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Top 10: Natural Capitals

Moscow and St-Petersburg are big cities with cars and peoples everywhere. Noises, grey buildings, pollution, crowds are all usual aspects of living in a city. Moreover, being an inhabitant or a tourist, you spend your days walking (if not running) in city centers, public transports and famous sights. So why not taking a deep and relaxing breath in one of Moscow and St Petersburg’s amazing parks? Indeed these two cities hosts absolutely stunning parks and gardens that you must have a walk in!   

  • Gorky Park (Moscow)

My favorite so far…and all year around! In winter (i.e almost all the time) Gorky park, covered of snow (and ice), is magical. For the time of a walk you’re escaping Moscow city center and enjoy a timeless moment in a snowy and welcoming forest. But above all, in winter Gorky park allows you to walk along the iced Moskva river, which is absolutely priceless (and freezing). Hopefully there is also lots of caffé and restaurants! When summer finally comes out of the corner, Gorky park becomes more crowded than the Red Square but the friendly atmosphere (and the sun!) worths the walk…or ride one of the available bikes! And when fall arrives, Gorky park wears is absolutely stunning orange and yellow outfits which makes you understand why Russians call autumn the “golden season”.

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  • VDNKh Park (Moscow)

As Gorki park, the VDNKh Park has the greatness of being interesting all year around. Which to be honest is not a small thing when you try to go outside during a fierce winter. The VDNKh park was a an exhibition center to show the efficiency of the Soviet economy. That’s why today VDNKh is more of a recreational complex attracting thousands of people each year. It’s one of Moscow’s most famous and popular park mainly due to its skating-rink in winter, the largest of Russia, and its pavillons, celebrating the USSR glories.

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  • Teply Stan Park (Moscow)

Huge landscape reserve located south of Moscow, the Teply Stan Park is a famous and very popular park in Moscow. Preserved as a mixed Russian forest, it offers to its visitors some very needed fresh air. It also takes you to typical Russian woods, and allows you to, for a day, feel somewhere else…which is a relief when you’ve been staying in Moscow for a while. But more, in the Teply Stan Park you can walk alongside it’s tiny river, rest near its pound, discover the paleontological institute or even, in summer, go sailing! And who doesn’t like to pretend to be a pirate?

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  • Sokolniki Park (Moscow)

Sokolniki park is one of the oldest park in Moscow and one of the largest in Europe (of course). Sokolniki park is considered as one of the oldest park in Moscow because before being a public one, it was a hunting ground for Princes and Tsars. A bit later it became a traditional meeting point for gatherings and festive events. The park benefited from public founding which gave Sokolniki a new youth. Currently the park is divided in 9 sectors, each hosting pavillons and a specific biodiversity. Plus, if you’re kind of a bird-fanatic (aka amateur ornithologists) Sokolniki park also has an ornitary with exotic birds to admire!

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  • Neskuchny Garden (Moscow)

Another “one of the +superlative” park in Moscow (ie one of the oldest). Neskuchny Garden is located closer to the city center than the previous ones. In line with the famous Gorky park, the Neskuchny Garden is beautiful (especially in autumn). You should go there. It’s great. And beautiful.  

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  • Botanical Garden (St-Petersburg)

Being the oldest botanical garden of Russia (seriously, again?), the Botanical Garden of St-Petersburg is now quite significant and hosts numerous plants. It first has been used as the Tsar Apothecary’s Garden, but later transformed in a center for horticultural research. As a result you can explore charming indoor and outdoor gardens and learn more about various plants and biodiversities.

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  • Yusupov Garden (St-Petersburg)

St Petersburg is a lot about canals, tiny streets and palaces. But as a result there isn’t much of green spaces to chill, play or picnic on. That’s why the Yusupov Garden is very popular and important. Located in St-Petersburg city center, the Yusupov garden was a significant part of the Yusupov Palace and so remains today a piece of history. This gem really worth the visit and you definitely have to take time to picnic in this imperial garden!

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  • Summer Garden (St-Petersburg)

St-Petersburg’s summer garden comes straight from the Imperial Russian standards of the 18th century. Similar to French gardens of that time, the Summer Garden has been built on geometrical principles. It also hosts many marble statues representing antic subjects, fountains and rare plants. The summer garden is a real breath of fresh air in the city!

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  • Pavlovsk Palace’s park (St-Petersburg)

The Pavlovsk Palace’s park is a famous park close to the city. I already wrote a lot about it but this park worth the visit (even more than the Palace itself?). Stroll along the tree-lined avenues of this English park, and enjoy the various pavilions dotting it, and be transported to the Imperial Russia!

Tips: take a good camera and you’ll manage to shoot stunning pics of the park and the palace

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  • Tavrichesky park (St-Petersburg)

As the Pavlovsk Palace’s park, the Tavrichesky park is an English-style park…but in the city center! Built by Catherine the Great around the Tavrichesky manor, it includes pavillons, greenhouses (to take care of rare and uncommon plants) and ponds. It’s a famous park for those who (unlike me) spend their weekends playing chess or doing sport!

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Cultural Fact

The art of icons

Coming from the greek word “icone”, icona means “holy image”. Indeed, above the painting, an icona traditionally is a guide to the Holy Spirit.

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An icona should be representing things that are invisible and can’t be represented by the non-religious arts. That’s why the Orthodox art of iconas painting defined its rules and models more than 10 centuries ago…and never changed it since then! Indeed, how painting Holy iconas could be something else than pure truth and perfection?

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One of the first principle of iconas painting is the minimisation of material and physical objects. Usually, iconas are made on lime tree covered by linen. According to the millenary tradition, painters rely on the soak technic. They must also use golden leaves to represent the Holy light around Saints.

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In Russia some icons remain more important than others due to their spirituality or their beauty. Among them, we can think of the Virgin of Vladimir, the Virgin of Kazan and the Holy Trinity.

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Did you know?

Religion in Russia

Did you know? Religion remains a discussed topic in Russia, or at least when speaking of Russia.

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From the Soviet times during which religious activities were forbidden, to the current reemergence of the Orthodox Church on the public scene, religion is a thing. Currently, whereas 34% of the Russian population says that religion (so not only orthodoxy) is important in their life, about half of the population thinks that religious organisations should support public morals and ethics, and 30% that religious organisations should help to preserve cultural traditions.

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Therefore religion remains important in Russian lives and culture but according to them it doesn’t have to be imposed in private spheres or even influence the government decisions. And if orthodoxy is the first religion in Russia, and the most visible and influential one, it is crucial to remember that due to its multi-ethnicity, vastness and cultural richness, Russia knows a high percentage of islamic, buddhist and catholic believers!   

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Top 5: Capitals’ Must-See

We know you, you’re in Moscow and Petersburg for few days and you want to come back home with pictures to brag about. Don’t worry follow this list and in two days you’ll be able to see everything that matters to the eyes of those you’ll tell your travel about!

 Obviously the first one can’t not be the Kremlin and the Red Square. But to be fair, it’s always something when you arrive on this famous place. We you stand in the middle of the Red-Square, St Basil in front of you and the Kremlin on your right, you truly realize where you are. This place is the place of all fantasizes and it’s definitely the place you want to be when traveling in Russia (well not so long because in winter it’s really cold).  

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 The Hermitage is another place to be/go when traveling to Russia. For the sweet taste of imperial Russia or its marvelous cats, you have to go to the Hermitage! The Hermitage will help you in showing to Janet from the accounting that you experienced all facets of Russia. On the plus side, the Hermitage is big and hot, so perfect to protect you from Petersburg freakily cold winter.

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The Tretyakov Gallery is a world-known museum that has the advantage of presenting an insight on every Russian schools of art. In a single museum you’ll be able to discover the Russian art from its beginning to the revolution of 1917. Icons, portraits, landscapes and masterpieces from Russian famous artists are all in this museum. So if you manage it well, you’ll be able to pretend that you visited a dozen of museums while travelling in Russia!
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In case Janet isn’t impressed by the Hermitage, show her some pictures of Peterhof. Peter the Great’s palace is kind of a Russian Versailles (where Janet spent an hour of her honeymoon) created to astonish visitors from all over the world. If you want a tip, go there in summer when the palace shines and the fountains are working and purposely spray water on visitors (the cold water will calm down your children).

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  • Walk in St-Petersburg’s city center (St-Petersburg) 

 Petersburg is wonderful city to walk through. Along the canals and the palaces, you’ll be able to shoot a city between West Europe and Russia, with great colors and amazing buildings from the XIXth and XXth centuries. More, you’ll find many great places to eat and drink. And because the exception doesn’t make the rule, St-Petersburg’s city center is small so easily done by foot!

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Traveling in Russia

Moscow’s Kremlin

Everyone already heard of The Kremlin. For you it might be a political center, for others a religious one. In any case, being full of mysteries, questions and fantasies, the Kremlin is definitely worth the visit!

From its building in the 14th century until now, the symbolic political dimension of the Kremlin obliterates the original value of this outstanding architectural complex. Indeed the Kremlin remains before all a piece of History, a fortress hosting both magnificent palaces and old, but nonetheless outstanding, cathedrals. 

Today, the Moscow Kremlin is in the form of a triangular enclosure of high red brick walls extending over 28 hectares between the Moskva River and Red Square. The walls of the Kremlin are punctuated by 19 defense towers, each with its own name and its own architectural style.

In addition to the Presidential Administration in the Senate Palace and the official residence of the President in the Terems Palace, the Kremlin contains many architectural treasures, including four cathedrals, two churches, and many palaces. One of these is the Palace of the Armoury which contains a unique collections of Faberge eggs, jewelry, and pre-revolutionary silverware.

So what are you all waiting for? Let’s visit it!

 

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