This HALI tour to Russia, in association with Martin Randall Travel, is an opportunity to gain an unprecedented access to textile collections in Russia. The focus is on its two great capitals, St Petersburg and Moscow, whose museums are of interest not only in terms of the importance and quality of their world-class holdings, but also due to how these vast collections have been assembled, providing insight into Russian history and culture.
Founded by Peter the Great in 1703, St Petersburg is both grand and beautiful. Built on a virgin site, on a monumental scale, its magnificent buildings reflect classical 18th- to 19th- century styles and little of the fabric of the city has changed. Its first museum, the Kunstkamera – founded in 1714 – opens the tour programme with a selection of ikats from the Royal Collections and rugs made by nomads of Central Asia. These parallel but widely varied art forms are indicative of the broad scope of textiles that will be encountered throughout the tour; a result of the systematic, methodical approach to collecting practised both at the height of the Russian Empire and later, by academic researchers in the Soviet era. Textiles continue to demonstrate the accomplished output of the many cultures that have fallen under the wide sphere of Russian influence, as well as those that have enjoyed long lasting diplomatic relations with this powerful nation, and nowhere is this more obvious than at the Hermitage, which fills the enormous Winter Palace of the Romanov Tsars.
The theme continues in Moscow – the spiritual and artistic centre of Russia – which by comparison feels more modern, having regained its status as capital in 1918.
St Petersburg. The tour begins with dinner at the hotel at c. 8.00pm. You may check in to the hotel from 2.00pm. (Flights from London are not included – see Practicalities.)
St Petersburg. In the morning, see ikats from the Royal Collection and rugs of Central Asia in the Museum of Ethnology and Anthropology: St Petersburg’s first museum, founded in 1714 by Peter the Great. Continue on foot to the remarkable Neo-Classical buildings of the Synod, Senate and Admiralty.
St Petersburg. Free exploration of the Hermitage, one of the world’s greatest art collections, housed in Rastrelli’s Winter Palace and contiguous buildings. The vast collection includes the famous Pazyryk carpet and Scythian gold, plus Italian Renaissance and Impressionist paintings, as well as Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities. An excursion to Tsarskoye Selo, formerly Pushkin, the main building is the outsized Rococo Catherine Palace. Again by Rastrelli, its richly ornamented interiors were painstakingly restored after war damage. Set in extensive formal gardens and landscaped parks with lakes and pavilions.
St Petersburg. Return to the Hermitage for in-depth curator-led tours of Fatimid, Mamluk and Ottoman rugs and textiles, in the Winter Palace of the main museum complex (closed to the public today). After lunch, there is a curator-led visit of the modern Restoration and Storage Centre which houses storage vaults and exhibits previously unavailable for public view. Among the objects are tapestries and ceremonial tents presented to Alexandra III and Catherine the Great.
St Petersburg to Moscow. The Museum of Ethnography holds traditional crafts produced by more than 150 cultures within Russia, including rugs of Transcaucasia and Central Asia Ethnography Museum. Travel by train (business class) from St Petersburg to Moscow.
Moscow. Walk through Alexandrov Gardens to the Kremlin. Many of the tsarist and ecclesiastical buildings have survived the Communist era, among these a spectacular group of cathedrals. The Armoury Museum has a remarkable collection of gold and silver, and other precious objets d’art, gifts to the tsars. The Oriental Museum contains exhibits spanning the Asian continent.
Moscow. A short coach tour provides an overview of the capital. Red Square, part framed by the walls of the Kremlin and crowned by St Basil’s Cathedral, is best seen on foot. In the afternoon, see a private collection by special arrangement.
Moscow. The Museum of Decorative & Folk Art displays textiles from around Russia and the former Soviet Republics. Visit the Tretyakov Gallery, which holds the finest collection of Russian icons in the country as well as portraits and landscapes of the 18th and 19th centuries. Experience a private visit to the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, central repository for Russia’s extensive European art collection.
Moscow. Free morning. (Flights to London are not included – see Practicalities.)
Price, per person
Two sharing: £4,560. Single occupancy: £5,280.
Arrival and departure airport car transfers; business class train travel from St Petersburg to Moscow (a meal is included), travel by private coach throughout; accommodation as described below; breakfasts, 5 dinners with wine; all admissions; all tips for drivers, restaurant staff, guides; all state and airport taxes; the services of the lecturer and a national guide.
International flights between London and Russia are not included in the price of the tour. We recommend that you book the following flights if travelling from and to London:
Outbound (two flights with stopover): SAS Scandinavian Airlines SK1530 departing at c. 6.40am, SAS Scandinavian Airlines SK732 departing at c. 12.45pm. The cost of an economy seat at the time of going to press is c. £110.
Inbound (direct): British Airways BA881 departing at c. 8.40pm. The cost of an economy seat at the time of going to press is c. £75.
Car transfers between the airport and the hotel will be provided upon request.
Details of opera and ballet performances in St Petersburg will be sent to participants about one month before the tour and tickets can be requested.
British citizens and most other foreign nationals require a tourist visa. The current cost for UK nationals is around £140, including service charge. This is not included in the price of the tour because you have to procure it yourself. You will need to complete an online application in the two month period before departure, and submit this along with your passport. It is obligatory for UK residents of all nationalities to attend one of three application centres, in London, Manchester or Edinburgh, in order to submit biometric data (fingerprints) as part of the visa application process. Visa issuing times vary from country to country but UK residents should expect to be without their passport for approximately one week.
Hotel Angleterre, St Petersburg: an excellently located 5-star hotel in the city centre, within easy walking distance of the Hermitage; Hotel National, Moscow: an elegant and comfortable 5-star hotel in the city centre, within easy walking distance of the Kremlin. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.
There is a fair amount of standing in galleries and walking on this tour. Traffic congestion means coach journeys can be long and frustrating. Average coach travel per day: 24 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCDO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting.
In partnership with HALI Publications
This tour is designed in partnership with HALI Publications with their readers in mind. It is open for anyone to book.