More Sun Means More Fun in Russia

Traveler has more time to explore during White Nights

As a 14-time Grand Circle traveler, Joan Rudloff of Palo Alto, California, has a strategy when she’s planning a trip: Travel during the periods of most daylight. That made selecting a departure on Russia Revealed: Moscow to St. Petersburg easy, as White Nights included extended daylight hours for making discoveries on her own. Known in St. Petersburg as Belye Noche, the curious natural phenomenon means longer daylight hours in late spring and early summer.

“The sun is out 24 hours a day. I wasn’t out all night, but some people were out at 1:30 a.m., some were out at 3:30, it just never got dark. I don’t want to go where it’s going to be dark early" says Joan. " I went on The Baltic Capitals & St. Petersburg [with Overseas Adventure Travel] in July and it was still really light then, too. I had heard of White Nights before and thought it would be good so I’d have extra time to walk around.”

This is what sunset at midnight looks like during White Nights.

One perk of traveling during White Nights was special access to Catherine Palace for Grand Circle Cruise Line travelers, as the elaborate summer residence of the tsars is usually closed the last Monday of the month.

“When I had been before, it was jammed. You really had to move quickly through the Amber Room, but this time it wasn’t crowded at all because they opened it especially for people on ships [during White Nights], and you had a lot more time to enjoy things,” Joan says.

The opulent interior of Catherine Palace.

What surprised her most about Russian museums was the opportunity to get very close to the paintings and artwork and take pictures. “You could never do that here [in the U.S.] or in France. It’s very open. There are just people in the rooms, watching, but no ropes around the artwork or anything.”

Among the museums Joan visited was the Hermitage, where her solo travels on foot randomly brought her to a swearing-in ceremony for new policemen in front of the museum. “You don’t get to see something like that every day. At every corner I turned, there was something new and exciting—it really gets me going and makes me want to do more.”

Joan enjoyed seeing this swearing-in ceremony for new policemen in front of the Hermitage.

Among her other discoveries were traveling on the subway in Moscow, a city that she said completely belied her expectations. “I was always curious about it, and was quite impressed," Joan says. "What I expected—some grim place—it wasn’t like that at all. The people were wonderful, they were very friendly, and a lot of them spoke English. Many of the signs were in English. I just loved everything about it. Walking down this street full of high-end stores and Jaguars and Maseratis with beautiful flowers hanging overhead, it just wasn’t what I expected of Moscow.”

The colorful onion domes of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow were one of the highlights for Joan.

The Metro—part of a Russia Revealed included tour—was also much different than what Joan anticipated, she says. “Besides the lush green parks everywhere, there was no litter or graffiti, anywhere—not even in the subway. They’re like museums underground. They shut them down during the wee hours every night and clean miles and miles of them, and you can tell.”

As for the above-ground sights, highlights for Jane were Red Square, Kizhi Island, and the fountains of Peterhof. “It was gorgeous, the Russian people were out enjoying it and strolling, like the way we would enjoy a national park here. Seeing the Gulf of Finland from Peterhof was just magical.”

Joan was enchanted by the fountains of Peterhof.

Joan, who counts photography and videography as hobbies, says her friends were most curious about her photos of Kizhi Island’s onion domes, which were the iconic symbols of Russia, to them. She uses her iPad on all of her trips to blog daily throughout.

Joan was fascinated by Kizhi Island's 22 onion domes, each built without a single nail.

Joan, who says she continues to work part-time in order to keep traveling, calls her Grand Circle trips her “higher education.”

“I didn’t finish college. I ended up doing a year and a half of backpacking through South America by myself in the ‘70s. I remember my parents dropping me off at the airport in Houston. I always met people when I traveled, and I always had a desire to see the world.” Her spirit of exploring solo has not diminished over the years, and Jane says having grown up on the Gulf of Mexico makes her thirst for something other than a beachside pool or spa experience, unlike her friends. She found just that in the village of Svir Stroi in Russia, conversing (with the help of her Program Director) during her Home-Hosted Visit. “It was really one of the more memorable [visits] I’ve had. All of the guides have been fabulous too. It’s amazing how Grand Circle finds all of these people with such wonderful personalities.”

To watch fellow travelers like Joan in our Grand Circle Cruise Line video describing—in their own words—what made their experiences on Russia Revealed: Moscow to St. Petersburg so memorable, click here.