Honeymooners: Allyn and Chris
Type: International travel
Budget: Spendy ($5000-$10,000)
Where did you go? We waited five months after we got married so we could spend an awesome eleven days in Russia. I had friends who were working in Moscow and were getting ready to move back to the US, so if we wanted a free place to stay in Moscow, it had to be done then (well, seeing as how we are both grad students, it was Christmas break, with four feet of snow, or spring break, with two feet of snow). We spent five days with my friends in Moscow, then flew to St. Petersburg for another five days.
What did you do? The first night we were in Moscow we saw the most amazing circus (seriously, I don’t think I’ll ever go to a Barnum and Bailey’s circus again). We toured St. Basil and the Kremlin. We saw the famous cemetery where Soviet leaders and famous authors and dancers were buried. We saw *the* Moscow Ballet at the Bolshoi. We played in statue park. We went to the zoo and saw a trained dolphis and beluga whale show. Moscow was a fascinating city (and incredibly dirty and expensive). The longest we ever waited for a train in the subway was 1 minute and 45 seconds and that was at 1am.
When we got to St. Petersburg, we spent a full day in Hermitage enthralled by amazing pieces of art. St. Petersburg was as far from Moscow as you could get. It was clean and beautiful. The buildings were amazing to look at.
In late March, the river was frozen so sharply you could walk out and build snowmen. We saw an opera at the Marinsky theater. We went to an aquarium and saw a scuba diver hand feeding sharks and dancing with them in the tank (something I assure you I’ve never seen at an aquarium in the US).
The hardest part was walking through campus (we both teach) and listening to our students talk about going to Jamaica and Cancun while we were scrambling to find a winter coat for my husband. The week before we started to regret our decision, thinking of tropic locales while anticipating 2.5-4 feet of snow (in Moscow and St. Petersburg respectively). But it was amazing.
What would you have done differently? I took five semesters of Russian in college, but I would have definitely reviewed my language skills. There is little English in Moscow, so the ability to quickly read Cyrillic is a definite plus. We did pretty well, but there were a few frustrated moments. St. Petersburg is much, much more tourist friendly and there was English everywhere.
We found this amazing vodka in Moscow and only brought back one bottle (well, we brought back five bottles, but only one bottle of Red Army vodka). The other types of vodka we have found in the US, but the best one isn’t sold in North America. So I would have totally bought a case of Red Army vodka and shipped it to Knoxville via UPS.
What’s your best travel advice for other offbeat honeymooners? It is totally okay not to honeymoon immediately after your wedding! We were exhausted after a long wedding weekend of drinking and celebrating and couldn’t have fathomed going anywhere, especially not an “adventurous” vacation of the sort we were looking forward to.
I also recommend getting comfortable with the US Department of State website (if you’re an American). Getting a Russia visa was a long process.
I know that a lot of people love tropical locales (we’ve been to a few all inclusives ourselves), but your honeymoon is a great time to think outside the box! It only happens once and, for us, it was a great way to test our patience and cooperative abilities.