I had a great time meeting and teaching this extremely energetic group of Scottish dancers in Russia. Next May is the perfect time to take advantage of a wonderful combination of events! RSCDS Spring Fling, Spring Fringe and the Russian Spring School in St. Petersburg!! Don’t miss out on what promises to be a fantastic time in an amazing setting! The visa application takes a bit of time, but nothing to it. Music and dance are truly universal, to become friends without words is a great testament to our delightful past time!
More than a workshop, school or festival, the school combines classes, dances and balls with competitions inspired by the Newcastle festival. Young dancers come from all over Russia, giving the school a particular feeling of energy and excitement, as they try to take part in as many events as they can fit in. Classes are not confined to Country dancing, but other styles such as highland and step dancing are available.
It is a big country, but Russians are used to travelling. While Moscow is now the capital, for many years St Petersburg was the capital, and in many ways is the more interesting place for tourists to visit.
As a general note, many museums and churches appear closed, but it is always worth pushing at the large heavy doors to see if they open. Even open entrances may be tucked away in a corner and down some steps.
Many Russians speak English, and I have always found them extremely friendly and helpful. All types of food are available, from pizzas and McDonalds through Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Georgian to traditional Russian.
The buildings in the centre will blow your mind, and you will find yourself wanting to photograph everything! St Petersburg has a Metro system, as well as buses and trams, and you can purchase an all-inclusive card for use on all three, which is very good value. The city is intersected by canals and the river Neva, and there are many boat trips available.
Within the city there are many palaces to visit, not just the Winter palace (or Hermitage), but also the Yusopov, Stroganov, Menshikov, Marble and Summer palaces – all well worth visiting. (Peter the Great’s first house is also still preserved and can be visited), and the Faberge museum is almost overwhelming in the beauty of it its exhibits (more than just the eggs!)
While the Hermitage contains many famous works of art (including a “Mother and Child” by Leonardo), there are two other galleries which I can recommend – one is in the “General Headquarters” building, which faces the Hermitage from across the square, and which contains a magnificent collection of modern European art, and the “Russian Museum” in the Mikhailovskiy palace, which contains a vast collection of paintings by Russian artists.
There are many cathedrals and churches, of which the four most interesting are “The Church of the Spilled Blood”, St Isaac’s, Kazan, and the cathedral in the Peter & Paul fortress where the royal families are buried.
Of course, if you are into culture, there are concert halls and theatres such as the world famous Mariinsky, for operas and ballets.
Then there are the places to visit outside the city – number one on the list is Peterhoff, built to rival the palace of Versailles, which is not only a palace but also a park containing numerous fountains.
To go to Russia requires a visa, which is a three stage process:
Stage one is obtain an “Invitation” & “Tourist Voucher”, which are normally issued through either travel agencies or hotels (and which will be organised by the Fling / Fringe / School committee. Committee note: more information about visa you can find HERE). Make sure the start and finish dates cover more than your length of stay in Russia; people have been turned away because their visa was dated to start the following day, not allowing for the day they actually arrived in Russia; similarly there can be problems if a flight is cancelled, if this means you need to leave on a flight the following day.
The second stage is to go on line to www.vfsglobal.com and fill in a long on-line form, ensuring that the dates agree with those on the invitation, print it off, sign it, and fix a recent photo.
The final stage depends on where you live – in some countries you can apply by post, and in others you have to visit a “visa centre” – in the UK the centres are in London, Manchester and Edinburgh and you have to deliver the documents personally, including your passport, have your fingerprints taken and pay the fees. (You can have the passport returned by courier).
As an aside, the passport needs at least two blank pages, and must be valid for at least 6 months after the end of the visa.