Contiki – Russia & Scandinavia Trip Report (Best Trip Ever!)

Carlsberg Brewery

See my summary trip post on my blog here.

My original trip website is here.

Day 1 – June 25th – Flew into Copenhagen and took a taxi to the hostel (4 girls to a room, 14 sharing one bathroom). I met up with some people who had already arrived and we took a bus into town. On the main street, we saw an Erotica Museum which was new and interesting to all of us so of course we stopped in and broadened our horizons. We continued on the longest pedestrian only street in Europe, had lunch and wandered around.

After taking the bus back to the hostel, we met up with more tour mates who had already started the drinking festivities (practically a requirement on any Contiki tour). We imbibed for a bit then continued on to the group dinner which was edible but barely so. We ended the night by hopping on a train to the city and went to an Irish Pub – pretty silly considering we were in Denmark!

Little Mermaid

Little Mermaid

Day 2 – June 26th – First day of touring with Contiki – Visited the Opera House, Dragon Claw, Royal Palace and took pictures with the guards who can’t talk to you but just walk back and forth, Geffion Fountain (virgin goddess), Little Mermaid, Carlsberg Brewery and rice horses.  We went on a river cruise and I went to a section of town called Christiana with the hottie I liked from the tour. Christiana is basically the hippie-land of Denmark – full of free love and drugs. Twas a very interesting spot!  On the way to Christiana, we went to the Round Tower and walked up a bazillion stairs to get to the top.  It was kind of scary; it just got narrower and narrower and you were on the edge but we got some great pictures and no one else did it so it was cool that it was something different from the group.  I highly recommend this detour from the same old Contiki tour.

Nighttime activities consisted of more drinking and a game of “I Never”. It was a fun night and a great way to get to know the people you were going to spend the next 3 weeks with.

Day 3 – June 27th –   Late start to the morning at 8am. We hopped on a ferry to Sweden then spent the day driving and playing card games on the bus. We stopped for lunch at Ikea – yes, the furniture store and then stayed at Angby Camping where we had tiny cabins but was not bad at all. You had to pay for the showers but they were roomy and clean and the water was hot and strong. There was a group meal in town but after the last group meal, some of us decided to walk around town and found delicious crepes instead. The sun stayed out very late so it was hard to get into “sleep-mode”.

Vassa Museum

Vassa Museum

Nose & Finger

Day 4 – June 28th – Toured Stockholm and Town Hall, saw the changing of the guard which was long and boring, went to the Vassa Museum which is a boat that sunk on its maiden voyage and was salvaged from the ocean floor in 1965. It was originally built in the 1700s. Some of us went to dinner on a Viking boat cruise. It started to rain a bit but I think that made it more fun. Afterwards we wandered and saw the giant nose and finger in the water (you have to see it to understand) and listened to a jazz concert in the park. Lastly we hit the Ice Bar which I believe is one of the original bars where everything is made of ice including the bar, tables, chairs and glasses. You must wear a silver parka and big gloves to hang out there. Now these Ice Bars are everywhere and I think they’ve lost their uniqueness.

Day 5 – June 29th – Free morning in Stockholm which meant we had to kill time until we could move onto somewhere interesting – an overnight cruise to Helsinki a.k.a. The Love Boat. The boat certainly lived up to its name 🙂

Day 6 – June 30th – Spent the day wandering around Helsinki then met up with another Contiki tour that had taken the longer tour through Norway and was now a part of our group. Overall this was one of the least memorable days of the trip.

Day 7 – July 1st – We spent a good portion of the day driving to Russia.  At the border, we all had to get our passports checked and stamped.  It only took an hour and a half which was much less than everyone thought it was going to take.  A tough-looking man got on the bus after we all got back on and walked up and down the aisle checking us again.

Folk Lore Show

Folk Lore Show

We stopped in Vyborg for lunch and then we drove to St. Petersburg.  We picked up our tour guide, Anna, and had champanski at the beach which was right across from our hotel; then we went on a tour

Champanski!

Champanski!

of St. Petersburg.  We got upgraded to a 4 star hotel which was wonderful – especially since we were staying for 3 days.  We went out to dinner and had finally had the Russian vodka we had been hearing so much about and then went to a Folk Lore show which was hysterical.  The pictures won’t do the show justice.  During intermission, they served vodka, champanski and caviar; it was pretty cool.  There was an annoying Japanese tourist there who kept trying to be part of the show, but he was pretty funny too.  We got back to the hotel around 11pm and it was still bright out like it was the afternoon.  We ended the night by hanging out at the bar in the hotel where prostitutes were picking up men.

Day 8 – July 2nd – We got up early and went to Petrodvorets Palace which was about an hour and a half away. Our Russian tour guide

Shell casings as wall decorations

Shell casings as wall decorations

told us about the history of all this but I just kept falling asleep – these tours are really exhausting!  At the palace, we saw nice gardens

Underground shop

Underground shop

and fountains and did some street shopping.  I picked up some wooden stackable dolls.  We went to the Leningrad Memorial where they had 900 shell cases lit all around the walls to signify the 900 days of the siege.  People were taking wedding photos at the memorial which I found very strange.  Later we went to the Nevsky Prospect then went to an underground shop with dodgy, Serge, where people could buy bootleg cds and dvds.  I bought Russian porn – hey how can you pass that up! For the record it was terrible and I threw it away 🙂

We went out to dinner as a group to a place called My Mys which has a story of a dog that was killed then drowned with a brick or

MyMy

MyMy

something. They have the real dog or a replica hanging on the wall like a carpet.  Very strange.

Day 9 – July 3rd – Did a city tour of St. Petersburg again, saw St. Isaac’s Church, Hermitage, Rasputin’s death site, and had free vodka and coffee.  Saw fighter jets playing in the sky which was really cool.  They actually woke us up in the morning and I thought maybe Russia was under attack which would just been my luck!  The Hermitage was huge and I got bored very quickly – Lots and lots of art.  I can’t imagine anyone going through the whole thing.  We had dinner at the hotel  and then it was off to the Kiroff Ballet to see Swan Lake.  It was very

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

nice but I kept falling asleep during the first act.  The second act was better but the third was boring too.  I just can’t interpret dance, I guess.  The first act was an hour, then 30 minutes, then 15 minutes so it wasn’t horrible.

Day 10 – July 4th – Roamed around the city in the morning then about 12 of us took a boat ride in the river then got Subway sandwiches (eat fresh!) and had to hustle to get back to the bus on time.  We drove to Novgorod.  Took about 3 hours.  I believe this was the town that a tour mate got harassed by the police for his papers. Always be on guard when out of your own country. Later we saw the Kremlin

Kremlin

Kremlin

(one of many) – one of the oldest churches in the world.  Also a nice beach with hottie speedo guys – not.

Day 11 – July 5th – Drove to Moscow, had McDonald’s, and met our guide, Galina, who brought us to the Red Square and we took our DSC00549group picture.  Went to the bar next door and got drunk on vodka – shocking, I know.

Kremlin Moscow

Kremlin Moscow

Day 12 – July 6th – Did a tour of the Metro and stopped at several different stations to see the architecture and artwork.  Their Metro is 10 times the size of Rome.  After that we took the Metro to the Red Square where we saw Lenin’s embalmed body which was encased in a glass tomb.  We had to stand on a long line and be very serious.  We had to trust Galina to watch all our bags which we left lying on the street.  We went to see the Kremlin and St. Bassil’s Cathedral.  Afterwards I took the Metro to Aleksanorovsky Sad which is a famous drinking and eating street where I ate borsch.  It actually wasn’t bad.  Went to a strip club next door; I hear clubs in other countries are better.

Day 13 – July 7th – Took the bus to the Russian Military Museum which had lots of artifacts but I didn’t find it interesting.  A bunch of us skipped the Revolutionary museum and came home on the Metro.  We managed to find our way from a station we had never been to by asking a minimal amount of directions. We were very proud of ourselves as Russian doesn’t even have letters like ours so we had to match up character to character.  We took a nap and awoke to find out London had been bombed – Five tube stations and two busses were bombed at the same time.  Supposedly it was due to the GA Summit or something like there where the important world leaders come together and talk about the world.  London also was just awarded the Olympics in 2012 so it came at a “convenient” time.  Anyway then we had dinner and went to the circus.  We bought flashy light swords and bracelets and I got rabbit ears and a mohawk. At the circus there were some weird clowns who did acts that the Russians found funny but none of us understood.  There were trampoline people who kept screwing up and not completing their act.  There was a girl who twirled on a string, monkeys who did tricks. There were also birds who did tricks.  Overall I had a great time at the circus but others just didn’t get it.  They seem to only be interested in drinking and making out with each other – couldn’t we do that anywhere? 🙂

Day 14 – July 8th – Did some early morning shopping at the covered markets by the hotel then it was off to Yartsevo where we stayed

Strippers

Strippers

at the Hotel Oasis.  We stopped at Boradino which is a memorial up a hill with Napoleon and the Russians and we ate cup a noodles at a shack nearby.  At the hotel we ate dinner then watched a dance show then saw a stripper.  It was very entertaining.  Then some of us took turns playing stripper on the pole.  We all got very drunk because we had to finish spending all of our Russian Rubles.  It was a very good night.  We all danced and got crazy and then were able to just go upstairs to bed.

Day 15 – July 9th – We went on a tour of Smolensk which was green and had lots of gold.  It had lots of beggars all around and was kind of really ugly – kind of spooky also, so we left quickly.  Then we went to another memorial with nice gardens where 100000 people were killed.  We crossed the border into Belarus then we stopped for lunch at a hole in the wall on the side of the road and we were brave and pointed at things and then ate them.  The food was actually good.  Afterwards we went to another memorial where 690 villages were destroyed by Nazis and a bell tolls every 30 seconds to symbolize how often a Belarussian was killed.  It was a very nice memorial.  They had taken dirt from each of the villages and set up a space for them there.  We drove to Minsk and exchanged our money into Belarussian Rubles because heaven forbid any of these countries use the same type of money.  Next we went on a city tour around Minsk with a tour guide that was pretty boring even though she tried to make jokes and tell stories.  We went for dinner in some government building and then we went to the supermarket to get lunch for the next day.  After that we just went to our hotel.

Day 16 – July 10th – Today we left our hotel at 7:30 am and headed toward the Belarus / Poland border.  We stopped for a quick pee in the bushes and some people got stung by prickly itchy things a.k.a. stinging nettles.  Then we went to Brest memorial which stood for people who died in the great patriotic war a.k.a. World War II.  There was a statue like Mount Rushmore of a very angry man and nasty bathrooms which were just a hole in the floor with flies that smelled terribly.  It was hard not to puke while you peed.  Then it was off to the border which was supposed to take hours.  We played with a soccer ball for an hour, then sweated and sweated.  Oh and we ate lunch on the bus with no air conditioning which made us all smell very pretty.

Day 17 – July 11th – Had a buffet breakfast at the hotel then went on a tour of Warsaw – saw the ghetto World War II memorial, did afternoon shopping all the way from the clock tower to central station.  Had McDonalds for lunch and lasagna for dinner both of which I was craving so badly.  Met back with the group to listen to a Chopin concert which was really beautiful and we had champanski at intermission.  We went back to the hotel and took quick showers because it was really hot and nasty out, then we met another Contiki group and took the bus to an underground red light club with stripper poles and stolen memorabilia.  We all danced and had a great time.

Day 18 – July 12th – We spent most of the day traveling to Berlin.  We stopped at a part of the Berlin wall just to have a rest

Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall

stop and arrived in Berlin in time for dinner. We went to the hostel and most people went to the bar.

Day 19 – July 13th – Had a morning walking tour of Berlin. It was very hot and we walked a lot but we did see a lot.  We stood on the spot where Hitler’s bunker once was.  Now it is all caved in and just a parking lot.  It is where he committed suicide with his bitch, Ava and their poor little dog.  We went to the Berlin wall and stood on where the wall used to be which was cool because you were in East Berlin and West Berlin at the same time.  We went to Checkpoint Charlie and saw the Karl Marx Statue.

In the afternoon, a couple of us managed to navigate the subway system

to go back to Alexanderplatz  for lunch, then we took the tram back to the hostel.  We just hung out in the room until it was time to get ready to go club / bar hopping.  The hopping was cool.  We started off at a beach bar, then went to three more regular bars which were all very hot – like steamy, sweaty hot.  We ended the night at a dance club which played decent music and a good time was had by all.

Day 20 – July 14th – Drove all day back to Copenhagen – Arrived around 5pm. A lot of people went and played with the ball on the field.  Overall uneventful and depressing night

Day 21 – July 15th – Lots of sad good byes but memories to last a lifetime…….and then some!

Overall this was the most amazing trip ever. The notes above do not do the trip justice. Names and super personal events have been removed to protect the innocent (or not so innocent!) but those are the parts that made the trip fabulous. Looking back at my pictures brings back a flood of memories that always make me smile and brighten my day. I couldn’t have asked for better tour mates – people who will be lifelong friends.

I can only hope that our reunion trip will be as fabulous!

Until we meet again……..

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5 thoughts on “Contiki – Russia & Scandinavia Trip Report (Best Trip Ever!)

  1. Hi Aimee, I was thinking about doing the Best of Russia trip with Contiki and wanted to know if you think its worth it. I think its the same trip that you took without the Scandinavia part. I wanted to know if you ended up picking up new Contiki people when you got to Russia? i just did a Greece trip and had an awesome group, but I noticed that the original group that came from the prior trip was kinda clickee. I would like to know what your opinion is of the Russia part of your trip and if this kinda happened when you guys picked up the new peeps. Holla at ya Boi

    • Hi Robin,
      I just looked at the itinerary for the Best of Russia and I can’t tell if it is an add on to the other tours. The itinerary that I took was different. We didn’t pick up any new people in Russia and we left through Yartsevo instead of Minsk. When we did add on people to the tour (prior to Russia) we actually combined two tours that had already started (the other tour was longer than ours). The groups were a bit clickee from both sides but overall we had a great group and we did mingle. I do remember there were a few issues with seats on the bus – everyone has their preference and sometimes it becomes territorial, lol.

      I thought Russia in general was a great place to experience. I’m curious as to how it has now changed with hosting the Olympics and all. I think if you can afford to go, do it! You will have a great time and won’t be alone. You will find your own clique! It will be an experience of a lifetime.

      Happy travels!

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