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The specific promotions described in this article have now passed, but it remains online so that the resources named will be of future use to travelers.


It's a good idea to visit Mother Russia before Father Time catches up with the low-priced travel deals to the former Soviet Union. With winter winding down and the frigid temperatures for which Moscow is famous thawing, spring and summer deals to Russia and the other nations composing the old Soviet Union are decreasing in price. Air inclusive escorted tours and independent trips to major Russian cities and sites make travel to a country so rich in history, literature, international pride, the arts, classical music and architecture an educational and cultural experience. From St. Petersburg's "Window to the West" to the wild Moscow nights, Russia is as intoxicating a vacation as its vodka is cold.

Eastern Tours Consolidated (tel. 800/339-6967; www.traveltorussia.com) has a spring and summer vacation line-up to several Russian destinations. An eight-day "Land of the Tzars" special starts at just $999 for travel between now and March 31, 2006. Spring prices for this trip that covers St. Petersburg and Moscow begin at $1,499 for travel during April and go to $1,799 for May. The same trip in the summer months from June 1 to August 16, 2006 will run you $2,199. Flights are out of New York's JFK Airport on Finnair to Helsinki before moving on to St. Petersburg. Arriving in Helsinki at 8 a.m. in the morning, you have enough time to do a short sightseeing tour of the Finnish capital before catching your afternoon flight to St. Petersburg. Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great, St. Petersburg is a majestic city with castles, churches, thriving outdoor markets, lush parks, city squares and a healthy dose of deep Russian intellectual life. After all, Dostoevsky set his Crime and Punishment in the city with over 300 bridges and over 100 different islands. If you visit St. Petersburg you should read Crime and Punishment; Moscow visitors should read the The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, a hilarious, laugh-out-loud satirical farce of post-Communist Revolution Moscow that examines life in the country that invented Communism and thus attempted to kill religion. These fictional tomes give insight into Russian psyche and gloriously describe the architecture and landscapes of these two Russian cities.

Now, back to the tour. After three nights in St. Petersburg, you'll take an overnight trip to Moscow for three days of touring the Kremlin. There you'll see a new Russia blending with and respecting its former greatness. Filled with a vibrant youth community caught in the capitalistic bug, Moscow has become one of the more fun cities worldwide. A visit to a Moscow nightclub is a sociological experience on par with the best people watching in the world. Hotel choices range from three and four-star local hotels to big chains with added amenities. Departure taxes of $365 need to be tacked on as do Visa fees of approximately $145 to visit Mother Russia.

Eastern Tours also has single city trips to St. Petersburg and Moscow lasting up to four days. The St. Petersburg trip starts at $899 for travel good through March 31, 2006. April travel increases to $1,399 for the four night "Hermitage" trip that includes airfare out of New York (inquire about prices form other major U.S. gateways), all hotel accommodations, daily breakfast, sightseeing tours, a museum visit and a ballet performance at the Kirov Opera Ballet. A similar four-night trip to Moscow starts at the same $999 for travel through March 31, 2006. If you just want to fly to Russia, round-trip airfare to Moscow, St. Petersburg, or Kiev is available starting at $430 out of New York.

Nordique Tours (tel. 800/995-7997; www.nordiquetours.com), an off-shoot of Picasso Tours, has a current nineteen-day eighteen-night "Russia and Central European Odyssey" tour that comprehensively takes you through the entire region. Starting at $3,125 per person based on double occupancy hotel accommodations, this land-only behemoth of a trip includes first class hotel accommodations, a detailed sightseeing itinerary, luggage handling, daily breakfast and thirteen dinners, all transportation in a deluxe motor coach and sightseeing tours in almost every city visited. With departures starting in May, this trip stops in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Vilnius, Tallinn, Riga, Warsaw, Krakow, Vienna and Prague. For shorter trips, a four-day three-night Moscow land-only trip starts at approximately $339 per person.

Providing a host of opportunities to experience Russia's cultural events, Eastern Tours offers tickets to a variety of highbrow events. In Moscow, tickets to the Bolshoi Theatre and Stanislavsky Ballet begin at around $75 per person. Tickets to the Mussorgsky Theater Ballet in St. Petersburg will run you $25 a pop. Eastern Tours also provides optional excursions to the Dostoevsky Museum. Located in a basement apartment, the Museum is housed in the last living quarters of the literary master.

Gate One Travel (tel. 800/682-3333; www.gate1travel.com) is offering a guided tour to Russia and the Baltics covering St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novgorod, Tallinn, Vilnius and Warsaw starting at $2,879 for fourteen days of fully-escorted tourist-class and luxury travel. This trip includes airfare from New York to Moscow and return travel from Warsaw. Starting in Moscow, the trip returns to Central Europe via St. Petersburg and the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian capitals before completing the trip in Warsaw. Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is located on the Finnish Bay. Its highlights include a 14th Century Gothic Town Hall. All provide 23 meals, including daily breakfast and 11 dinners. Summer departures for this trip begin on June 12, 2006.