Natalie Osipova in Don Quixote Nicourse / CC0Now a principal ballerina at the Royal Ballet in London, Osipova has had one the quickest rises to fame of any ballet star in recent history. She started formal ballet training the age of 9 and was enlisted by the Bolshoi Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet at just 18. After a critically acclaimed performance as Kitri in Don Quixote in 2005, she was made a soloist in 2006. After leaving the Bolshoi she had joined the American ballet as a guest dancer before moving to the Royal Ballet in 2013. What makes Osipova more intriguing is her desire to experiment, combining ballet with modern interpretive dance through her own personal projects, paving the way for a new and exciting future for contemporary ballet.
Ekaterina Krysanova Екатерина Владимирова / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)A highly decorated ballerina in both the principal and duet categories, Ekaterina Krysanova remains one of Bolshoi’s most loved performers. Krysanova started her ballet education in 1995 at the Galina Vishnevskaya Opera Centre in Moscow, later joining the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in 2003. She has since risen to the role of principal dancer in the Bolshoi’s current roster.
Maria Alexandrova Ирина Лепнёва / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)Although resigning from the Bolshoi in 2017, Maria Alexandrova has been one of the theatre’s most loved dancers. She has played a title role in most of the theatre’s major productions including Giselle in which she made her Bolshoi debut back in 1997. She is best known for playing two roles concurrently in Don Quixote, one as a street dancer in act 1 and the other as a soloist in the third act.
Denis Rodkin Kremlin.ru / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)A rising star on the ballet scene, Denis Rodkin has become one of the most memorable male principal dancers of the last decade. Voted the best dancer of the year in 2016 by Danza Danza magazine, Rodkin continues to impress at the Bolshoi and has starred in many of theatre’s most successful ballets including Swan Lake, Ivan the Terrible and Spartacus. At the age of 29, you can expect to see a lot more from Rodkin over the coming years.
Anna Pavlova in 1912A world-renowned ballet dancer that was so successful that she even had a dessert named after her! Anna Pavlova was a prima ballerina of the 19th and 20th centuries, and although she was part of the Imperial Russian Ballet, her role as the dying swan at the Bolshoi was known as one of her best performances. Although said to have a limited technique compared to later ballet performers, pavlova surpassed skill with charismatic charm and style to become one of the most memorable of all time.
Vladimir Vasilyev in the Nutcracker RIA Novosti archive, image #709789 / Alexander Makarov / CC-BY-SA 3.0Dubbed the hero of Soviet ballet, Vladimir Vasiliev was renowned for his death-defying leaps and multiple pirouettes. He is best known for the role of Spartacus, in which he excelled at conveying the passion and drama of the story. He graduated from the Bolshoi Ballet in 1958 and would later join them as a soloist.
Map of Moscow City Centre
After a morning exploring Red Square, head over to the Kremlin where you will find out more about the tumultuous history and extravagance of the Russian aristocracy. We recommend booking a tour around the Armoury Chamber which is home to the famous Faberge eggs – this is often the best way to get around the Kremlin and you will learn far more about Russian history and its people in the process.
Moscow Kremlin and Cathedrals
An alternative to the famous Kremlin, the Izmailovo Kremlin is a short trip to the East on the Metro from the city centre and is a great choice for those interested in shopping and unique experiences. Tourists will find plenty to entertain themselves from sprawling parklands, costumed street performers and a grand market. The market is the perfect place to pick up a souvenir and is far cheaper than the shops around Arbat street. Those looking for something wholly unique to Moscow can visit the famed Vodka museum. Visitors to the museum will find out all about the history of Vodka and why Russians have come to love it, you can even try some yourself! The museum is open from 10:00am until 20:00pm every day of the week and often later on Saturdays.
Alex at Noma, CopenhagenI have done quite a bit of travelling across Europe by train and around Africa over the last decade or so. More recently, I travelled to Copenhagen in Denmark and visited Michelin star restaurant Noma, for my birthday which was a fantastic experience which I would love to repeat someday. Aside from that, I did a full country tour North to South (Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City) of Vietnam which I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in Asian travel.
Alex at Goodwood FestivalI have quite a few things I love to do regularly such as gaming and headhunting restaurants, but I am mostly into novelty, so anything I haven’t tried before is a win. Outside of work, I enjoy living a vintage-inspired fantasy with my partner, and we go to most vintage events and large festivals such as Goodwood for the racing and Twinwood for dancing that takes place in the UK throughout the year. I am not much of a gym buff, but I do enjoy swimming and a good walk.
Russian Train at StationIf you have plenty of time on your hands, choosing a sleeper train over high-speed options can be a great way to save money. Russian sleeper trains are fairly standard in what they offer and so you can be sure you will have a decent bed to sleep in, a place to get food and a place to wash. As you would already be paying for a train ticket, using a sleeper train saves you booking a hotel room for a night which can be expensive in cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg, particularly around the peak holiday season.
Tourists in Red Square, MoscowAs tourists, attractions are what we come to see. Visiting Moscow without a trip to the Kremlin is unlikely right? Unfortunately, while places of great public interest, they are also hotspots for retailers wanting to make the most of passing trade. While you should never sacrifice enjoyment for expense (I mean you are on holiday after all!) a lot can be said for stepping away from the bustling tourist areas once in a while. You will often find great local restaurants, souvenir shops and bars just a few streets away and they are usually working at a fraction of the price. Student districts can be found in most major cities and are fully catered to travellers on a budget – we recommend taking a bit of time to check up on the student-friendly areas before you visit as this can be a fantastic way to not only meet like-minded explorers but also avoid the hefty charges on the tourist frontlines.
Moscow Station with Row of TaxisPublic transport is usually cheap, and most hotels and attractions should be within walking distance. Unlike train stations, airports are located a bit further out of the city centre and can be anything from 20 minutes to an hour away by car. Private taxi companies are reliable and easy to book in advance – especially for groups when you can split the cost, although this can prove expensive if you are a solo traveller. Taxi ranks are present at every airport although you MUST always agree on the fare before taking one of these taxis otherwise you may incur surprise charges, aside from this, these will usually work out cheaper. An alternative often cheaper option than a taxi is to use public services. Regular bus and train links go from airports to city centres although you can expect these to take slightly longer than other options because of stops along the way. This may also be a bit more uncomfortable during busy commuter times when stuck in traffic.
Amur TigerThe king of Siberian wildlife, the Amur tiger is a solitary animal hidden deep within the woodlands and birch forests of the Siberian heartlands. Amur tigers have been hunted near to extinction on several occasions, with only 40 reported to remain in the 1940s. In the last few decades measures have been taken to protect these majestic animals and Russia has since granted the species full protection which has seen numbers rise considerably. Amur tigers have been known to grow up to 10 feet in length and can weigh up to an impressive 300kg.
Eurasian LynxA majestic and capable predator said to wander the forest-steppes, the Eurasian lynx is renowned for its ability to adapt to its surroundings. This lynx has been known to subtly change it colourings from a short reddish-brown coat is temperate climates to a long silky greyish coat during the Winter. Hunting had almost driven the lynx to extinction in the 19th and 20th centuries across many areas of Europe and Scandinavia, however the Eurasian lynx is now considered to be one of the few large cats in the world to have a stable population with around 10,000 said to exist.
East Siberian Brown Bear Кирилл Уютнов / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)One of many species of brown bear that inhabit Siberia and its neighbouring regions, the East Siberian brown bear can be distinguished by two characteristics: the size of its skull and its disinterest in honey. This bear is known for being bolder than its counterparts (Eurasian and Kamchatka brown bears) and is said to hunt anything from mountain hares to moose.
Amur LeopardThe most endangered of all large cats in Russia and perhaps the world with only around 100 remaining in the wild, the Amur leopard is now a rare sight even in its native Siberia. They can be distinguished from other subspecies of leopard since they have a much larger body size, thicker coats to deal with Winter climates and unique thicker patterning. Amur leopards are solitary creatures and efficient nocturnal predators. Efforts are being taken by the WWF and other Russian organisations to protect the Amur leopard. You can find out more about how you can help by visiting their website.
Siberian HuskiesNow a popular pet all across the world, the Siberian husky is instantly recognisable for its thick fur, wolf-like features and distinct markings. Siberian huskies originated in the North East of Russia and have been bred by the Chukchi people for sled-pulling which is now a major tourist attraction in the region. They thrive in the harshest Winter climates, making stellar work-dogs and terrific companions.
Blakiston’s Fish Owl Robert tdc / CC BY-SAA secretive species found only in Japan and the Russian Far East, Blakiston’s fish owl is thought to be one of the most vulnerable owls in existence with only 1000 pairs being recorded in the wild. The owl was named after English naturalist Thomas Blakiston, who recorded the first specimen in Hakodate on Hokkaidō, Japan in 1883. This owl is thought to be the heaviest owl in the world weighing around 3-3.5kg on average, as well as one of the largest along with the Eurasian Eagle-Owl and the Great Grey Owl, also found in Siberia.
Siberian ChipmunkArguably the cutest animal to roam Siberia, the Siberian chipmunk is the only known species of chipmunk to exist outside of North America and is a native to East Asia. Typically, Siberian chipmunks have 4 white stripes and 5 dark stripes along the back. They are smaller than the average squirrel at around 18–25 cm long, a third of which is the tail.
Siberian Musk Deer ErikAdamsson / CC0Musk deer are perhaps the world’s most unusual species of deer but also the most prized. Unlike other male deer, Musk deer have tusks rather than horns or antlers which are used to warn off other males during mating season. The gland from male musk deer are often used in fragrances, cosmetics and medicines around the world. They average around 3ft in length and weigh around 10kg.
Bridge in VladivostokFrom 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 SiberiaAfter 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.
Ice CrystalsNorth 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.