5 Facts travellers should know about Russia

1. There are three capitals as well as a few geographical centers in Russia

The three capitals are Moscow, St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk. St. Petersburg was awarded the title of cultural capital of Russia, and moving from St. Petersburg to Moscow is considered a crime among the residents of St. Petersburg. In Siberia, there’s a perpetual heated debate over which is the best city. Although Novosibirsk is the capital of Siberia, the residents of Krasnoyarsk—another city in Siberia—disagree. In February 2016 the people of Krasnoyarsk placed an advertising banner in the center of Novosibirsk with the inscription ‘Krasnoyarsk is the best’. The news about this event gathered more than 300 comments. Another Siberian city, Tomsk, erected a monument that symbolizes them as the center of Eurasia. Krasnoyarsk, which claims to be the capital of Siberia, as Novosibirsk, erected a monument to the geographical center of Russia. In short, if you are travelling outside Moscow, you’ll notice that any city can be the center or capital of any region.

Moscow Photo

Moscow City Center. Photo taken on December 5, 2012 by Marina

2. Russia is the country of bears (similar to America’s Yellowstone National Park or Alaska)

It’s no any surprise that many bears live in the berry-rich forests. The Russian Brown Bear can be found in the Altai, Sayan, and Far East. In Moscow, you can admire the Brown and Polar Bears at the local zoo. In the difficult years, the years of drought or fires, these bears migrate. An example of this is bears going from Altai to the Sayan mountains. They sometimes descend into the small villages or even the bus stops. The locals take them for the Yeti and actively talk about the encounters in the local news. If you plan on hiking in the woods or the mountains, we recommend you to read the instructions on what to do if you do meet a bear.

Kamchatka Brown Bears

Kamchatka Brown Bears Lake Kurilskoye Russia Far East. Taken on August 28, 2011 by Ngaire Hart (Lawson)

3. In Russia, people drink vodka, but not the way as foreigners imagine

Traditional glasses and cucumber for snacks are customary for generations over 50 years of age. During 2011 and 2013, government restricted the sale of alcohol at night. Together with other changes, this affected the way of life for everyday Russians. During the 90s it was popular to take a bottle of vodka and 5 litres of beer, sit in the kitchen and talk about politics. Lucrative oil years rose to a new level. Today, teenagers prefer to be vloggers on Youtube than vodka drinkers. They are interested in sports and cultural events. In Moscow, there are whole areas occupied by hipsters. For example, Red October; which territory of the former candy factory. Asking about vodka has become quite a chestnut.

On the streets of Moscow

On the streets of Moscow, Russia. Taken on January 14, 2014 by UNO

4. It takes nearly six days to travel from Moscow to Vladivostok

It takes nearly six days to travel from Moscow to Vladivostok by train—from the west end of Russia to its eastern edge. The average train speed is 64 km/hour. At some stations you will enjoy stop-offs which allow you to go into town and buy a couple of pies from a local grandmother (‘babushka’). A journey on the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway is one of the greatest adventures offered by local travel companies. However, Russians prefer to travel long distances by plane. This includes special seat shelves (‘plazkart’), small talk with other passengers, stop-offs in taiga, and of course the beautiful taiga view. This is a highly recommended activity when visiting Russia.

Travelling 'plazkart' class

Travelling ‘plazkart’ class, plazkart, Trans-Siberian Railway. Taken on October 19, 2009 by andybarnes88

5. The victory won during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 is one of the most important events for Russians

Every family has a grandparent who was a part of this war. According to various estimates, 26 million Russians were killed in World War II. This makes up about 15% of the total population. On May 9th 2012, the first ‘Immortal regiment’ parade marched in Tomsk –a Siberian city. People took photos of those relatives and grandparents who took part in the war. This tradition spread rapidly. All Russian cities have their parade and about 60 other countries do too. If you plan on visiting Russia during the May holidays, be prepared for the closure of Russian city centres due to these parades.

Immortal regiment

Photo taken by Olga Hinchcliffe. Her father-in -low, her Grand pa, her Dad (from the left to the right)