Kickstart your adventure through the Cossacks in Helsinki, the quirky capital of Finland. Helsinki's pretty boulevards and stunning architecture melts into its stunning natural surroundings, with Baltic bays and islands, lush parks and gardens, and thick forests all around. Once you've checked in to your hotel, you'll have some time to relax before meeting your Travel Director and fellow travellers for a glimpse of what's to come.
Say goodbye to Finland this morning and travel east to the imperial city of St. Petersburg where Peter the Great's magic touch on its pastel-coloured façades and gorgeous canals provides the perfect introduction to our adventure through Russia. Tonight, dinner is served at your hotel.
With your Local Specialist by your side, the stories of Russia's royalty come to life as you visit some of St. Petersburg's most famous sights. See the Tsar's Winter Palace, St. Isaac's Cathedral and The Bronze Horseman, who's enduring presence in the heart of St. Petersburg ensures the city will never yield to enemy forces. Discover the golden-spired Peter and Paul Fortress, the final resting place of the Romanovs then spend the rest of the day exploring the city your way. Alternatively, consider an Optional Experience to the Church of our Saviour on Spilled Blood and St. Isaac's Cathedral, the fourth-largest cathedral in the world. Or you could choose to visit the Hermitage Museum on an Optional Experience to see the masterpieces of Matisse, Vermeer and Rembrandt on display and admire the opulence of the city's Baroque, Neoclassical and Orthodox architectural heritage.
Trace the magic touch of centuries of tsarist rule as you embark on a full free day of St. Petersburg sightseeing on your own terms. Take a stroll down Nevsky Prospekt and snack on a soft, hot and sweet pyshki or two, or embark on a full day Optional Experience to the imperial summer residences at Pushkin and Petrodvorets. You're in for a cultural extravaganza this evening should you choose to join an optional evening at the ballet in a tsarist-era theatre or attend one of the best Russian folklore performances featuring Cossack dances, songs and costumes.
Today you'll embark on a scenic journey across the vast landscapes of Russia, bound for the ancient city of Novgorod, the 'Birthplace of Russia'. Here you'll delve into the legacy of the Rurik dynasty which ruled Russia for over seven centuries. You'll view the Millennium Monument, St. Sophia Cathedral and the Kremlin whose fortified red façades overlook the Volkhov River. Tonight, dinner is served at your hotel.
Looming larger than life, the Russian capital of Moscow lies ahead, but not before you pay a brief lunch visit to the Tver region, the traditional pit stop on the popular travel route between St. Petersburg and Moscow. Arriving in Moscow later today, you'll have the opportunity to join your fellow travellers on an Optional Experience to visit an illuminated Red Square and Moscow's grandiose Metro stations. The stations themselves are impressive works of art and style and substance coexist effortlessly here, making Moscow's Metro the most beautiful subway system in the world.
Strut your stuff in one of Europe's mightiest capitals, joining a Local Specialist for a guided sightseeing tour that will delve into the indomitable spirit of the Russian nation. Moscow oozes grandeur around every turn, from the colourful domes of St. Basil's Cathedral to the imposing Red Square - the site of grand celebrations, fierce fighting and the seat of Russian power for centuries. An Optional Experience to the heart of Moscow will take you behind the scenes of its red walls to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and Ivan the Great's Bell Tower or admire great imperial riches during an optional visit to the Treasure Chamber of the Russian tsars.
This morning you'll wave farewell to Mother Russia and begin the journey west on the next exciting part of your Helsinki to Berlin tour. As you cross the Belarus border to Minsk. Driving past Borodino, you'll be reminded of Napoleon's great 19th-century battle, immortalised in the famous novel War and Peace as a 'continuous slaughter which could be of no avail either to the French of the Russians'. Arriving in the Belarus capital later, you'll be left in no doubt of the city's strong ties with Russia. Your orientation tour will reveal a perfectly Soviet city, rebuilt after World War II in a style that would make Stalin proud. Dinner is served at your hotel this evening.
The war was not kind to Minsk, but the grand buildings, large squares and elegant avenues that characterise the Belarus capital today tell a tale of Soviet supremacy. Your Local Specialist will reveal the city's history of occupation and all its iconic sights, including the Hero City Memorial, built to commemorate the city's status as one of the Hero Cities of the former Soviet Union. You'll have the rest of the afternoon to explore Minsk your way, delving into its Soviet-style architecture followed by an elegant night of art and culture should you choose to visit the celebrated National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre.
The highlights of your Eastern Europe value tour just keep on rolling today as you take a scenic journey across the expansive plains of Belarus, heading west towards Warsaw. You'll stop for lunch at Brest, a celebrated site of Soviet resistance during World War II. Later today, you'll arrive in Poland's capital, a modern metropolis which has risen with all the invigorating spirit of a phoenix after a recent tumultuous past.
Today is all about unearthing the turbulent history of Warsaw. Meet up with your Local Specialist this morning for a sightseeing tour where you'll see first-hand how the resilient Poles rebuilt their city after the destruction of World War II. You'll visit St. John's Cathedral and the Royal Palace in the Old Town, then see the site of the Warsaw Ghetto which confined over 400,000 near-starving Jews during World War II. With the rest of the day free to explore your way, why not join your fellow travellers tonight on an Optional Experience which will reveal the heart and soul of Warsaw.
Blaze a trail west along the Autostrada Wolności (Motorway of Freedom) which was first initiated by Nazi Germany to connect Berlin with Poland and left unfinished for decades after World War II. Continue your journey through Bohemia as you cross the border into Germany and head to its vibrant multicultural capital city of Berlin. You'll have the rest of the day free to begin your exploration of Berlin your way. Alternatively, you could join an Optional Experience with good food, wine, beer and music, followed by a Berlin-By-Night tour of the illuminated capital.
Embrace the lively spirit of your Berlin hosts when you join your Local Specialist for a guided sightseeing tour that will bring the tumultuous history of this city to life. View the Reichstag building, German State Opera House, the Tiergarten, Unter den Linden and Brandenburg Gate, the iconic 18th-century military monument that has since come to symbolise peace and unity. Spend the rest of the day exploring the city's energy on your own or maybe join an Optional Experience to uncover the secrets of Berlin's World War II and Cold War past.
Your epic encounter with imperial Russia, Soviet powerhouses and the capitals of Poland and Germany has come to an end. You've seen grandiose monuments and witnessed the revival of cities that were once reduced to rubble. Say a fond farewell to your travel companions and your Travel Director as you prepare to return home. Find out more about your free airport transfer at costsavertour.com/freetransfers.