City of the Tsars

St Petersburg is a city of dreams. Created by Peter the Great in 1703 as the new capital of Russia (which it remained until the October Revolution in 1917) it was his vision of a truly great European Capital, a “Window on Europe .” It was a dream that he realized, literally raising the city out of a swamp and pouring the manpower of an entire nation into its creation. Great architects and artists were called in from around the world to participate in the building of this, perhaps the most artistically unified city in the world. Today, St Petersburg stands as a monument to itself, the Capital of the Russian North, a Baltic Port , a city which has crammed more history into its 300 years than most cities could have managed in a millennium.

The city’s name has been changed three times in its history, reflecting its position at the very center of Russian historical and cultural life. Originally named St Petersburg , it was changed to Petrograd during World War I (to sound less German) and changed again to Leningrad to commemorate the iconic Bolshevik leader. Following the fall of communism in 1989, the name was changed back to St Petersburg once again. To be in St Petersburg is to live and breathe history. This was the city where the October Revolution began in 1917, where Raskolnikov, the hero of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment contemplated his crimes. It was here that Shostakovich composed his symphony as the Nazi army pushed closer and closer.

For all its turbulent past, today St Petersburg is a top tourist destination. Most visitors will find themselves a little overawed at the scale of grandeur, the sheer wealth of architectural beauty on display. Built on three islands on the beautiful River Neva, St Petersburg boasts some of the most breathtaking architecture in the world. With its spectacular vistas and mixture of baroque and classical styles, it evokes its European heritage, its network of canals and bridges calling to mind that other jewel of European architecture, Venice . Specific highlights include the The Peter and Paul Fortress, the founding structure of the city. Constructed as a bulwark of defense against the Swedish fleet, the building also housed St. Petersburg ’s first prison and Cathedral, which now houses the tomb of the Romanovs, the most powerful Russian dynasty of the 18 th and 19 th Centuries. Another instantly recognizable feature of the city are the multicoloured onion domes of the Church on the Spilled Blood. This world-famous building marks the spot where the Tsar Alexander II was assassinated. A great way to see the city, during the summer months, is by guided tour on the canals. Boats leave from different locations several times a day. Here you’ll get a perspective on the city that you’ll never forget!

It would be possible to spend a lifetime exploring the city’s cultural heritage. Among the city’s countless museums and galleries is the State Hermitage Art Museum , located in the resplendent Winter Palace overlooking the Neva . It is home to the greatest masterpieces in the Russian collection, including works by masters like Picasso, Matisse, Rembrandt and Monet as well as work by Russian artists such as Kandinsky. So huge is this collection, it is estimated that a visitor would need nine years to view every item. If art is where your interest lies, there are even more works by Russian masters at the Russian Museum , not far from the Hermitage. The collection charts the whole history of Russian art from early Icons from the dawn of the Russian state to pre-revolutionary avant garde masterpieces.

Although the city is firmly rooted in history, the visitor to St Petersburg can hardly fail to notice the changes that have taken place in recent years. Since the fall of communism, St Peterburg has been quick to establish itself as a fashionable, tourist-friendly city. Nevsky Prospect, the city’s main street, and one of the most famous shopping thoroughfares in the world, is where you can buy anything from Russian specialties such as caviar and vodka, to high-tech gadgetry and the latest haute couture in one of the city’s many fashionable boutiques and department stores.

St Petersburg night-life is an exciting mix of the traditional and the new. The beautiful and world-famous Marinsky Theater is where you can see some of the world’s finest ballet and opera productions, while the city’s numerous clubs and discos play host to a range of live music acts and djs, playing everything from Jazz and rock to techno and Britpop.

Staying in St Petersburg has never been more comfortable. The city boasts a huge range of accommodation, from world-class hotels to budget accommodation, to suit any traveler. A great time to visit the city is from mid-June to mid-July, the period of the “White Nights.” During this period, night never falls, and a special festival begins, with the whole city partying non-stop for weeks.

Whether you are interested in art or fashion, shopping or hip youth culture, you’ll find it all here, in abundance. After just a few hours in this remarkable city, you’ll undoubtedly agree that St Petersburg is truly a city of dreams.



A visit to Russia , the largest country in the world, is not complete without a visit to its capital, Moscow . Brash, cosmopolitan and vast in scale, the city has changed a lot since it was the most precious jewel in the Soviet crown. But despite having the appearance of a western metropolis, here is also a city that is distinctly Russian in both appearance and outlook, a city that, like the famous Matroshka dolls, hides its secrets within secrets, offering virtually everything to the traveler, but keeping its most fascinating discoveries hidden from view.

The political heart of the city is the vast, imposing Kremlin, the seat of Russian power. Here are the presidential offices from where he controls the destiny of a nation behind the vast red walls and fortified turrets. In front of the Kremlin lies the legendary Red Square . To visit Red Square , surely the most famous patch of ground in the world, for the first time, is to experience a wave of nostalgia and wonder, which the visitor never forgets. This was the beating heart of the communist empire, the epicenter of the cold war, and all but forbidden territory for westerners for seventy years, and is now a must-see destination for all world travelers.

Red Square is also the location of Lenin’s Tomb, where the body of the iconic Bolshevik leader has been perfectly preserved for eighty years, and now open to visitors,. At the end of the square sits yet another Russian landmark, St Basil’s Cathedral, its onion domes sparkling in the summer sun, or glittering with frost in the winter, creating a magical effect, reminding you that Russia is not just the ex-land of the communists, but the land of the fairy tale as well. But for those interested in Moscow ’s communist past, relics aren’t difficult to find. The imposing building near Red Square that makes tourists halt nearby with a mixture of fascination and dread was once a KGB headquarters and the location of the notorious Lubyanka prison.

History and culture are things that Russia has in more abundance than almost any other country in the world, and Moscow has more of them than any other city in Russia . The city is overflowing with galleries and museums. The Tretyakov Gallery houses the largest collection of Russian art in the world, with masterpieces dating from the beginnings of the Russian state through the pre-revolutionary avant garde and socialist realist periods. The equally impressive Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts houses the city’s collection of art from around the world. With works from Ancient Egypt through to 20 th Century masterpieces by the likes of Picasso, the collection is so vast that only a fraction can be put on display to the visitor. You’ll find other, more specialized museums throughout Moscow , many more than could possibly be visited during one trip to the city!

From being the heart of the Soviet Empire, Moscow has embraced the capitalist revolution with enthusiasm. Today, it’s a buzzing metropolis, with vast department stores, and chic boutiques, with literally everything on sale that you could expect in western high street, and much more besides. Visit the GUM department store, built to house 1000 shops in the eighteenth century and still one of the largest department stores in the world with shops from every famous name you can think of. From Red Square walk down Tverskaya Ulitsa, Moscow ’s main shopping thoroughfare lined with churches, 1930s apartment blocks and hip and trendy department stores.

Getting around Moscow couldn’t be easier – or more interesting, than on the city’s fabulous metro system, a work of art in itself, and resembling a palace more than a city transport system, with its vast marble halls, colorful frescoes, and vast, glittering chandeliers.

For the visitor to Moscow , the only problem when deciding what to do is the dazzling array of choice on offer. There is something in Moscow to suit all tastes. For lovers of high culture, the world-famous Bolshoi Theatre is just one of the numerous theatres and opera houses offering a dazzling array of top-flight entertainment. For those who like more spontaneous forms of entertainment, Moscow is the place to go for bars, clubs and discos, from the expensive and glamorous, where you can rub shoulders with the Russian glitterati, to the numerous live music venues, where you can hear top acts from around the world, stars of the Russian scene, catch up with the the trendiest DJs, and the latest crazes.

So this is Moscow , where the ghosts of the past mix with the wild and hectic energy of the present, where the sacred shares living space with the brashly commercial. Whatever wonders you encounter in this vibrant city of contrasts, you are sure to have an experience that is totally unique –and totally Russian.


Veliki Novgorod

Located not far from St Petersburg , Russia ’s capital of the north, Veliki Novgorod, literally, “ Novgorod the Great, the ancient Russian town located on the Volkhov river, is literally steeped in history. Founded in the middle of the 10 th Century, the town is closely linked with the birth of the Russian state. The adoption of Christianity made Novgorod a powerful religious center in the ancient Kievan Russian state. Until the late 15 th Century, when Moscow became the capital of the newly unified Russian state, Novgorod was truly “The Great,” a cradle of democratic values, controlling a huge swathe of territory from Finland in the West to the Northern Ural Mountains in the West. Today, Veliki Novgorod is the first stop for anyone with an interest in Russia ’s fascinating past and the birth of its cultural traditions.

In the sacred history of the Russian Orthodox Church, art and religion have always been inseparably intertwined. As well as being a religious center, Veliki Novgorod was one of Europes great medieval centers of decorative art, jewelry, and especially icon production. Today, it is possible to visit many of Russia ’s oldest religious and artistic sites, all within a stone’s throw of each other. At the top of the list is the Cathedral of St Sophia. Built in 1045, it is the oldest surviving Russian stone monument, and still dominates the town’s Kremlin, or walled fortress, itself is the oldest Kremlin in Russia , dating back 1000 years.. Inside this church some of the earliest examples of Russian Icon painting can be seen in their natural setting, as part of the breathtaking iconostases that form the backdrop for the orthodox religious services which, to this day, take place within the church.

Also within the walls of the Kremlin is the impressive “Monument to the Millenium of Russia,” designed by Mikhail Mikeshin, and erected in 1862. This remarkable bronze edifice pays eternal tribute to the men of state, science, art and letters that made the country an outstanding European power in the 19 th Century.

Other monuments of 12 th Century Novgorod architecture are no less impressive: the Cathedral of St. Nicholas in the Court of Yaroslav, and the Church of the Nativity of Our Lady in St. Anthony’s Monastery. In fact, no other Russian city offers such a wealth of preserved architectural monuments, a fact that has earned the town the soubriquet among scholars of Russian history, “The Russian Florence.”

Across the Volkhov River by footbridge are yet more remnants of a bustling medieval center, the trade yard, which is known as a trading site since the middle of the 8 th Century.

The town can also be seen by boat, with a trip along the river and around Lake Ilmen .

Several museums in the town display the rich finds that have made Novgorod a center of Russian historical and archeological research. The Novgorod State United Museum is the place to see first hand the amazing discoveries unearthed from the soil beneath the city. Also on display are artifacts of medieval jewelry, not to mention famous examples of Russian icon painting from the “ Novgorod ” period of icon design, from some of Russia ’s most famous artists, whose influence has since spread throughout the world.

For those interested in history, Novgorod is an essential stop on a tour of Russia . For those who seek to solve the riddle of the mysterious Russian soul, Veliki Novgorod is the city that holds the answer.



The land of the midnight sun
The homeland of Santa Claus

Finland has many names – “The land of a thousand lakes”, “The land of the Midnight Sun”, “The homeland of Santa Claus.” These names reflect the diversity of a country that boasts a virtually unlimited range of activities to suit every type of visitor, at any time of the year.

The usual starting point for visitors is the maritime capital and cultural heart of Finland , Helsinki . Over 450 years old, with a wealth of museums, galleries, shops, and other places of interest, Helsinki is truly a world class European capital and already one of Europe’s top travel destinations. But despite its high-tech services and modern outlook, Helsinki retains a small town atmosphere and friendliness, so that after five minutes of strolling the historic city streets, you’ll feel like you truly belong. The city is renowned for its distinctive blend of architectural styles, a mixture of influences from both the east and the west. At its center are the divine symmetry of Senate Square and the world-famous Cathedral, while Market Square , the most beautiful marketplace in the city, is surrounded by stunning 19 th Century buildings.

For those who love to shop, or just to look around, Helsinki offers an abundance of choice and quality. The best shopping is to be found in the streets bordering the stunning Esplanade Park , where you can wander the department stores and boutiques, and buy everything from traditional Finnish handmade crafts to high-tech gadgetry and cutting-edge fashion.

Helsinki has rightly earned its place as one of the Cultural Cities of Europe , earning that accolade in 2000. The city has many museums, such as the recently renovated National Museum , which provide a fascinating window into Finland ’s past. Or visit the galleries, which explore the artistic past as well as providing a showcase for the very best of contemporary art. Start with the Helsinki City Art Museum and the Museum of Cultures and then discover for yourself the literally dozens of galleries all around the city.

For those who want to relax after sampling some of the city’s cultural or commercial delights, the Esplanade Park is also the place to stop for a relaxing drink in one of the many smart terraced cafes. For something more substantial, it might be time to sample some local cuisine at one of the city’s many fine restaurants. Restaurants serving traditional Finnish cuisine using the best quality ingredients can be recognized by the Helsinki Menu sign. To round off the day, step out in style and sample some of the city’s sparkling nightlife, its many clubs and bars and entertainment centers.

Outside of the capital, there is a whole country to explore. With its diverse landscapes and extensive coastal areas, Finland offers an endless choice of activities firmly rooted in nature. Finland is world-famous as a fishing paradise at any time of the year, but for those who love their outdoor pursuits, Finland offers many other pastimes – canoeing, hiking, cycling, golf, to name but a small few!

If your goal is simply to relax, from Helsinki , take a trip through the country and see some of the most attractive locations in Europe . In the south is the Aland Archipelago, a group of 6500 islands, a country within a country, with its own flag, culture, and distinctive traditions, a perfect place to indulge in a spot of island-hopping on bike or motorbike. To the west of Helsinki , visit Turku , former capital of Finland and its oldest town capital and see the famous historic building, Turku Castle , founded in 1280. Travel up the scenic coastline, and stop at Rauma, a living, breathing town, which is also on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and literally step into the country’s medieval past. There’s a wealth of towns, national parks, lakes and beaches to choose from, as you make your way north. Then, cross the arctic circle and experience the magic of Lapland . The scenery here is truly awe-inspiring, with dense forests, crystal lakes and dramatic river gorges. Visit Santa Claus at the SantaPark theme park! In winter, experience the dramatic frozen north, with a full range of winter sports available, including skiing, snowboarding and ice-fishing. Take a reindeer sleigh-ride or a snowmobile safari or witness the truly spectacular natural phenomenon, the aurora borealis, the famous “Northern Lights.” Whatever your tastes, experience this breathtaking and magical country for yourself, and we guarantee, you’ll want to return!



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- Organizing and providing support for language schools, schools of business, educational seminars under the aegis of UNECON, St-Petersburg University of Economics

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