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Russia has perplexed the outside world with its mood swings for centuries. At its worst it is a land made impenetrable by snow and ice, a hostile wilderness inhabited by a stoic people who are fiercely patriotic. At its best a cultured nation leading the way in sophistication, an achingly beautiful country that is yet to be fully discovered by those beyond its borders.
Man has always done his best to rise to the challenge set by Mother Nature’s excess here. She conjured the world’s largest forest, the Siberian Taiga, so he constructed the world’s longest railway, the Trans-Siberian. She crafted Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake, so he turned his hand to architecture, and built dazzling masterpieces such as St. Basil’s Cathedral.
At the same time, Russia has always seen itself in competition with the outside world, an attitude that hasn’t always cultivated the rosiest of international relations. But without such drive, it wouldn’t be the country it is today, a place as rich in heritage as it is in wealth, where the refined arts of Saint Petersburg present relief from the hedonistic hub of Moscow, and where indulgence isn’t a choice, it’s an obligation.
"The greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time" - Bill Bryson