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Day 1: Arrive Minsk, Belarus
Upon arrival in Minsk we transfer to our comfortable hotel in the city. This evening we will have our welcome dinner and orientation meeting.
Day 2: Minsk City Tour, Stalin Line (Opportunity to Ride a WWII Tank)
Minsk is an old city, founded in 1067, and still has some impressive Renaissance and Baroque architecture but many consider its architectural masterpiece to be its post-Soviet Stalinist buildings. The Belarusian capital has wide boulevards, is very safe and has a relaxed charm.
Day 3: Khatyn Memorial, Azyartso Cuisine & Strochitsy Museum
The Khatyn Memorial is a tribute to the almost three million Belarusians who died during the Great Patriotic War (World War 2). It stands 54km northeast of Minsk. For lunch we go to the famous Azyartso Cuisine restaurant and later have time to leisurely enjoy the Strochitsy Folk Museum of Architecture and Life.
Day 4: To Nesvizh Castle
The complex at Nesvizh Castle, with its moat and fortification, is quite impressive. In 2005 the castle complex was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Walk around the moat before entering into the main square and castle interior. Learn about the powerful Radziwills people who came to the peak of their strength in the 16th century, as their influence stretched across modern-day Belarus, Poland, Lithuania, and Germany. Officially the Radziwills were called ‘magnates’ and can best be described as an extremely wealthy family wielding power over every level of nobility and owning 23 palaces, 426 large towns, 2032 estates, and more than 10,000 villages!
Day 5: Brest Fortress (UNESCO), Traditional Village, to Mir Castle
Not far from the Polish border, Brest Fortress (1833) is a Russian fortress with moats, barracks, towers and monuments. In 1965, the title Hero Fortress was given to the fortress to commemorate the defense of the Soviet line during the German-Soviet battles, when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. Both Hitler and Mussolini visited the fortress on August 26, 1941.
Day 6: Mir Castle, Fly to St. Petersburg
The early morning light provides a wonderful opportunity for capturing photos of Mir Castle. After enjoying the ambience of the castle this morning, we depart for Minsk international airport for our flight to St. Petersburg, Russia.
Day 7: Peter & Paul Fortress, Faberge Museum
On our morning city tour of St. Petersburg we will visit Peter and Paul Fortress, which was the original citadel founded by Peter the Great in 1703. In the early 1920s, it was still used as a prison and execution ground by the Bolshevik government. Today it has been adapted as the central and most important part of the State Museum of St. Petersburg History. We will also visit the main street, Nevsky Prospect, named after the 13th-century Russian prince Alexander Nevsky, and planned by Peter the Great. We will also see St. Isaac's Cathedral, the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city.
Day 8: Peterhof Palace
This morning we visit the UNESCO designated Peterhof Palace, commissioned on the orders of Peter the Great. Located just outside of St. Petersburg, Peterhof Palace consists of a series of palaces and gardens, and is often referred to as the “Russian Versailles”. The expanse of the Lower Gardens is designed in the formal style of French formal gardens of the 17th century. After lunch at a local restaurant, we will take the hydrofoil back to the city.
Day 9: Catherine Palace
Today we will journey south of St. Petersburg to the magnificent Catherine Palace, the summer residence of the Russian tsars. The Catherine Palace is named after Catherine I, the wife of Peter the Great, who ruled Russia for two years after her husband's death. Originally a modest two-story building commissioned by Peter for Catherine in 1717, the Catherine Palace owes its later grandeur to their daughter, Empress Elizabeth, who chose this town as her chief summer residence. Starting in 1743, the building was reconstructed by four different architects, before Bartholomeo Rastrelli, Chief Architect of the Imperial Court, was instructed to completely redesign the building on a scale to rival Versailles. The palace was completed in 1756 and took 100kg of gold to decorate the exterior.
Day 10: Hermitage Museum and Canal Tour
Today we visit on of the world’s great museums, the Hermitage. The museum is comprised of 6 historic buildings and contains over 3 million works of art and culture, and starts its history from collections which were gained by Russian empress Catherine the Great in a private capacity.
Day 11: Train to Moscow
Today we say goodbye to the historic city of St. Petersburg and board the train to the vibrant city of Moscow. The city boasts sites such as the Red Square, the Kremlin, the stunning Stalin-Era buildings known as the "Seven Sisters", and numerous Cold War sites. The city has recently had an overwhelming makeover and is a city full of color, beautiful buildings, wide boulevards and pedestrian malls dotted with charming cafes and restaurants.
Day 12: Moscow Sites - Kremlin, Red Square, Cathedral, Armoury, Cooking Lesson
We travel by metro to the city center, starting with a visit to the Kremlin. We continue our metro and walking tour with visits to the Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum, the Armoury, the Bolshoi theater and GUM mall.
Day 13: Moscow Sites Continued - Tolstoy Museum, Convent, Sparrow Hills, Tretyakov Gallery
Today we visit several interesting sites in Moscow including Tolstoy Museum, New Maiden Convent and Cemetery, and Sparrow Hills, which has the highest viewpoint over the city. We also visit Tretyakov Gallery which has an incredible collection of Russian art.
Day 14: Cold War Nuclear Bunker & Moskva River Cruise
Today we descend 18 stories to a Cold War nuclear bunker exposing a fascinating era of Soviet history, including conference rooms, banquet halls and missile launch control. Later we will have a relaxing cruise on the Moskva River, enjoying dinner onboard while passing many of the city’s most impressive sites!
Day 15: Russian Space Program & Bolshoi Ballet With Backstage Experience
Today we visit the Russian Space Program and Training Center where we can even chat with cosmonauts! If that were not enough, we will also enjoy an evening of ballet at the Bolshoi Theater, including an extremely unique experience of going backstage during the performance.
Day 16: The Golden Ring, Sergiev Posad, Vladimir, to Suzdal
Today we depart on a tour known as the Golden Ring, visiting old traditional cities and towns known for their medieval cathedrals and wooden buildings. Our first stop is Sergiev Posad, which has one of the most beautiful monasteries in Russia and is one of the principle spiritual centers of the Russian Church. We arrive in the charming city of Suzdal where we visit many of the city’s most important sites.
Day 17: Vladimir
Today we explore the city of Vladimir, where we will visit the 12th century Dmitievsky Cathedral and the impressive Golden Gates. We will have free time this afternoon to explore independently.
Day 18: Return to Moscow, Farewell Dinner
We return to Moscow today (2-3 hour drive) and enjoy a special farewell dinner at the Royal Ukraine Hotel, overlooking the city.
Day 19: Depart Moscow
We bid a fond farewell to Belarus and Russia as we depart for our international flights home.
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