No, it’s not quite summer yet, but this year I’m starting my summer travels a little early! As many of you know, in addition to my annual January round-the-world trips, since 2009 I’ve been adding a month-long summer travel adventure to the mix. Instead of an actual “RTW” trip, my summer trips typically focus on a single region of the world for more in-depth exploration. Last summer it was the Himalayas; the year before, Central America. This year, I had grandiose plans for Russia, Ukraine and the Black Sea (the only real “region” of the world I’ve yet to explore) but the current political situation in that part of the world necessitated a revamp of the itinerary. Sigh.
But thanks to incredible deals on flights into Moscow (and a current lack of any travel warnings there), I’ve decided to gamble on keeping Russia on the itinerary since it’s the only inexpensive gateway to Europe at the moment. From Moscow, I’ll be heading to St. Petersburg, Latvia and Lithuania before flying south to spend the rest of the month in the Mediterranean – Sardinia, Corsica, the Greek Islands and southern Turkey – before finally flying home from Istanbul in mid-June. Again this year I’ll be joined by my regular summer travel buddy, Shannon, for the first two weeks of the trip. She’ll head home from Crete at the end of the month and I’ll continue island hopping around Greece and Turkey for another two weeks. We depart one week from today and I couldn’t possibly be any more excited. More on the full itinerary next week!Read More
It’s an unseasonably blustery May afternoon here in New York City but by this time tomorrow I hope to be enjoying a sunny spring day in Moscow! The weekend forecast for Moscow and St. Petersburg looks fantastic and I am excited to get my summer travel extravaganza underway. I’m again joined on this trip by my good friend and regular summer travel buddy, Shannon, who will be with me for the first two weeks before flying home from Crete via Istanbul. Shannon and I are sitting here in the JFK Sky Club still trying to finalize a few itinerary details and book various hotels, rental cars and ferries (we did kind of plan this one on short notice). There are still a few details to be worked out (especially on the latter half of the trip) but here’s the full itinerary as it stands now:Read More
I knew I was taking a chance with Moscow. After all, the current political situation in the region is less than stable and Putin is anything but predictable. Who knew if he would make a move that would draw military engagement from the rest of the world. But Russia had been on my wish list since my first trip around the world 9 years ago and the dramatic drop in airfares to the region were simply too good to pass up. Not to mention it had been years since my last trip around Europe and I was long overdue for a return.
So I decided to take a chance…engage in a bit of Russian Roulette, if you will indulge the metaphor.
My original plan for this summer (developed long before tensions swelled in the region) was Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus. But with an official travel warning for the Ukraine issued by the US State Department in March, I couldn’t in good conscious keep it on the itinerary. I never want to be one of those people who has to be airlifted out of a country my government explicitly warned me about visiting.
But for travel to Russia, it was a simple travel alert (very different from a warning) focused on the Ukranian border. Nothing for Moscow or St. Petersburg, where I planned to visit. So the trip was on…with just a slight modification in the itinerary.Read More
Often considered the nation’s “Window to the West,” the opulent city of St. Petersburg Russia is arguably one of the European continent’s most enchanting. Built on a swamp by Peter the Great in the early 18th century, the city encompasses more than 100 islands connected by a latticework of canals, rivers and streams rivaling the elaborate canal systems of Venice or Amsterdam.
Though the city is a popular destination with both Russian and international visitors today, St. Petersburg has an intriguing and often tumultuous history. It was St. Petersburg residents who incited the Russian Revolution ushering in 70 years of communist rule before changing course and leading the charge decades later for democracy. The Bolsheviks renamed the city Leningrad and it wasn’t until the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union that St. Petersburg regained its original name.Read More
The flight to Riga Latvia from St. Petersburg was a painless 55 minutes on regional low-cost carrier, Air Baltic. After a quick taxi ride into the city, we arrived at the Opera Hotel just on the edge of Old Town. It was a lovely little hotel and the location was perfect, central to everything we wanted to see in our limited time in the city.
The Latvian capital has been on my travel wish list since falling in love with nearby Tallinn, Estonia years ago. Rumor had it Riga was even better. Nicknamed the “City of Inspiration by the Baltic Sea” Riga’s colorful Old Town occupies a well-deserved spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List. With soaring gothic spires and architectural styles from Renaissance to Art Deco to Baroque, the historic center is a spirited blend of classical European history…without the typical hefty European price tag. In fact, Riga is widely considered one of the top value destinations on the continent.Read More
The original plan for this trip called for an overnight stay in the city of Vilnius Lithuania. But with the flight we needed to get to Sardinia only offered a few days a week, including Vilnius on the itinerary meant losing a day in Russia or eliminating Riga from the itinerary altogether and we didn’t want to do either. But Shannon and I both wanted to at least get a glimpse of Vilnius, even if it would just be for a few hours. And the flight to Italy was much cheaper from Vilnius than Riga so we decided it was a sign that we were meant to make a stop in Lithuania on this trip after all.
The heavy rains from the night before continued for the entire 3 ½ hour bus ride from Riga to Vilnius and we were convinced we’d be spending our 3 hours in the city walking around in a downpour. But miraculously, after a very pleasant bus ride, the rain stopped and the clouds parted just as the bus pulled into the central station. Hooray!Read More