Today, we continue to introduce you to our well-established team of highly experienced specialists, who are happy to give independent, expert advice and assistance, for all your Russian and Trans-Siberian travel needs. Today we shall be meeting Natasha Zhukova, the Real Russia Account Manager, so let’s go!
Natasha joined Real Russia in 2006. She graduated from the Volzhsky Humanitarian Institute as a specialist in philology and foreign languages (English and German). Later Natasha received a second degree in tourism, graduating from the Moscow Institute of Tourism and Show Business. One of the most experienced members of the Real Russia team, she, along with Eugene and Alla, represented Real Russia at the World Travel Awards Gala Ceremony in St Petersburg. That trip in September 2017 became her first encounter with the ‘Venice of the North’, and left a deep impact on her – for her, St Petersburg was love at first sight!
Outside of work, Natasha raises her 13 years old daughter, and likes to spend her spare time with family and friends. She is a keen driver, and finds driving the best way of travelling within Russia.
As a travel professional, helping others to create unforgettable travel experiences, Natasha shared a few of her own with us.
Where were your last trips by car?
I travel by car quite a lot, sometimes covering over 3000 km during one trip. My recent trip was to the Black Sea, to Georgia, and to several Russian cities, like Elista, Rostov, Moscow and Yaroslavl.
How else do you like to spend your spare time?
I am keen on interior design, and love finding new decorations and inspirations for my home. We are in the middle of renewing our little summer house (dacha), doing the construction and painting ourselves - that is a great pleasure for us. I love loud music in the car. My favourite TV program is the news, of all sorts and various sources.
I’m a very social person, and love talking and meeting new people. I appreciate when people can listen and respect what you do. My life motto is, Always rely on yourself to feel stronger.
What is your favourite book?
Hard to say, I read a lot. I can name some of them, e.g. adventure historical stories by A. Duma and J. Verne, ‘Notre-Dame De Paris’ by Victor Hugo, and classics by A. Pushkin and L. Tolstoy.
What is your ideal holiday like?
I am not a beach person and would prefer sightseeing and feeling the heart of the city, or the country, that I am visiting. My ideal holiday was in Scotland a few years ago. I hope this says a lot about my preferences.
What countries would you like to see?
I would love to go back to Scotland and to London with my daughter one day, as she is a fan of Harry Porter and Sherlock Holmes! I would be also interested in seeing Western Europe.
St. Petersburg through Natasha’s eyes
It was the first time when you travelled to St. Petersburg a month ago, what was it like?
It was my first time there, indeed. St. Petersburg has a special place on the map of Russia due to its dramatic history and rich cultural heritage.
I studied at an art school when I was a school girl, and we learnt about culture, art and history, and, of course, we spoke about St. Petersburg. Thanks to my job, I knew a lot about St. Petersburg, as I say about this ‘Northern capital’ to people when offering them tours. And my recent trip finally embodied all my theoretical knowledge in to something live! This was an excitement for my nature to feel in real life, and touch all I had known and read about before.
In St. Petersburg I visited many places and felt proud to see all the work and efforts people had done to renovate, maintain and preserve the historical ancient palaces, institutional buildings and museums, paintings and all the treasures gifted to our generation by history. When you know what the Nazis did during World War II to this magnificent city, and see how the city looks now, this makes your heart beat faster. I feel this place became as close to me as Scotland, it’s in my heart. I might have lived in one of the places in one of my previous lives.
Describe St. Petersburg in three words.
Here is a short quiz. He was born in the swamp, baptized three times, did not surrender in battle, he remained a hero. Its Petersburg - Petrograd - Leningrad! The city of unique history - the pride of Russia - the destination of a life time!
What did you like most about St. Petersburg?
I enjoyed the long city walks, stirring strolls down Nevsky Prospect, Vasilievskiy Island, the Summer Garden, trips to Tsarskoe Selo, Peterhof and many other places that stand at the origins of all we hold dear, of Russian classic literature, painting, architecture, etc.
I liked how cosy the city felt to me. I was mesmerised when I saw the Dvortsovaya Square with the Hermitage. I loved all the little streets, canals and bridges in the city centre and all the embankments on both sides of the Neva river. The area was so large-scale, all the buildings around seemed so strong; it was like a time machine. Stunning views of the city immediately raised all sorts of pictures of the past tsar’s epoch, of how people lived, fought, entertained at that time and how Peter the Great built this city. He wanted all people to admire and love it and he has definitely achieved it.
Where did you visit in St. Petersburg?
We visited The Peter and Paul Fortress, The Kazansky Cathedral, The Hermitage main building as well as its second part called the Headquarters, The Ethnographic Museum (this is where I was given that great chance to attend the ceremony of the World Travel Awards 2017), The St. Isaac Cathedral, The Russian Museum, The Peterhof Palace and gardens with the fountains, The Catherine’s Palace in Tsarskoe Selo and the Summer Garden right in the centre of Petersburg.
We took an open boat trip too on the Neva river to see the Aurora warship (the symbol of the 1917 revolution). We visited the famous Zinger House, currently a home to one of the biggest book shops, and The Eliseev - a legendary shop with one of the biggest collection of handmade chocolate and marzipan.
What place in St. Petersburg appeals to you most?
The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood. I could not stop photographing it. So beautiful, so unique, so charming, so thrilling! Every piece, every mosaic is a masterpiece there. I felt like I was in the middle of a magic world.
Church of the Saviour on the Spilled Blood. Photo: Jessica Elliott
Natasha was one of the first staff employed by Real Russia and is still as enthusiastic about her job as she was 11 years ago.
What do you love the most about Real Russia?
I love the people I talk to, I work with, I become friends with. And they are from all over the world with their own culture and way of life and things. I like to observe and appreciate the fact that we are all different and unique. And they all share with me their stories, photos and experiences. This is what keeps me wanting to come back to work - to get in touch with them every day. And here are also the travel agents and partners who we have a common goal with - to make our tourists happy and help them enjoy Russia and Russian people. The communication and links we do, outside the politics and all the weird things happening in the world, makes me happy and satisfied at my work! I feel needed here where I am now!
We thank Natasha for this emotional interview and incredible insight into St. Petersburg, and look forward to sharing with you another Real Russia ‘meet the team’ interview at the end of next month. See you soon!