I think I just came up with the perfect excuse to learn Russian.
Borders are opening up in New Zealand. I know we just lived through a worldwide pandemic and that travel everywhere became harder than usual, but in case you were not aware in New Zealand things were a bit more particular. Since we are a combination of a few islands it was very easy for the country’s borders to pretty much shut down entirely, cutting us off from the rest of the world in an unprecedented way. Yes, there were ways to leave the country, but actually coming back was not an easy feat, and since we were COVID-free for 2 of the 2 and a half years that the pandemic raided the world, why would you risk it? This means that for almost three years we have pretty much been stuck in our little haven. The last safe and inaccessible corner of the world.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE New Zealand. But one of the main reasons for living here is that for most people it means having the quality of life that brings travel with it, so not having the option to explore anything more than a few hours away has been hard. And not just for me. It’s obvious that New Zealanders have been aching to go out and explore the world because with borders opening everyone I know seems to be planning their escape.
But the world has changed. All the regular destinations that people visited in the past are still there, of course. Yet after the events of the last few years, we can admit that perspectives have shifted. We all have been reminded of our own fleeting existence and we want to make sure that we live life to its fullest. For this, a lot of travellers are looking for more interesting destinations.
So what about Russia?
This new opportunity to travel means we have to make choices. Do I want to go sightseeing in natural beauty different from the one around me? Do I want to embark on an adventure worthy of an explorer? Or do I want to discover a vibrant city with all of its culture and history?
I don’t know about you, but I actually don’t want to make that choice. Why can’t I have all three?
Well, it turns out that in Russian that’s exactly what you can get.
For the nature and sightseeing fans
Russia has too many things to fit into one article. However, the top three that are now on my bucket list are:
The Komi Virgin Forest. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest virgin forest in Europe. Full of reindeer and Siberian fir trees you can experience a world untouched by the human hand.
The Siberian tundra. The northernmost part of this region of the country has some incredible opportunities to see wildlife like no other destination. Here you can encounter animals like polar bears in their breeding grounds, beluga whales, seals, and the Turukhan wolf, also known as the tundra wolf.
The valley of geysers. Although you can only reach this location by helicopter I can assure you will not regret the effort. Being the second-largest concentration of geysers in the world it is said to be an unforgettable sight that is not to be missed. These amazing places don’t have the biggest populations. Since you might go days without seeing anyone else besides your tour guide they are not the best places to learn Russian, so you might want to do that before you pack your bags.
If you are more of an adventure freak:
You will not be able to resist the trans-Siberian railway. Being the longest railway in the world it traverses eight time zones, which can give you an idea of how long it extends. It can get you from Moscow to the Sea of Japan and to the main cities of three different countries, Moscow, Beijing, and Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia.
If culture and history are more your thing:
You probably already know what I am going to say. St Petersburg and Moscow.
The two main cities of the country. Full of a vibrant culture in the shape of art and architecture. Here you can visit places such as Mariinsky Theatre, the Kremlin and the Red Square. Their unique domes, colourful pallets, and ornate decoration will not disappoint. In fact, they are known to awe their visitors beyond belief. These are also great places to practice or learn Russian if that’s more what you are after.
The one thing you shouldn’t expect to find in Russia is English speakers, so if I have managed to convince you that this is your next holiday destination it would be a wise move to learn Russian before you get there, even if it’s just a bit.
So next time you sit down to plan your next holiday instead of asking yourself “where to?” you might want to say “where in Russia?”.
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