The Russian Expedition

Monish Menon works in Franklin Templeton Investments, India, and he harbours a typically Hyderabadi love for biryani, haleem, and travelling. He has trekked across the Himalayas, explored numerous cities, and admits to being recharged every time he returns from travelling. “Travelling acts as a major stress buster and it helps me come back rejuvenated. It makes me more open to ideas, helps me communicate with foreign counterparts better, and essentially widens my horizons,” he tells us. Most recently, Monish travelled to Russia for nine days with a group of friends during the FIFA World Cup. The trip was indeed one off of his bucket list, as it combined his love for travelling and football.

The group first travelled to the Russian port city of St. Petersburg, on the shore of the Baltic Sea. The city was the imperial capital for two centuries, and as a result it has that typically quaint European feel. “If you want to see some of the biggest and most beautiful cathedrals and palaces, and enjoy walking down streets that are rich and overflowing with heritage, then St. Petersburg is the place for you,” Monish tells us. The group visited the Church of the Saviour, also known as the Church on Spilled Blood or the Resurrection of Christ, about which Monish says, “It was magnificent both inside and out.” They also made the breath-taking climb up the Kazan Cathedral to the dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and visited the Peterhof Palace and Hermitage.

Next on the itinerary was the nation’s cosmopolitan capital, Moscow. With the Kremlin as its historic core and symbolic centre, the city has a lot more to offer than what meets the eye. St. Basil’s Cathedral and Ostankino Tower were some of the spots Monish and his friends visited. They even took advantage of the popular Moscow River Cruise that takes tourists through all the important sights in the city. “You will see some of the oldest monuments and the tallest skyscrapers here,” Monish informs us. “It’s a great place to visit for some insight into Russian culture.”

However, the group’s most significant experience from the entire trip was watching the football match live. The energy in the stadium was out of the world, as any football fan would know. “The match day truly felt like a world without borders,” Monish reminisces, as they met people of more than35 nationalities. “We got great seats and I could watch some of my favourite players like Lukaku, De Bryune, Hazard, and Rashford on the field, rather clearly,” Monish gushes. “Also, doing the Mexican wave with Mexicans right beside you is seriously awesome!” (laughs)

On the whole, the group absolutely loved their stay in Russia. “It was a revelation for us,” Monish says. “In fact, we were surprised as to why more Indians don’t travel to this nation. Right now the currency is almost on par with India, so everything was affordable. Unfortunately we didn’t get to visit other Russian cities like Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, and Samara, though we would have loved to since we’ve heard really good things about them. I would certainly recommend Russia to an avid traveller or even to someone who wants to go on a short break from work,” Monish concludes.

The country has fabulous infrastructure and awesome facilities for tourists, though the only concern might be the language barrier. But there is no limit to what a traveller can accomplish with Google Translate and some sign language!