If you do come here, enjoy Moscow and Petersburg, but do not spend your whole time in those two cities. I know I say this with every country, but here I mean it most of all. And the people in Moscow, Petersburg and pretty much anywhere in the country can agree. They're great cities, but they aren't real Russia. As a single country, Russia has so much within it. There are landscapes that range from the flat, endless Eurasian steppe to mountains that dwarf the Alps and the Rockies. There are cities in frozen, arctic lands and there is a semi-tropical coastline along the Black Sea. It stretches across 11 time zones and has a surface area greater than Pluto. See as much as you can.
Go see the small cities and towns and absorb the culture and take a Russian train to get there (they go pretty much everywhere and are significantly cheaper than in North America and Europe). See the Caucasus regions and feel like you've entered a different country. Visit the Golden Ring towns and dive into ancient Russian history, and travel out east into the wild nature of Siberia. Most of all, get to know the people there. I've made some of the best friends of my life during my Russia stay and it has truly enhanced my experience here for the better.
- The country is MASSIVE
- Moscow and St. Petersburg are very different from the rest of the country
- Culture, landscape and climate vary greatly depending on what part of the country you are in
- There is a strong sense of true friendship, as opposed to acquaintances
- Winter lasts from the beginning of October until the end of April in most parts of the country
- Everything is kept very warm inside during the winter
- Many people make their own honey
- As for stereotypes, it's been two years and I still havn't seen a bear
- Birch trees are everywhere in the country
- Many things (towns, roads, buildings) are named after writers, primarily Pushkin
- Politics are rarely discussed
- Many people, especially those is small towns, will go out of their way to help you as much as possible
- Shoes are not worn in houses