We continue introducing to you the Real Russia team, the enthusiastic people who make our company so special.
Today we spoke to Dominic Quiney, Marketing Executive in the Real Russia team, with his insight into Russia, having lived there while at university studying the Russian language!
Dominic joined the Real Russia team in February 2017. He has a First-class Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Russian Studies from the University of Birmingham. He started learning Russian from scratch at university in September 2012, and speaks some French and German in addition to his native English. His interests include archery (he both shoots his own bow and coaches novices on various aspects of their archery technique), travelling with friends and family, reading, history and other sports apart from archery, including football and tennis.
Dominic, our traditional question, what are the three most interesting countries you’ve visited?
Unsurprisingly, Russia is my favourite. I lived in Moscow for a whole year when I was 20-21 years old and was still becoming fluent in the language, and Moscow is a city that simply took my breath away. There truly is something there for everyone. I also spent some time living in Petrozavodsk in the Summer of 2013, which is very different to Moscow, but no less interesting. St. Petersburg is unique in its architectural splendour and Kazan provides a very interesting mix of Christianity and Islam, side-by-side in the same city.
Next is Iceland. It’s like nowhere else on Earth – arriving there and traversing the landscape makes you feel like you’ve just walked into a mythical land of adventure. It’s not hard to see why the Viking sagas were mainly composed there. A dip in the Blue Lagoon is extremely relaxing, while the country’s glaciers look simply astounding.
It’s difficult for me to pick the third – it would have to be a choice between Italy and Germany. Italy is a truly beautiful country, especially around the Amalfi Coast and Sorrento, whilst the Island of Capri’s popularity is well deserved. On the other hand, Germany offers a fascinating recent history, especially in Berlin, of two extremely different ways of life side-by-side: capitalism and communism. East Germany may have fallen in 1990, but one doesn’t have to go far to see the Fernsehturm, Alexanderplatz and the old Stasi Headquarters on one hand, and the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate on the other.
Dominic in Potsdam, Germany.
Which countries are on your bucket list?
It’s difficult to know where to begin! I have yet to properly leave Europe (even when I was in Russia, I never entered Asian Russia), so the Trans-Mongolian Railway from Moscow through Ulan Bator to Beijing certainly features very prominently on my list. I would love to go the various Central Asian countries, such as Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, but I also want to visit the likes of Japan, India and Vietnam.
Where have you been in Russia? What city is your favourite?
As I mentioned above, I’ve been to Petrozavodsk, St. Petersburg, Moscow and Kazan, but also to Kizhi Island and Russkeala Rock Park, which is near the border with Finland.
My favourite city is, without a shadow of a doubt, Moscow. It is twice the size of London and it has something for everyone; renowned theatres and opera houses, the uniquely striking Moscow Kremlin (undoubtedly one of the world’s most iconic buildings), St. Basil’s Cathedral and other such sites for tourists. It is also an entertaining city to live in: Gorky Park was one of my favourite hangouts, where you can play beach sports on artificial sand courts and watch films at an open-air cinema in the summer, and then ice skate around a large part of it in the winter; and that is just the tip of the iceberg, I could go on!
Describe your experience living in Russia in three words.
Captivating, exhilarating, character-building.
What was the most surprising for you when you visited Russia for the first time?
You often have to enter through at least two or three heavy steel doors just to get into your flat!
Which stereotypes about Russia did you have to leave behind after living there?
There are a few, but the most notable one was, “Russians don’t smile and are unfriendly”. Russians don’t smile at strangers, or at people they’re selling a ticket to in a metro station, for example, but once you get to know them, becoming friends with them is pretty easy, and they are often some of the most hospitable, generous and loyal friends you can have.
What is the most unusual custom in Russia in your opinion?
The superstition held by many Russians that if you whistle indoors, you will lose all your money. I still don’t know where that superstition came from, and, as somebody who used to whistle quite a lot before going to Russia for the first time, I had to get myself out of the habit of whistling indoors while I was over there!
Why do you think trains are so popular in Russia as a long-journey public transport? What was your first impression when you boarded a Russian train?
Of course, there’s the widely-held view that train travel is much safer than air travel in Russia, although the safety of Russian air travel is OK. Rail travel, however, can be relatively cheap in Russia and it allows you to truly appreciate the landscape of Earth’s largest country as you roll through it. Russian trains are also highly communal, with a many people in the same train carriage for hours, or even days, at a time, so it’s a fantastic opportunity to meet people from all walks of life.
My first impression when I boarded my first Russian train (from St. Petersburg to Petrozavodsk) was, “Wow, this is an efficient use of space – the bottom bunks triple up as benches during the day, bunk-beds during the night, and storage spaces for your luggage!
What are your favourite books in Russian?
Russian literature is almost unique in how profound it is. At the moment I’m reading ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’ by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. It draws on Solzhenitsyn’s own experience of being imprisoned in a Stalinist-era Gulag, to tell the story of aprotagonist who also finds himself in one of these gruelling camps.
There are so many others to choose from as well. I’ve almost finished reading the comedy “Chemodan” (“Suitcase”) by Sergei Dovlatov, and I still want to read War and Peace in Russian before I read it in English. Dostoyevsky’s Underground Man is also a very thoughtful read.
This month we launched the World Cup 2018 Information Hub on the Real Russia website, with Dominic playing an active role.
Being a football fan yourself and preparing the WorldCup 2018 Information Hub, what do you think about the most anticipated event of the year? Which matches would you visit if you had a chance?
It has been my pleasure to prepare Real Russia’s 2018 World Cup Information Hub, which reveals all budding spectators need to know about getting to, and enjoying, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; a football World Cup in Russia!
I can’t wait for the World Cup. In fact, I plan on going myself. I’m going to try and see two out of England’s three group games: the first, in Volgograd, and England’s last group game, in Kaliningrad (the Russian exclave sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania). I would also like to go and see the World Cup Final at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Whilst there, I also might go and see some of the locations which aren’t hosting World Cup matches, such as Lake Baikal, Perm, and possibly even Vladivostok!
I think the World Cup is going to be an excellent chance for Russia to showcase its hospitality, excellent cuisine, and the warmth of its people, along with its fascinating culture and unique architecture.
We thank Dominic for answering our questions and look forward to sharing an interview with another member of the Real Russia team …in the next year! As it is our final blog in 2017 we shall take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year!
We are delighted to say that with your incredible support, we have been named Russia’s Leading Travel Agency 2017. This is the fifth year in succession we have had the honour of being voted ‘Russia’s Leading Travel Agency’, which is unprecedented. Impressive? Indeed!
Considering that the World Travel Awards are the travel industry’s equivalent of the Oscars, winning an award at the World Travel Awards means so much to everyone here at Real Russia. It provides international recognition for our team of dedicated specialists, without whom Real Russia would not be where it is today. And winning this prestigious award for the fifth time in a row demonstrates that our team are consistently, year on year, exceeding our customers' expectations.
Now the glare of the splendid ceremony has faded, we would like to send huge thanks to our fantastic customers for taking the time to vote for us; also to our partners and affiliates for spreading the word about the nomination and encouraging their customers to speak up. We are privileged to have had your support for the last five years, and we feel it is a big responsibility keeping our services to the highest standard.
In celebration, Real Russia are delighted to make a contribution to our chosen charity, The Life Route. The donation will help the charity to continue their excellent work.
Talking about the award ceremony, our team, including the Operations Director Eugene Kharisov, Sales Supervisor Alla Menshikova and our Account Manager Natasha Zhukova, attended the prestigious ceremony in St Petersburg on 30th September 2017, with hundreds of giants from the travel industry from across the region in attendance.
The venue was absolutely gorgeous – the Marble Hall of the Russian Museum of Ethnography situated in the neighbourhood of the Mikhailovsky Palace. The Marble Hall is one of the most remarkable rooms of this museum, made in the Greco-Roman peristyle. The cladding is completely made of Karelian pink marble. The inner room is enclosed in numerous columns supporting the ceiling vaults.
The Marble Hall- the venue of the Gala ceremony
The official after party was held in the ballroom at the luxurious five-star Hotel Astoria, one of the most attractive venues, where the national Russian character matches with the luxury of the high-class hotel. The Astoria was where Hitler planned to hold a victory ball after taking Leningrad, as the city was called during World War Two. Needless to say, this never happened.
The guests enjoing the performance on the stage
We asked Alla about the highlights of the event, ‘The venue impressed me the most. The Marble Hall and the lighting that they created looked fabulous. We all enjoyed a terrific performance of the professional artists (musicians, singers), who were very warmly and sincerely taken by the guests.’
The artists in the traditional Russian costumes
As Eugene Kharisov explained to us, ‘This event was attended by the most successful tourism industry leaders who, through their dedication, got this longed-for reward. Attending there was a good opportunity for us to acquire new contacts and meet the existing partners. The event was organized at the highest level with the participation of local authorities. Guests were invited to a magnificent show with Russian artists and a sumptuous dinner. We hope that our participation in this event will be permanent.’
The interview with Eugene Kharisov
We are especially pleased that the event took place in Russia, for the first time in World Travel Awards history, and that the host city, St Petersburg, in the centenary of the October Revolution, received the award for Europe’s Leading Destination. Famed for its endless canals, baroque palaces and legendary historical figures who called the city home, this eternal city of luxury palaces and fountains, has been the quintessence of Russian history and culture over the last three centuries.
As World Travel Awards Founder and President Graham Cooke said, ‘St Petersburg proved a wonderful host for our Europe Gala Ceremony, and I am sure the city will go on to take its rightful place as a top ranking tourism destination.’
The State Hermitage and St. Isaak Cathedral
If you would like spend a few days exploring the stunning city of St. Petersburg, the imperial and cultural capital of Russia with a rich and dramatic history, let us assist you. Famed around the world as a city of museums and galleries, this 'Venice of the North' can boast over 100 museums, ranging from the State Hermitage, one of the world's most famous galleries, to small museums honoring some of Russia's greatest writers. Step back in time with our St.Petersburg excursions or tours to discover the world-famous sights, including the Peter and Paul Fortress, Church of the Savior on the Blood and other stunning cathedrals, many magnificent palaces around St.Petersburg, or enjoy a boat tour with incredible views of this unique city.
Once again we are proud to be a World Travel Awards winner and would like to thank you all who sent us congratulations on the victory.
Our colleagues, Alla, Eugene and Natasha with the 2017 trophy