of the Tsars and their families are buried, and the exquisite summer palaces of Petrodvorets, Tsarskoye Selo and Pavlovsk.

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At the heart of Russia, Moscow is a thriving and dynamic city attracting vast amounts of foreign investment. It has become one of the most exciting cities in Europe with a young and cosmopolitan business community.

So often overshadowed culturally and architecturally by St.Petersburg, Moscow now celebrates its heritage. The more traditional places of interest all complement the intimate narrow streets of 18th century Moscow crowed with splendid art deco buildings.

The Kremlin, a medieval fortress is not only the seat of power but also houses the Armoury Museum which contains many precious exhibits including the celebrated Faberge Eggs, with Kremlin Cathedrals, the exotic St Basils Cathedral in bustling Red Square and delightful Metro stations all adding to the city’s architectural splendour.

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