Trans Siberian Belles Lettres

The creative genius of Russia, the Russian literature, is the inspirational locomotive of this tour. If you travel not to see, but to experience places, if you are a lover of Art, Literature and Theatre, if you long to hear the history narrated by the contemporaries of the most vital events – this tour was created for you. From the gloomy St Petersburg of Dostoevsky, to the battlefield panoramas by Tolstoy, to the society balls with Pushkin, to the mystical Moscow of Bulgakov, to the countryside with Chekhov, to the poetic Siberia of Pasternak – and on and on...

Every city on this tour is connected inseparably with great Russian writers. The unique sightseeing program takes you on a quest through the golden ages of the Russian literature. And as if on a special order, the greatest Theater and Opera Houses of the Russian Capitals will open the doors for you to see Eugene Onegin in Bolshoi Theatre and War and Peace in Mariinsky House of Opera. Those who wish to continue their holiday may opt for our extensions to Vladivostok or Ulaanbaatar, Mongolian steppes and Beijing.

Day 1

Welcome to Russia!

Welcome to Russia – a great destination for lovers of fine arts. Our journey begins in St Petersburg, that has a longstanding and world famous tradition in literature. Dostoevsky called it “the most abstract and intentional city in the world”. Many writers were attracted by the symbolism of the city, including Gogol, Madelshtam, Bely, Nabokov, Zamyatin, Brodsky etc. Check in hotel Happy Pushkin, located in Potemkin's mansion built in early XVIII century. Alexander Pushkin lived here during the first happy months of his marriage.
Day 2

St Petersburg of Dostoevsky

After breakfast we invite you to Dostoevsky city tour. We shall follow the intricately interwoven routes of the writer and the characters of his major novel Crime and Punishment. Sennaya Square and Guardhouse, Vyazemsky Lavra, Voznesensky Bridge and Avenue have witnessed the tragic moments of their lives. It is here that the poor student Raskolnikov contemplated if he is a shivering little creature or an extraordinary man who has the right. It is here that the epileptic, sensitive aristocrat Dostoevsky was faced a death penalty and sent into exile – practically as nefarious for such a delicate soul. We proceed to the Troitsky Cathedral that saw Dostoevsky's marriage to the lady who saved him from gambling addiction and helped to finish his novel The Gambler in just 26 days. Our tour ends in Kuznetsky Lane in the house-museum of Dostoevsky that is now located in the apartment where he lived during the last years of his life. In the evening the world famous Mariinsky Theatre invites you to the opera War and Peace. Make sure to request the tickets early (extra fee), as this is the one and only winter performance of Sergei Prokofief's masterpiece after the novel of the same name by Lev Tolstoi. The conductor is the unsurpassed Valery Gergiev.
Day 3

Winter Palace and Hermitage

In the morning we have just enough time for a visit to the Winter Palace, the heart of the cultural life of the Norhern Venice. The Hermitage Museum now hosts 3 millions of artworks and is one of the biggest collections of Western European Art in the world. After lunch we board Super Express Sapsan train and head for Moscow.
Day 3

Welcome to Moscow

After a short journey the capital of Russia welcomes you in Historical Hotel Sovietsky that boasts interiors in the style of Stalin Empire, the contemporary of Bulgakov, Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn. The country's cultural centre for ages, Moscow has been home to most of Russia's famous authors. Tomorrow we shall visit their house-museums, and today it is time to relax.
Day 4

Literary Moscow

As we don't know your literary tastes, we have prepared options – Museum of Anton Chekhov, the author of the many famous plays and marvelous short stories, or Museum of Mikhail Bulgakov, the creator of the novel – or rather a whole universe – Master and Margarita. There are also museums of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Gorky, Gogol, Mayakovsky, Akhmatova, Yesenin and Pushkin Museum and Memorial Apartment in the Old Arbat, the Moscow's Monmarte. You choose!
Day 5

Tretyakov Gallery

You must have heard about the Tretyakov Gallery, the world-famous museum that houses a unique collection of the Russian art. In the 1860s Tretyakov was obsessed by the idea to found a portrait gallery of the Russian writers, composers and artists. He invited Kramskoy to work on the portraits of Tolstoy, Nekrasov, Goncharov, and then Perov to paint Dostoevsky, Ostrovsky, Turgenev and many others. We will have a chance to see them during the­ excursion. And yet another show awaits you tonight – we invite you to immerse yourself into the atmosphere of Pushkin's society balls and countrylife of the Russian landowners during the opera Evgeniy Onegin in the Bolshoi theatre - the love story of the century and an exquisite study of human soul. Tickets are extra.
Day 6

Welcome aboard Transsib train

Our travel along the Transsib starts today. Enjoy the morning hours in the snowy Moscow (souvenirs?shopping? sightseeing?) until midday when we transfer you to the railway station to board a high-class Trans-Siberian Express.
Day 7

Welcome to Perm

Arrival to Perm. If you choose the Nobel-prize-winning Doctor Zhivago as the book to brighten up your idle hours on the train (on your free Kindle), you will be surprised at just how much you know about Perm already upon arrival. The bits not set in Moscow are in an imaginary city called Yuryatin – in real life, that’s Perm. You'll recognize the Public Reading Room where Yuri and Lara first met, and her house in the Lenin Street. Perm was also the starting-point for the Great Siberian Tract that preceded the Trans-Siberian Railway. Transfer to hotel.
Day 8

Excursion to GULAG

After breakfast – full day tour to Kuchino village 100 kms north-east of Perm, the site of the harshest imaginable Soviet prison (GULAG) camp "Perm-36". Only the most 'dangerous' otherwise-minded were kept in Perm-36: opponents of the communist government, authors and distributors of anti-communist literature, the USSR's most prominent dissidents, anti-national organizations' leaders, advocates for human rights and other kinds of "enemies of the state". Perm-36 was one of the last ones in the Soviet Union to keep political prisoners as it only closed in December 1987. Nowadays, the camp is the only one of its kind that remained in Russia - other camps were carefully destroyed with the fall of the communist regime. The site and the facilities of the camp are now occupied by the Museum of the history of political repression "Perm-36", which functions as a vivid reminder of communist terror. All unique buildings at the camp (living huts, cells, the punishment cell, the inner-camp prison and the remains of the fences) were either preserved or have been restored. At "Perm-36", you will get a complete insight of the history and the daily life of the political prisoners in the labour camp. In the museum, there is an exhibition with a considerable amount of material (pictures, letters, etc.) that displays the "strict regime sector". The excursion also offers a vivid picture of what Solzhenitsyn experienced when he was a prisoner in GULAG and later described in his books – he is now of the Members of the Museum Council. Transfer to Perm after the excursion.
Day 9

Leisure time in Perm

Breakfast at the hotel. Your express train for Novosibirsk departs at 3pm, so you have plenty of time to explore the city at leisure.
Day 10

Welcome to Novosibirsk

In the evening your Trans-Siberian Express arrives to Novosibirsk. Transfer to the hotel and accommodation.
Day 11

Literary Novosibirsk

After breakfast your guide will be waiting for you in the lobby to take you to the Museum of the Rare Book under the aegis of the Russian Academy of Science. It boasts an outstanding collection of unique manuscripts, ancient printed books ascending to the earliest Russian literature, a fair amount of liturgy manuscripts, masterpieces by the most prominent book-printing houses of Ivan Fedorov and Petr Mstyslavets, unique collection of Siberian literature by Old Believers. After the museum our professional guide will take you on a tour around the literary Novosibirsk! The city was founded in 1893 by N.Garin-Mikhailovsky, a well-known Russian writer and engineer, at the future site of a Trans-Siberian Railway bridge crossing the Siberian river of Ob. After lunch we are going to see the Kolyvan village (4 hours) which Anton Chekhov passed going to Sakhalin, where a very ancient and beautiful convent is situated. In the evening the Theatre gives the Sleeping Beauty – a true feast for an art lover. If you don't book early, we can't guarantee we can get a ticket!
Day 12

Scientific Novosibirsk

Today is the last day of our visit to Novosibirsk. It is the brain of Russia just as Moscow is Russia's heart. Would you like a tour for you into its scientific Vatican, Academgorodok, located on the shores of the man-made Ob Sea and surrounded by pine forest and birch groves? It is home to Novosibirsk University as well as 35 Research Institutes, the quintessence of the intellectual life of Russia. Transfer to the train station and departure for Irkutsk after noon.
Day 13

Welcome to Irkutsk

Arrival to Irkutsk, transfer to the hotel. Tomorrow we will be exploring the Pearl of Siberia!
Day 14

Stay in the city...

Today we take you for a guided tour of literary Irkutsk – through the streets of Gorky and Herzen, Goncharov and Dostoevsky, Chekhov and Chernyshevsky, Tolstoi, Pushkin, Lermontov. Some writers never visited the city, but in their books they often devoted some pages to Irkutsk, the lake Baikal, and the Angara. Chekhov, on the other hand, wrote about Irkutsk from his own experience, saying, - "Among all the Siberian cities Irkutsk is the best one... Irkutsk is an excellent city. It is a cultural one. Much better than Ekaterinburg and Tomsk – quite Europe". Irkutsk was also home to Makushin and Posokhin, the pioneers of publishing business in Siberia and passionate propagandists of the Russian literature. Their former book house still stands in the city today. The Russian writer I.A.Goncharov also visited Irkutsk and has been a favorite writer of many Irkutians. The author of Breakage and Oblomov stayed in the house of the Irkutsk general - governor of East Siberia, duke Muravyov-Amursky, after his long round-the-world travel on a frigate "Pallada". And of course we shall see the House of writers, known as “The House of Lions” in the city.
Day 14

...or see the Lake

You may study the Siberian culture not in theory, but through experiments, and interact with the nature, which inspired so many of the greatest minds. Our Baikal tour takes you to the Taltsy Museum and St Nicholas Church in Krestovka that acquaints you with the life of the Russian peasantry, often described in the literature of the XVIII century. Standing over the Lake on the Chersky Peak, the old rhymes come to your mind: Excellent sea is the holy Baikal, Excellent ship is the barrel from omul. Hey, Barguzin-wind give force to your tide, It's not so far to sail over. Baikal is surrounded by many finest examples of the oral lore and local legends. Though not directly present in the classical Russian written tradition, they form a significant cultural layer that shaped the plots and characters depicted by the local writers. You will hear about the mighty Father Baikal and his beautiful daughter Angara, her beloved Yenisey and the undesired Irkut and see the Shaman Stone, a witness of the tragic story. After a lunch in the local restaurant you may leave for Irkutsk or stay for a night at one of the hotels at the Lake Baikal.
Day 15

Departure

Depending on your flight you may leave your hotel in the morning or we'll arrange for a late check out for you. Unless you decide otherwise, we'll take you to the train station or the airport to catch your flight. Do you feel like leaving?
Optional Extensions to Russia, Mongolia and China

Or may be not yet? There are vast lands ahead awaiting for you to explore:

  • Khabarovsk and Vladivostok, the Ruler of the East along Transsib.
  • There's always the chance to get thrice as many countries within your trip without seriously affecting the price, if you choose to continue your trip along the Trans-Mongolian or Trans-Manchurian. Outer Mongolia is yet freezing cold but Ulaanbaatar has the secrets of its own – and Beijing, the Forbidden City, te Temple of Heaven, and the Great Wall are stunning in any season.
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