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Russia with Simon Reeve episode 1: A Real Russia review

Our review of Russia with Simon Reeve, series 1, episode 1

Russia with Simon Reeve is a BBC documentary created in 2017 that explores some of Russia’s most remote locations from Kamchatka in the far east of the country to Siberia and ending in St Petersburg. This three-part series investigates each of these areas to really understand the real Russia, interviewing local people, scientists and marginalised communities along the way.

Here, we share our thoughts on episode one and provide details on how you can follow in Simon’s footsteps and start planning your own journey with Real Russia!

Local life on the Kamchatka peninsula

Simon begins his journey on the remote Kamchatka peninsula in Russia’s far east. As the episode unfolds, we learn more about the struggles of the local communities that live in Kamchatka from surviving temperatures well below freezing to the livelihoods of the reindeer herders living at the whim of climate change. What is clear is that, for the people who inhabit Russia’s most remote areas, there is a distinct lack of opportunity and a sense of isolation from the rest of Russia, in particular, more popular cities such as St Petersburg or Moscow. However, what struck me the most about these remote communities such as the one visited in Esso, was their determination to continue life as normal in the face of such extreme conditions and limited support. While we learn more about the challenges of people living here, more could have been made of the captivating landscapes or wildlife Kamchatka is renowned for.

Vladivostok as the gateway to Asia

Bridge in Vladivostok
Bridge in Vladivostok

From the desolate tundra’s of Kamchatka, we are taken to the commercial port-city of Vladivostok which offered a rare insight into Russia’s future plans to create a business hub in order to capitalise on the growth of the Asian business market. While offering an interesting contrast to the rural areas surrounding Vladivostok, the documentary focused heavily on the seedy underbelly and so it was hard to really get to grips with what the city was about. Similarly, the most interesting parts of the city such as the Vladivostok military history museum, the spectacular nature reserves found on Russky Island to the south, or the city being the start or endpoint (depending on which way you travel) of the Trans-Siberian Railway were condensed into a passing mention (thankfully alluding to the overall friendliness of the Russian people) if at all while other scenes focused around the Russian authorities were given more airtime. It is important to say here that the average tourist will not have any problems with the Russian authorities whatsoever.

Amur Tiger in Siberia
Amur Tiger in Siberia

After moving away from the city, we are taken to the Siberian outback where the elusive Siberian tigers are found to roam. You cannot help but be amazed at the size of these awe-inspiring animals and the expertise of the guides in tracking these magnificent creatures is second to none. 

The caves of Yakutsk

Ice Crystals
Ice Crystals

North of Vladivostok and West of Kamchatka, Yakutsk is a major city that cannot be accessed by road. Although we see little of the city itself, being able to see the permafrost caves up close was nothing short of amazing and I will certainly make the effort to see this on my next visit to Russia.

Concluding thoughts

Overall the episode provided a well-rounded introduction to some of the lesser-known areas of Russia. It is worth emphasising that while this does provide a good introduction to certain areas of Russia, the places visited offer far more than seen to those interested in visiting them. However, it is still well worth a watch if you are just getting to grips with this vast country.

All 3 episodes of Russia with Simon Reeve are available on BBC iPlayer until March 2021.

Planning your own journey to Kamchatka

If you were inspired by Simon Reeve’s Kamchatka adventures why not create your own? We can help arrange your tours, visas, hotels and transport to most destinations in Russia, including Kamchatka on request.

Contact our travel team to start planning your journey!

You can learn more about each of the places visited by Simon Reeve in this first instalment by visiting our destinations pages listed below:

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