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Russia Information


 
Russia - more fully known as the Russian Federation - is a vast country in Eastern Europe and northern Asia.

Russia has both extensive Arctic Ocean and North Pacific Ocean coastlines, as well as smaller coastlines on the Baltic, Black and Caspian Seas. Russia is bordered by Norway and Finland to the northwest, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Belarus and Ukraine to the west, Georgia and Azerbaijan to the southwest, Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia to the south, and China and North Korea to the southeast. The American state of Alaska lies opposite the easternmost point of Russia across the Bering Strait.

Russia also administers the exclave of Kaliningrad Oblast on the Baltic coast between Poland and Lithuania.

Russia is the largest country in the world by far; spanning eleven time zones, its territory covers nearly twice as much of the earth as that of the next largest country, Canada. Despite its massive size, much of the country lacks proper soils and climates (either too cold or too dry) for agriculture. Instead it has huge reserves of some of the world's most important resources (oil, gas, coal, platinum, gold, chrome, asbestos). Mount Elbrus (Gora El'brus), at 5,633 m, is Europe's, and Russia's, tallest peak.

Cities


Moscow


Russia's gargantuan capital is one of the world's greatest cities and has endless attractions to offer an adventurous visitor. Moscow is a huge city located on the Moskva River, which bends its way through the city. Most of the main sites are on the northern bank of the river. The other major waterway is the Yauza River, which flows into the Moskva east of the Kremlin.

Red Square - The heart of Moscow and the first destination of most visitors to the city. Surrounded by St. Basil's Cathedral, the State History Museum, Lenin's Mausoleum and one of the Kremlin's long brick walls. Surprisingly, the cobbles that make up the square are black and not red.

Lenin Mausoleum – Walk past the embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin (who actually did not want any monuments to be built for him), join the debate if it is still him. You must leave all cameras, phones and bags in the luggage office.

St Basil Cathedral – Built 1555-61. Inside is a museum, although it looks best from the outside, but if you have the time, take a peek inside.

The Kremlin – This gigantic site can not be missed. The Diamond collection in the Armoury is worth a visit on its own. There are several stunning churches that warrant a visit. Choose one or two to go inside, then enjoy the rest from the gardens. If you get a chance, the ballet in the Conference Centre has some very cheap matinee performances (and you can change seats in the interval).

Old Arbat Street – Walk down this kitschy street full of souvenir vendors, tourist cafes, lousy restaurants, artists, etc. The prices of the souvenirs vary from reasonable to ripoff. Many of the vendors offer a very high higher price, but can be talked down if you speak Russian. The stores tend to offer the same merchandise but with fixed high prices.

Bolshoi Theatre – Sit in front of the famed theater near the fountain, or catch a show inside if you can. The theatre is currently under renovation.

Tretyakov Gallery – One of the world's great museums, this is probably the one to choose if you only want to visit one museum in Moscow. In contrast to the worldwide collection of the Pushkin Museum, the Tretyakov is mostly a collection of Russian art. It has the best collection of Russian icons and many of the most famous pieces of modern Russian artists like Ilya Repin. Metro: Tretyakovskaya. (NB: There are actually two Tretyakov museums now, the classic one and the 20th Century one. The classic one is where it has always been, the 20th Century one is in the Artist's House Cultural Center across from Gorky Park. They charge separate entry fees.)

Pushkin Museum is dedicated to Western art and has one of the world's most significant Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collections, along with some Old Masters. The Impressionists and Post-Imppressionists were rather unfortunately relocated to an annex in 2007 across the street from the main building.

Novodevichy Convent – Both a convent and a fortress, Novodevichy was built in the early 1500s and has remained nearly intact since the 17th century, making it one of the best preserved historical complexes in Moscow. The adjacent Novodevichy Cemetery is one of Russia's most famous cemeteries. Famous people buried there include Anton Chekhov, Nickolai Gogol, Konstantine Stanislavski, Nikita Khrushchev, Raisa Gorbachev (the former President's wife), and Boris Yeltsin. Metro: Sportivnaya.

New Arbat Street – Located near Old Arbat Street, this street offers a contrast from the touristy pedestrian-only thoroughfare. New Arbat is perhaps where Moscow's rich are the most visible, as some of Moscow's most expensive restaurants and nightclubs are located here. There are some reasonably priced cafes, however. The street is lavishly lit up at night and is always very lively. Also, check out Dom Knigi (House of Books) on New Arbat. It's not as impressive as the St. Petersburg store, but probably the best bet for books in Moscow.

Tverskaya Street – This street starts from the Kremlin itself and runs northwest in the direction of Tver (hence the name) and Saint Petersburg. For that reason the road was a very important thoroughfare in Tsarist Russia. It is now Moscow's most fashionable street, with several prestigious boutiques. It is also lined with cafes, restaurants, coffeehouses, a couple of theaters, and several hotels, including two locations of the Marriott. Most of the street's architecture doesn't actually have much history to it, though along the way you will find Russia's first, and the world's busiest, McDonalds. The statue of Pushkin at Pushkinskaya Square, near the Kentucky Fried Chicken is a very popular meeting point. Walk its' length. From Red Square to Belorusski Train Station is about one hour and is a great way to see the most famous street in Moscow. At least
 

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