Day 1: Arrival to Moscow
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 go inside the Kremlin - the ancient castle built to withstand the Mongol hordes. Throughout history, the Kremlin has been the center of political power in Russia and it remains a symbolic political center even today, as the official site of the inauguration ceremony of the Russian president (they don't actually live or work here). The Kremlin is a living museum of Russia's history. Its inside wasn't built overnight, rather various rulers added new pieces over time (and some, like Napoleon, plundered from it). This cultural and historical treasure has been so well preserved that it seems that you are traveling in time. You will see the most interesting places in the Kremlin as you follow our professional guide in the steps of some of the world's greatest leaders and its most terrible dictators.
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
Everyone has heard of Kiev and Novgorod, these cities are still famous today. Historically these cities were the largest in Eastern Europe. Yaroslavl was comparable to their size and celebrity, but this was before it was completely annihilated (again, by the Mongols). They saw it as the center of power in Russia and raided it every few years to prevent it from recovering. By these day's standards it is rather provincial, but there is still much to see. We will visit the Transfiguration Monastery and Church of Elijah the Prophet, the local food market and the Art Gallery at the Former Governor’s House.
Day 6: Nizhny Novgorod
Nizhny Novgorod was one of the newly founded towns that escaped Mongol devastation on account of its insignificance. Nizhny Novgorod, 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. On your bus city tour you will visit local Kremlin.
Day 7: 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. Visit to the Kremlin.
Day 8: Ulyanovsk. Ulyanovsk is a small town on the banks of the Volga River. It is named after Vladimir Ulyanov, who was born here. You probably have never heard this name but he became world-famous under his adopted name - Lenin. His family home is now a museum of his life. City tour by bus with visit to Lenin's museum.
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.
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. During your city tour you will visit Mamaev Kurgan.
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. Entertainment on the board.
Day 13: Astrakhan. Astrakhan is located where the mighty the Volga meets the Black 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. City tour by bus.
Day 14: Volga River. 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. Entertainment on the board.
Day 15: Volgograd. We are returning to Volgograd on the way to Rostov-on-Don. Here you will have free time and will be offered optional program: Visit to Cemetery in Rossoshki.
Day 16: Volga river sailing. You will have a great entertainment program while on board of the cruise ship Chekhov.
Day 17: Rostov-on-Don
Rostov-on-Don (Rostov-na-Donu) is famous for the freedom-loving Cossack community who inhabited it since its foundation in 1749. In this city apart from visiting some highlights, you will get to know and experience genuine Cossack culture and their way of living. On your Bus city tour you will visit Cossack Museum. It contains many artefacts of Cossack way of life (they are especially interesting, because they show their culture at its peak). Besides, here you will find artefacts like jewellery and weapons dating back to late BC and early AD and a collection dedicated to the prehistory of the region when it was inhabited by ancient Scythian, Sarmat and Savromat tribes.
Day 18: 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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