Languages: Russian, many regional languages.
Predominant Religions: Russian Orthodox, Muslim.
Time Zone: 2-12 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+2 through
+12 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is observed March-October.
Russia Tourist Information
When asked what they want for the
future, many Russians speak of cars and computers, of "having an
easier life, being able to buy good things." Their dreams of
prosperity are fueled by foreign films and television programs
and infomercials that seem to run nonstop. But, for most, many
material goods remain out of reach. While the economy is finally
starting to recover from the 1998 devaluation of the ruble,
millions still live in poverty.
Today's Russia is often exhilarating, sometimes ominous.
Everyday life goes on amid a jumble of trial-and-error
capitalism, glitzy casinos, billboard politics, czar mania and
slick gangster-hangout restaurants. Some observers have
suggested that 30%-40% of Russia's economy is controlled by
organized crime. Add to the mix a religious revival: Hundreds of
newly renovated Russian Orthodox churches are offering services
in Moscow alone.
So far, travelers haven't been affected directly by the
country's turmoil or corruption. But conditions are changing so
quickly that you should keep a very close eye on the news. And
you should be aware that despite all the new doors that have
opened and the greater flow of information, there are still
plenty of murky areas in Russia - sudden changes of rules,
unexpected shortages and mysterious surcharges. Nevertheless,
you'll find that the overall quality of hotels, restaurants and
services, while wildly variable, is improving.
In any case, travelers should be flexible, tolerant and patient
- and aware of risks. Russia can be both an enthralling
adventure and a tiring ordeal. For those willing to endure the
risks and inconveniences, Russia is simply a fascinating place -
from the imperial beauty of Moscow and St. Petersburg to the
bleakly romantic Siberian countryside.
Where to go in Russia
An ancient city, Oryol is known as the birthplace of
novelist/playwright Turgenev (author of A Month in the
Country). While some sites in Oryol are associated with the
author, ardent followers will want to make the pilgrimage to
nearby Spasskoye-Lutovinovo, Turgenev's well-preserved country
estate. Oryol merits an overnight trip from Moscow. 210
mi/340 km southwest of Moscow.
Set on a plateau on the northern slopes of the Caucasus
Mountains, Pyatigorsk (pop. 121,000) is the center of the
best-known spa area in Russia. It has some of the nation's
finest and most spectacular scenery, which you can best see by
taking the cable car to the top of nearby Mt. Mashuk. Local
attractions focus almost exclusively on water or rest cures,
including rain "massages," hydrotherapy and mineral baths.
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