Focus on Russia

As the Group A winner (Czech Republic) and Group B runner-up (Portugal) have already been covered, today’s Euro 2012 focus is on Russia – who many thought would win Group A (myself included) and be playing in this quarter-final fixture.

Russia may have been knocked out of the European Championship tournament but they will be hosting the World Cup Finals; when the FIFA competition is next held in Europe, in 2018.

Moscow - Capital of Russia
Moscow, Capital of Russia – Photos.TravelNotes.org

I have visited St Petersburg and Moscow (travelling between the two by train) but would like the chance to see more of the country; and it really is a huge country.

Hermitage - St Petersburg, Russia
Hermitage – St Petersburg, Russia

Travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway has always been on my to-do list and it would be nice if I could take the train all the way from Moscow to Beijing, with a visit to Mongolia, before football fans from around the world descend on Russia.

Of course I wouldn’t fly to Moscow but really do the overland experience – perhaps from Budapest to Berlin; through Warsaw to Minsk (where I’ve never been); then on to Moscow, via St Petersburg – to see how things have changed.

From Moscow the rail route would look like Nizhny Novgorod, Perm, Yekaterinburg, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk and Ulan Ude; before slipping down to Ulan Bator (Mongolia).

Russia 2018 Host City Candidates

The concept behind the Russian bid was to have 13 potential host cities and stadiums in four major clusters:

Central (Moscow); Northern (St Petersburg, Kaliningrad); Volga River (Yaroslavl, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Volgograd, Saransk); Southern (Sochi, Rostov-on-Don, Krasnodar); and the stand-alone city of Yekaterinburg.

From Rusia With Love
From Rusia With Love – Photos.TravelNotes.org

To deal with the travel distance concerns (Yekaterinburg is 1,800 kilometres from Moscow) Russia has said that any fans travelling with World Cup tickets would be entitled to free train travel between the venues; hopefully on a high-speed rail network that is planned for 2018.

There’s currently high-speed rail service in operation on three lines: Moscow-St. Petersburg, Moscow-Nizhny Novgorod and St. Petersburg-Helsinki (Finland).

Kaliningrad:
Founded in the 13th century by knights of the Teutonic Order and formerly known as Königsberg.

Kazan:
The 16th century Kazan Kremlin is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Krasnodar:
Originally a fortress built by the Cossacks in order to defend imperial borders, this is the place to experience the Cossack lifestyle and culture.

Moscow:
Founded in the 12th century, Moscow is the capital of the Russian Federation.

Nizhny Novgorod:
Located on the Volga River, Nizhny Novgorod is one of a hundred world cities included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

St Issac's Cathedral, St Petersburg
St Issac’s Cathedral, St Petersburg

Rostov-on-Don:
Located 27 kilometres from Rostov-on-Don is the former capital of the Don Cossacks.

Samara:
During World War II, the government relocated here; complete with a 37-metre deep ‘Stalin’s bunker’.

Saransk:
Located in central Russia, it is said that the Finno-Ugric people (Hungarians, Finns, Mordvins, and Estonians) originated from around here. In 2007, President Vladimir Putin participated in a Finno-Ugric festival in Saransk.

Sochi:
Located on the Black Sea, Sochi rose to international prominence when it was awarded the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Saint Petersburg:
Founded by Peter The Great as Russia’s new Imperial capital, in 1703, Saint Petersburg city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Volgograd:
Formerly known as Stalingrad, the Battle of Stalingrad (23rd August, 1942 to 2nd February, 1943) was a major turning point in World War II.

Yaroslavl:
The city centre of Yaroslavl is a UNESCO World Heritage site. A high-speed train service will soon cut the journey time from Moscow down to two hours.

Yekaterinburg:
Russia’s last monarch, Nicholas II, his German-born wife Alexandra and their children, were executed here by the Bolsheviks in 1918.

Visiting Russia:
The Beyond Moscow section of the Moscow Times is probably better than the official Russian National Tourist Office website for ideas of where to go ouside of Moscow and St Petersburg.

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