Day 1: Arrival. Welcome to Russia! Your driver will be waiting for you at the airport arrivals gate, you will see him holding a sign with your name. He will take you to the port for ship embarkation. There is no special program for this evening. You will have a chance to relax after your flight, to enjoy the dinner on board and to meet your fellow travelers for this extraordinary adventure across Russia.
Day 2: The Kremlin
The tour starts after breakfast and today we will head to the heart of Moscow - the Kremlin. This giant fortress was originally built in 1147. It expanded and enhanced overtime to repel the Mongol hordes eventually becoming one of the world's largest and most unique fortresses. The Kremlin was the center of political power across the Eurasian continent and to this day remains the symbol of Russia. The Kremlin it is a living museum of Russian history. Today half of its territory is covered by government courts and it not accessible to the general public. The other half, however, contains museums and cathedrals. This structure, down to every tower, hallway, the interior of the Kremlin is a part of Russian, European and world history. You will explore this fascinating place with a professional guide as you follow the footsteps (literally) of some of the world's greatest leaders and its most terrible dictators.
Optional: Tour of the Tretiakov Picture Gallery; folk show "Kostroma"; tour of the Moscow Subway, evening tour around Moscow.
Day 3: Moscow. This day is very special, as we will visit Tretiyakov Gallery, one of the world's most famous art galleries. We will departure this evening from Moscow. You will have rich entertaining program planned for this evening. Visit to Tretiyakov Gallery. Optional: Transfer to the city center.
Day 4: Uglich
Uglich is a small town located on the banks of the Volga River. It’s tiny by modern standards, but back in the medieval times it was one of the best defended fortresses of the kingdom of Moscovy (the principality of Moscow). Uglich was attacked by many invaders who attempted to rule Moscow such as Mongols, Tatars, Lithuanians, Teutonic knights and Moscow’s neighboring principalities such as Tver. This town, however, is the most known in Russian history as the place where the last heir to the ancient Rurik dynasty was murdered. Most historians agree that it was Boris Godunov who was behind the assassination of 10-year old prince Dimitry. Shortly after the tragedy, Godunov proclaimed himself the tsar of Russia, but he too was soon murdered. These events plunged Russia into three decades of chaos and wars known as the "The Time of Trouble," paving the way for the new dynasty of absolute rules of Russia – the Romanovs. The death of prince Dimitry forever changed Russia’s fate and a small church of St. Dimitry-on-Blood commemorates this turn of events and reminds us about their significance.
Tip: You can be a witness to these events yourself by seeing the opera "Boris Godunov" in the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. This classic opera reveals the extraordinary events and human perseverance of this distant but, ever-present epoch in Russian History.
Day 5: Yaroslavl / Kostroma
By today standards Yaroslavl is small, but its place in Russia's history and culture cannot be underestimated. Before it was annihilated by the Mongols it was Russia's largest city, its economic, political, cultural and scientific center. It was rebuilt shortly after but was once again burnt to the ground. While the Mongols had been preoccupied with Yaroslavl, Moscow was able to harness enough power to overthrow the "Mongol yoke." During the Polish occupation of Moscow in the early 17th century, it was Yaroslavl once again that became the center of the national resistance to the occupation. During your bus city tour you will visit: The Church of ElijahProphet, Interactive tour of former Governor's House (Art Gallery), Local food market to buy delicious foods.
Day 6: Nizhniy Novgorod
Nizhny Novgorod was one of the newly founded towns that escaped Mongol devastation on account of its insignificance. The city, similarly to Moscow and Tver, attracted refugees from other cities pillaged by the Mongols and expanded rapidly during the period of the "Mongol yoke" that lasted for a little over 100 years. Moscovy incorporated the city in 1392 and soon thereafter the Tatars of Kazan burnt it down (1408). It took over one century to construct an enormous redbrick castle here which was soon of use when the Tatars tried to burn it again in 1520 and 1536. Today, just like 500 years ago, Nizhniy is one of the main commercial centers of Russia.
Day 7: Cheboksary. Cheboksary is a vibrant commercial hub located on the Volga River which, similarly to Astrakhan, was first conquered by the Mongols and then by the Russians. There is nothing particularly special about Cheboksary, except that it is famous for the church bells produced here which are used by many Russian churches.
Day 8: Kazan. Kazan was the capital of Tatars, the allies of Mongols. Ivan the Terrible conquered Kazan in 1552 and forced its Muslim ruler to convert to Christianity. Ivan remodeled Kazan's castle to the Russian style and built St. Basil's Cathedral on the Red Square of Moscow in the celebration of his victory. It is interesting that St. Basil's domes, all nine of them, correspond to the number of days that the siege of Kazan lasted.
Day 9: Samara. Samara has long been Russia's diplomatic and economic link to the East. The growing bread trade in 19th-20th centuries turned this city into an important economic center in Russia. In World War II many of military factories were moved to Samara. The soviet leaders were even planning to move Russia's capital here had Moscow fallen to the German hands. Today, Samara is the third largest metropolitan area in Russia after Moscow and St. Petersburg and an important industrial center. During you city tour you will get to see the local Art Gallery.
Day 10: Saratov. Saratov was the northernmost colony of Greek Empire. In 512 BC it was completely annihilated by Persia. One millennium later, Ivan the Terrible established a colony on the ruins of the ancient city. Saratov used to have a large population of Germans, who migrated here during 19th century. When World War II erupted, they were relocated to Siberia and Kazakhstan. During the Cold War Saratov became the center of military aircraft production and not surprisingly, Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, trained here.
Day 11: Volgograd
Volgograd (former Stalingrad) is famous for the battle that unfolded here during the World War II. German forces attempted to cut off the Russian armies and their industrial production from their fuel supplies. To that end, they needed to take Stalingrad, situated on the western bank of the Volga River. Hitler sent his best armies and generals, including famous marshal Von Paulus to command the siege. The Battle of Stalingrad lasted for almost one year. The heroic defense of the city enabled the Russian army to prepare a counter attack and to surround the invading forces. This was a serious loss from which Hitler forces were never able to fully recover. This was not the victory for the allies yet, but it was in Stalingrad that the tide of war turned against the Germans. Volgograd has a giant memorial Rodina Mat (Motherland) commemorating those who fought and died here. You explore the city by bus and visit the infamous Mamayev Mound.
Day 12: Sailing
The Volga is often mentioned in Russian literature. In ancient times this river was used as a trade route by the Vikings who travelled to Greece. It was along this route that the first Russian settlements appeared. Today, more than half the population of Russia lives along this ancient trade route. You will have a great entertainment program while sailing: Russian tea party, Blini tasting, Concerts of folklore and classical music, Russian dancing and singing classes, Crash course on Russian language.
Day 13: Astrakhan. Astrakhan is located where the mighty the Volga meets the Caspian Sea, on the trade route from India to Persia. Astrakhan was the capital of Khazaria and then of the Golden Horde (the Mongols). Moscow took Astrakhan in 1556 and has ruled it ever since. As Russia's gate to the Orient, this city features a unique mixture of East and West. You will visit Kremlin grounds of the city on a bus city tour.
Day 14: Departure. Your voyage is coming to an end. It is time to say goodbye to this beautiful country, the crew and your fellow passengers. It is time to pack up and to go home bringing unforgettable memories with you. Your airport transfer is arranged.
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