Tag Archives: russia

Viking River Cruises: Exclusive Offer

Last week, Willamette Intl Travel office hosted a lovely evening with Viking River Cruises. We were so pumped by our partnership that we’ve once again teamed up with Viking for an exclusive offer!

Call us and book a cabin on a Viking ship and receive $100 per cabin onboard credit!

This offer expires Thursday, April 30. So be sure to call your WIT agent for more details or to confirm your space on a sailing. 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

Calling to inquire about Russia? Last August our agent Nancy went on Viking’s Waterways of the Tsars (read about it here). Call her up for a chat about this unique and colorful country. Russia bookings can be cancelled for any reason up to date of departure, and any payments made will be reimbursed in the form of future credit with Viking.

Viking offers many excellent cruises all over the world on dozens of rivers in Europe and Asia. Cruise down the scenic Saone and Rhone rivers in France for a taste of wine country and lavender-strewn Provence. A few years ago, our agent Pam sailed with Viking on the Yangtze River. (Read more about her journey here.) Join their 13-day sailing and explore bustling Shanghai, historical Xian, and the beautiful Three Gorges. Looking for a unique destination? Viking even sails through Myanmar along the verdant Irrawaddy River. Visit this timeless country and its waterside villages, ornate pagodas, and iridescent Inle Lake.

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Where in the World is the WIT Agent? – Viking Cruises, Russia

WIT Agent Nancy Fowler is currently escorting a group of 70+ passengers on a Viking River Cruise through Russia! From August 24 to Sept 5, Viking’s ship Helgi sails from Moscow to St. Petersburg on the Volga-Baltic Waterway.

Nancy will return next week with some firsthand feedback, but in the meantime here are some of the highlights they will experience on their journey (excerpts from VRC’s At a Glance):

Creative Commons (c) Adam Jones

Creative Commons (c) Adam Jones

The World’s Largest Art Museum

Over the span of 250 years, the collection of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russi has grown to over 3 million items including works from noted artists such as da Vinci, Michelangelo, Matisse, Rubens, Cezanne, van Gogh and Picasso. These treasures are housed along the embankment of the Neva River, in the heart of St. Petersburg. The highlight in this architectural ensemble is the Winter Palace, former residence of Russian Tsars including Catherine the Great.

Creative Commons (c) ninara

Kizhi, Creative Commons (c) ninara

An Architectural Feat

On the island village of Kizhi, walk through the Open Air Museum of Architecture. Kizhi contains ancient wooden houses, windmills and churches, the most stunning of which is the three-tiered Preobranzhenskaya (Transfiguration) Church. This fairytale structure was built in 1714 without the use of a single nail.

Creative Commons (c) flowcomm

Kremlin, Creative Commons (c) flowcomm

The Heart of Moscow

In Russian, the word kremlin refers to any major fortified complex. But in Moscow there is one very special Kremlin, adjacent to the Red Square. Inside its crenellated red brick walls are four palaces and an array of churches and monasteries—as well as one enormous bell. The Kremlin also serves as the official residence of Russia’s President.

Creative Commons (c) Dennis Jarvis

Amber Room, Creative Commons (c) Dennis Jarvis

A Legend Restored

Constructed of amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors, the Amber Room was given to Peter the Great by a Prussian King in 1716. Installed at Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin, it was later exnteded to cover nearly 600 square feet with over six tons of amber. During WWII, German soldiers disassembled the room and it was never seen again. In 2003, a painstaking reconstruction was completed, enabling visitors to once again enjoy its brilliance.

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Pirozhki, Creative Commons (c) malan10

Russian Specialties

A large country, Russia has quite a varied cuisine—but some things everyone loves. A staple of the Russian diet is pirozhki, small pastries stuffed with fish, meat, eggs, potatoes, cabbage or mushrooms and either baked or quick-fried. Another traditional dish is blini, thin crepe-like pancakes served with butter, sour cream, fruit preserves and/or caviar. Vikings’ guests will taste these local delicacies on board.

Willamette Intl Travel has years of expertise with river cruises in Europe and Asia. Our agents are well versed with Viking and many other cruise lines. Please call us for more information.

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Where in the World is the WIT Agent? – Viking Cruises, Russia

WIT Agent Nancy Fowler is currently escorting a group of 70+ passengers on a Viking River Cruise through Russia! From August 24 to Sept 5, Viking’s ship Helgi sails from Moscow to St. Petersburg on the Volga-Baltic Waterway.

Now we know what you’re wondering—so where is the ship sailing? Read on for more details:

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Day 1-4: Moscow

Moscow is Russia’s bustling capital on August 24. The city is famous for its iconic architecture—from the tsarist palaces of the Kremlin to the onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral. The heart of Moscow is the Red Square, where you can also find Lenin’s Mausoleum and the State History Museum. The city combines the best of Eastern frenetic energy and Western cosmopolitan air, and you see this odd dichotomy everywhere in the city. From the Old Arbat Street of kitschy souvenirs to the grandiose Bolshoi Theatre.

Day 5: Uglich

Uglich was founded in 937 as a border fortress. The Romanov dynasty originally heralded from this town, and it is one of the few towns in western Russia that still maintains a remarkable number of old architecture. Among these pre-Soviet jewels are the former Kremlin, several monasteries, the palace (1480) and the Church of St. Dmitry on the Blood (1690). Constructed by Peter the Great, the church commemorates the mysterious death of Dmitry, son of Ivan the Terrible.

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Day 6: Yaroslavl

Yaroslavl is famous for its 17th century churches and covered food market. The town’s center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located at the river confluence. The town was renovated under the order of Empress Catherine the Great during her urban reforms of the 17th century.

Day 7: Kuzino

The main site in Kuzino is the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery. The largest monastery in Northern Russia, it was founded in 1397 on the bakes of Lake Siverskoye by St. Cyril of Beloozero. In the 16th century, the monastery was the second richest landowner. Ivan the Terrible had his own cell and even planned to take monastic vows there. The monastery comprises two priories with eleven church, most of them dating to the 16th century.

Day 8: Kizhi

Kizhi is an island near the center of Lake Onega, and stretches about 6km north to south. Its famous attraction is the Kizhi Pogost, a historical open-air museum and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The museum contains over 80 historical wooden buildings that were built chiefly during the 18th century.

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Day 9: Mandrogy

Mandrogy is a museum village and the last stop before St. Petersburg. The original town was ruined during World War One, but in 1996 a local entrepreneur, Sergei Gutzeit, reconstructed it as an open air museum. Here you can learn about Russian culture and traditions firsthand—from the vodka museum to handmade craft shops. You can opt in and visit a banya, a traditional Russian bath house, or participate in the art of Matryoshka doll making.

Day 10-13: St. Petersburg

Peter the Great made St. Petersburg his centerpiece to transform Russia into a major and modern European power, his “window in the West.” The architecture reflects the best of Western European elegance and sophistication. No other city is the emblem of the Russian spirit. St. Petersburg’s heritage is deep and profound: throughout its history it has been the capital of the tsarist empire, the cradle of the Communist Revolution, and the focal point of the three-year Siege of Leningrad during World War II.
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Willamette Intl Travel has years of expertise with river cruises in Europe and Asia. Our agents are well versed with Viking and many other cruise lines. Please call us for more information.

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Where in the World is the WIT Agent? – Viking Cruises, Russia

Now it’s time for your favorite game: “Where in the World is the WIT Agent?”

WIT Agent Nancy Fowler is currently escorting a group of 70+ passengers on a Viking River Cruise through Russia! From August 24 to Sept 5, Viking’s ship Helgi sails from Moscow to St. Petersburg on the Volga-Baltic Waterway. This is a special partial charter that Willamette Intl Travel has organized with the Portland-based foundation, the Royal Rosarians.

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Itinerary: 13 Days Waterways of the Tsars, 24 August to 5 September

Viking’s Russia itinerary includes ample time in both the capital of Moscow and the gleaming jewel of St. Petersburg. Passengers will discover luxurious palaces, medieval monasteries and beautiful cathedrals.

Day 1-4: Moscow
Day 5: Uglich
Day 6: Yaroslavl
Day 7: Kuzino
Day 8: Kizhi
Day 9: Mandrogy
Day 10-13: St. Petersburg

Includes: 13-day cruise with river-view stateroom, 11 guided tours with audio headset, all meals (12 breakfasts, 11 lunches, 12 dinners), Welcome Cocktail Reception & Dinner, Captain’s Farewell Dinner, 4 UNESCO Heritage Sites, and a Culture Curriculum that includes music, dance, lectures and workshops.

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Ship: Viking Helgi

The Viking Helgi was recently refurbished in 2013. It offers two 400-square-foot suites and 104 spacious staterooms, accommodating up to 210 guests. All upper and middle deck staterooms have private verandas, and all main deck staterooms have picture windows. The Viking fleet is world-renowned for its European high standards of comfort and elegance, complete with hotel-style beds and amenities like 26-inch flat-panel TVs and in-rooms refrigerators.

Willamette Intl Travel has years of expertise with river cruises in Europe and Asia. Our agents are well versed with Viking and many other cruise lines. Please call us for more information.

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Facts About Russia You Never Knew

  • Russia is one million square miles larger than Pluto.
  • Verkoyansk, Russia has a population of 1,311 people and an average temperature of -50 degrees Fahrenheit. Livestock and horses in the town were attacked by a pack of 400 wolves in 2011. The sun currently rises at 2 p.m. and sets at 3:30 pm.
  • In exchange for Pepsi products, Russia gave Pepsi 17 submarines, a cruiser, a frigate, and a destroyer in 1990. At the time, it was the seventh largest submarine fleet in the world.
  • Lake Baikal in Siberia is the deepest lake in the world. It would take all the rivers of the world – Volga, Don, Dnepr and Yenisei, Ural and Ob, Ganges and Orinoko, Amazon and Thames, Seine and Oder – nearly one year to fill lake Baikal’s basin.
  • The legendary Trans-Siberian route goes through 8 time zones, traveling over 9,000 km from Moscow to Beijing.
  • The famous State Hermitage Museum offers free admission on the first Thursday of every month. Arrive early, as the lines can get extremely long. (Photo permits and tours of the Treasury Gallery are extra.)
  • Though Russia spans 11 time zones on a map, it only adheres to nine. On March 28, 2010, at 2 a.m., while much of Russia turned their clocks forward, Udmurt Republic, Samara Oblast, Kamchatka, and Chukotka regions neglected daylight savings at the government’s behest.
  • This year, Crimea skipped ahead two hours at 2 a.m. on March 30, syncing up with Moscow.
  • Kizhi Island in Russia’s Lake Onega is home to two extraordinary churches constructed in the 18th century. Built side-by-side, the 22-dome Church of the Transfiguration and the 9-dome Intercession Church were constructed entirely with interlocking wood, with no metal involved, not even a single nail. For more, click here. http://www.slate.com/blogs/atlas_obscura/2014/04/28/the_intricate_wooden_churches_of_kizhi_island.html

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Reading List: Russia!

Read before you go! Russia has always been a mysterious draw for Americans, enjoying a steady popularity among travelers, artists and journalists alike. Check out some of our favorite literature from the area:

Peter Waldron. Russia of the Tsars. Waldron recounts the exploits of Peter the Great, the Tsars and the splendor of their capital city, St. Petersburg, in this lively, well-illustrated and compact overview of the largest and most diverse empire of its day.

Masha Gessen. The Man Without a Face, The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. A Russian-American journalist living in Moscow, Masha wp2Gessen demolishes the many myths and legends surrounding Vladimir Putin and his transformation from unexceptional KGB bureaucrat to the most powerful man in Russia. No fan of the man, who she calls a “hoodlum turned iron-handed ruler,” Gessen is brave — and optimistic that his time will soon come.

Robert Chandler. Russian Short Stories. This fine collection of tales captures the sweep and soul of Russian literature, including works by Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Chekhov and Tolstoy along with lesser-known greats.

 

wp5David Remnick. Lenin’s Tomb. A gripping eyewitness tale of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Remnick, the Washington Post reporter on the scene, combines fine historical scholarship with great storytelling.

Clifford Gaddy. Mr. Putin, Operative in the Kremlin. Drawing on a range of sources, including their own personal encounters, two fellows at the Brookings Institution describe six of Putin’s most essential idetities: the Statist, the History Man, the Survivalist, the Outsider, the Free Marketeer, and the Case Officer.

Orlando Figes. Natasha’s Dance, A Cultural History of Russia. In this lively cultural history, Figes looks at both the great works by Russian masters and longstanding folk traditions. The title is drawn from a scene of Tolstoy’s War and Peace in which a European-educated countess performs a peasant dance.

Michael Farquhar. Secret Lives of the Tsars, Three Centuries of Autocracy, Debauchery, Betrayal, Murder, and Madness from Romanov Russia. A scandalous tell-all about Russia’s ruling class. Farquhar skips over the dryer parts of history to deliver the jaw-dropping morsels about Catherine the Great’s affinity for young lovers and Peter the Great’s proclivity for beheading his subjects.

W. Bruce Lincoln. Sunlight at Midnight: St. Petersburg and the Rise of Modern Russia. A wonderfully written, informative portrait of St. Petersburg, focusing on the city’s development in the 18th and 19th centuries as Russia’s “window on the West.” Highly recommended for travelers with an interest in the character and significance of the city and its monuments.

Patricia Herlihy. Vodka, A Global History. A professor of history at Brown, Herlihy tracks wp3our fascination with this most versatile of spirits from its mysterious 14th-century Slavic origins to today’s global dominance in this brief yet thoroughly entertaining, erudite and illustrated history. A volume in the lively Edible History Series.

George Hamilton/Judith Gordon. The Art and Architecture of Russia. An elegantly written introduction to the art and architecture of Russia. Published in 1954, it’s a good handbook for the traveler that goes beyond Moscow and St. Petersburg. Includes 314 black-and-white illustrations.

Olegs Yakovlevichs Neverov. The Hermitage Collections. This sumptous visual survey celebrates the museum, its history and collections.

Robert Massie. Peter the Great, His Life and World. In this Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, Massie portrays the giant of history who transformed Russia from backwater tsardom into a major empire.

Robert Massie. Catherine the Great. Eager readers of Massie’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Peter the Great will not be disappointed by this latest, an old-fashioned tale of politics, power and 18th-century Europe, drawing effectively from the ambitious Catherine’s own memoirs.

wp1Vladimir Nabokov. Speak, Memory. Nabokov’s richly imagined memoir wonderfully evokes cultural life among the well-to-do in turn-of-the-century St. Petersburg. Nabokov called his childhood home, now a museum off St Isaac’s Square, “the only house in the world.”

Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin. The Captain’s Daughter and Other Stories. This collection of short stories from the Russian poet and master storyteller opens with his famous novella, The Captain’s Daughter, set against the events of the Pugachov uprising during the reign of Catherine the Great, and contains eight additional tales, all rendered in Pushkin’s simple, elegant prose and beautifully evocative of the caprices of Tsarist Russia.

Debra Dean. The Madonnas of Leningrad. Dean effortlessly interweaves two epochs of a woman’s life — Marina’s wartime experiences as a young guide at the Hermitage during the Siege of Leningrad and her life as an 82-year-old Seattle resident struggling with Alzheimer’s. A remarkable debut novel.

Boris Akunin/Andrew Bromfield. The Winter Queen. Akunin sets a suspected murder among the glitterati of late 19th-century Moscow in this first book in the series of clever detective novels starring the rascal Erast Fandorin, wildly popular in Russia.

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Vendor of the Month: MIR Trains

The MIR Corporation hosts private train travel throughout Eastern Europe, Central Asia and China. These customizable journeys are scheduled by Seattle-based experts who work closely the Trans-Siberian Express Co. National Geographic Adventure has rated MIR twice as one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth,” and we’re inclined to agree.

Since the fall of the Soviets, this entire region has been opening up, revealing vast histories and complexities. Train is an ideal way to travel through these lands, as many roads and infrastructure have yet to be improved. The train network has existed in this area since the Russians first set down rails in the late 19th century as part of the Great Game political struggle with Britain over India.

The tours will take you on paths as diverse as the Caucasus, Balkans, Silk Route, and the Trans-Siberian Railway. Ride on one of their packaged tours or build one of your own. Their customizable nature allows them to tackle any challenge; within memory they have coordinated with overland 4X4 trips, RTW travelers, and those hoping to catch the solar eclipse in Siberia.

MIR CorporationWhile onboard, you’ll sleep in well-equipped cars, all-inclusive drinks and meals. Stops will be to major highlights on the route, terrific events like the Mongolian horse races or historic monuments like the Kremlin. Wander the Ring of Fire on the wild Kamchatka Peninsula or relish in the rich Mediterranean-like cuisine and wine of Tbilisi.

Your hosts will be English speaking guides who serve as cultural ambassadors. WIT and Mir will also coordinate if you would like to spend extra days before, between, or after you travel. Willamette will also assist you in preparing for all your visas, flight routes, and border requirements before your trip—in order to make sure your trip is enjoyable, authentic and stress-free.

MIR Corporation

For a terrific firsthand report on one client’s tour to on the Trans-Siberian express, check out the link: WIT Client Chet Benson’s train trip from Mongolia to Moscow. He compares Siberia’s green and lush landscape to Oregon: it was “like traveling through an endless series of Willamette Valleys.”

NEW 2012 Space Program: In their recent May 2012 issue, National Geographic Traveler selected Mir’s “Inside the Russian Space Program” tour as a 2012 Tour of a Lifetime. The tour, only available in September, permits guests to witness the manned launch of the Soyuz spacecraft on its way to relieve the crew of the International Space Station. Led by Dr. Steven Lee of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, it will provide exclusive access and insight into Russia’s Space Program. For a fee, you can even attend actual cosmonaut training, ride the world’s largest centrifuge, fly in zero gravity, or climb into a Russian Orlan space suit.

Willamette International Travel is proud work with Mir! Call us for info or to book a tour, at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

Photos courtesy of the MIR Corp

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