Visiting Russia in winter has its positive and negative sides. There is no doubt, and I believe you will agree with me, that Russia is one of those few countries that deserve special attention during winter months.
Although winter everywhere is dark and cold, in Russia this fact can go unnoticed. It depends on your focus and perspective. Russians have a very typical “winter culture” that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. If there are people who know how to survive in unimaginably unfavourable cold conditions, they are those people.
For this reason, life in Russia continues in full force during the months of the year when the rest of Europe abates and looks forward to spring under a thick mantle of dark cloud covering.
In Russia, it is the opposite. With clear joy and eager the people take out from the wardrobes their leather coats, begin to prepare for the lavish New Year and Christmas celebrations, and wait the moment when the snow and cold will be strong enough to be able to use again the skating rinks.
Visiting Russia in Winter
To visit Russia in the winter is a real challenge. In my opinion, all foreigners remain surprised and realize how unprepared for this adventure they are only after arriving on Russian soil. During your trip, you learn many things no matter how short it is.
You learn some basic techniques for survival in cold weather and come to understand the local culture and way of life much better. I, for example, I’m not a big fan of the sauna, but in Russia, I understood why here and in the Nordic countries it is one of the favourite pastimes. In fact, it is a necessity that these nations have turned into social entertainment.
A Winter Fairy Tale
The main reason to invite you to visit Russia in the winter is that the country becomes a place of fairy tales. Those who grew up like me with books of Russian fairy tales will understand what I mean. Large landscapes, wildlife, colourful folk costumes and lavishness in all forms. Not to mention the samovar tea and pierogi with meat.
The best time to try and appreciate Russian cuisine is again in wintertime. There is only one reason for that – the meals are nutritious and filling, very suitable for the winter months. One of the favourites of all is borsch – a nutritious soup of vegetables and meat that can be stored longer.
Prepare Yourself for the Russian Winter
Another very good reason to visit Russia in the winter is that in big cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg you will find an abundant number of museums with unique expositions. It is a pity to spend your time indoors if you travel in the summer. But if you’re visiting in winter you anyway will have to look often for warm shelter from the bitter cold outside.
It is very important to prepare yourself with warm clothing. And just to warn you –all the warm clothes that you already have, they will not be enough. Make sure you have clothes that you can use over one another to make a sort of a cocoon, from which you can remove layers when needed. And learn from the locals. A very good investment is a leather hat – a beautiful and warm item that you can use at home and which will add extra charm to your winter outfits.
Russian Winter Elegance
And do not forget that Russian women are among the most elegant ones and snow on sidewalks does not scare them. If you don’t want to feel like a tourist, choose more elegant clothes for this trip. Surely you will not be able to walk like them with high heels on icy streets. And who can besides them?! Do not think that with ski overalls on the streets of St. Petersburg you can pass for a local no matter of your blue eyes.
Let me tell you about the New Year holidays. New Year in Russia is a big deal. The decoration is lavish (sorry, I cannot think of a stronger word to describe it worthily), gorgeous, so rich that at some places is even redundant. So cluttered and even a little kitschy, it makes you feel like a kid in a huge candy store – gaudy colourful packaging, much foil and cellophane … everything is in colour and glisten.
And still, all these heavy decorations somehow fit Russia. In territorial terms, Russia is the largest country in the world and this affects everything in it. The buildings are enormous, the boulevards – with ten lanes, the squares – huge like sites for spaceships… And of course, to all these should be given festive look on the eve of the New Year.
How to do this? Simple – the facades of the enormous apartments buildings are lined with huge garlands, which glow in the dark and remind you of Las Vegas, but in some megalomaniacal style; Christmas trees are everywhere, on every corner, in front of every shop, every square and so on; and in order to make the atmosphere full of charm – gentle classical music pours through the spaces of malls, restaurants and all other public places. I am absolutely sure that when I was in Vienna rarely heard classical music so often than in Russia in the winter.
And to finish with the agitation I should mention that the Russians are people with a highly developed culture, especially musically. I was amazed at how good the taste for the music they have and how music education has developed. It is amazing how many concerts in the two most important cities in the country – Moscow and St. Petersburg are performed. At the end of the year, the number of these concerts is increasing and tickets for the Bolshoi Theatre are sold out months before.
And finally, let me summarize.
How does a foreign woman feel in Russia during the winter?
She feels like a Matryoshka doll who forgot to put on her coat; like a doll tossed by winter winds but nonetheless wanting to wander endlessly through the snow. Like a princess from a fairy tale who travels incognito. Russia is full of wonders if you just let it show them to you.