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Meet our local guide: Yana

a person standing in front of a large city

On how you’ve become a tour guide

Do you believe in destiny? I do. I believe that certain things are destined to happen in our lives. Being a tour guide for me is one of such things.

I took numerous career tests at school, and every one of them showed that I should be a tour guide. But I chose another path and went to study Events management. I then worked for various organizations planning festivals, seminars, receptions, and dinners. But one day I saw advertising of a Guides camp organized by ExploRussia. After studying there and passing all the exams I was welcomed to the team. I have been working as a tour guide for 2 years now. And I love every part of it!

Tour guiding never gives you a chance to be lazy. You are always in search for new information, facts, books, and photos. Every day you meet new people with amazing stories. I can honestly say that working as a tour guide not only enriches my knowledge but also broadens my mind and makes me a better person.

On moving to Moscow

I grew up in a small town in the North of Russia. There we have low temperatures, lots of snow, deep forest starting right at the edge of the town, and everyone is someone’s friend or relative. I moved to Moscow in 2009 to study at the University. I must confess that the city we enjoy today and the city I saw 10 years ago are two absolutely different places. If there were a prize for #10yearschallenge, then Moscow would definitely get it.

Of course, a big city overwhelms you at first. It happened to me too. Once I moved to the capital, I learned my everyday routes and tried not to get lost between streets and buildings. It all seemed very chaotic. Moscow of those days was also full of billboards and electrical cords above the streets. The city could give you not a very warm welcome. It undoubtedly had its own romance, but you would hate it or love it just in one day. There was no other option. Thanks to many events and people, Moscow has tremendously changed for better since then. Today we live in a safe, comfortable city, which keeps growing and developing. Like every capital, Moscow attracts the bravest dreamers of the country, who come here in search of better opportunities. And there is a place for everybody. I love seeing these changes and being a part of them.

On what you love in Moscow

Do you think that a certain type of person chooses to live in big cities? Those who give up their steady lives in the cutest and most comfortable towns and trade it for spending hours in traffic jams and constant hurry from one meeting to another must be crazy. Oh yes, we are. If someone tells me that it is not wise to live in Moscow, I will argue with all my passion.   

I love living in Moscow because here you can find everything. If you feel like spending time in a calm place and feed squirrels, you can go to Neskuchny Sad. If you feel like putting on your most expensive jewelry and have a fine dining experience, most glamorous restaurants of the City skyscrapers are ready to welcome you. If you feel like trashing your troubles away, find a friend in one of the pubs in Kitay-Gorod and go the best cocktail hunting around the area. At any time and in any mood here you can find a place that will be just perfect for the moment.

In Moscow, you can always participate in interesting projects and initiatives. Not even mentioning an endless number of concerts, exhibitions, and festivals you can visit all year round. This kaleidoscope of events and people makes me fall in love with the city over and over again.

On what you think guests must eat and drink in Moscow

Like in every big city nowadays in Moscow you can find any cuisine. New places open in Moscow every week, some of them are exclusive and some of them come to the capital from other cities of Russia. If you do not have time to travel around our big country, make sure you visit restaurants with Siberian cuisine and cuisine of small nationalities of Russia. It will give you an idea of a great variety of dishes in different parts of the country. Also don’t miss a chance to try Georgian delicious dishes, which are very popular lately or take our Moscow Local Market Food tour to have a comprehensive overview of what Russian like to eat.   

My personal top three dishes to recommend would be a fish soup Ukha, Beef Stroganoff, and Syrniki. If Ukha is cooked right, then a small lump of coal should be put in a soup at the end of cooking, as well as a shot vodka should be poured into your plate. It is a very entertaining procedure. Beef Stroganoff must be cooked with sour cream and no ketchup or tomato sauce. Keep an eye on that, it is very important! Breakfast cheesecakes, Syrniki, are known since the 12th century, so it is a recipe that has not changed for almost 800 years. Otherwise, I advise you to try pancakes with caviar. We eat caviar only on big holidays and celebrations. But coming to Russia is a big thing, right? You definitely deserve this treat. 

On unique experience that you recommend

There is a nice article suggesting places to visit in Moscow within 3 days. Most of them are the main sights of the city. If you look for a unique experience in Moscow, try to include a visit to a bathhouse, banya. Banya is not just a place where you go to wash and spend some time in a steam room. Going to banya is a whole ritual and can last for 4 hours easily. It, of course, includes spending time in steam rooms, in which usually various herbs are put to give it perfect scent. But the greatest part of it is to spend time drinking tea with your friends in between steam room sessions and chatting about everything. You can also order spa services like a massage or hitting with bath brooms. Believe me, your soul will leave your body and come back absolutely new and refreshed. Going to banya is an experience not only for your body but also for your mind and soul.

There are many public bathhouses in Moscow. The most famous one is Sanduny bathhouse, which was opened in 1808. A good alternative is Rublevskie bathhouse, which is a bit out of the city center. Don’t worry if you get confused there. In every bathhouse, there are regular visitors who are always ready to give advice to a newcomer.

On where else to go in Russia if not to Moscow

a group of people posing for the camera

Usually, tourists spend time in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. It is a great combination of two capitals, which will give you a good idea of how our country has been changing through the centuries. But you must remember that as London has little in common with the rest of the UK and New York does not particularly represent the whole United States, those two big cities are far from how the rest of the country lives. If you have time, I suggest you have a quick chat with our managers and choose absolutely unexpected towns and regions for a visit. For example, Karelia in the North-West of Russia is a magnificent land of lakes and most breathtaking sceneries. Even Russian media stars spent their New Year holidays in Karelia’s village this year! You can also jump on a train for a quick visit to Tula, town South from Moscow and where we run ExploRussia tours, too. There you can visit a mansion of Leo Tolstoy and see what inspired the famous writer. And if you are ready for a real adventure, you may consider going to an ultimate Trans-Siberian trip and go all the way across the country.  A visit to Lake Baikal, where the ExploRussia team will meet and greet you, will undoubtedly be a highlight of that tour.

Interested in Russian traditions and things to do in Moscow? Visit our blog, you will find a lot of useful information!