Yusupov Palace - St. Petersburg, Russia Bridges - St. Petersburg, Russia

White Nights Founder’s Tour 2020

Sail down the beautiful rivers
Sail down the beautiful rivers

Travel To Russia with the founder of Exeter International 

Imagine yourself enjoying a private after hours’ tour in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.  Wonder at the jaw-dropping Faberge collection in the Shuvalov Palace, led by the best guides in Russia. Eat in the best local restaurants and connect with the Russia of today.

Greg Tepper, Founder of Exeter International is personally hosting an exclusive White Nights tour to Russia in 2020. This tour will appeal to both people that have never been to Russia, and to people that have not been for several years. Traveling with Greg will give you an insight into the Russia of today and the Russia of yesterday unlike any other.

Greg started studying Russian at the age of 16 – six days a week. He fell in love with the language, the history, culture and people of Russia. After living in Russia at the turbulent time of change from the USSR, Greg returned to the United States and wanted to share his passion for Russian culture with others – so Exeter International was born. Greg will share  his knowledge, insights and passion of this vast and complex nation.

Many things have changed in the last quarter century but the art, culture and beauty of St. Petersburg has been restored and re-imagined. The quality of hotels, restaurants and service levels are a world away from 1993. In St. Petersburg, new museums have been created out of historic but dilapidated palaces and new theaters have been built to take Russian ballet, opera and symphony to new levels.

See provisional itinerary below or download here.  Contact us today to reserve your place on one of these very special tours.

Departure Date: June 23-28, 2020

Optional Moscow Pre-Tour: Please see additional itinerary for dates and activities included here.

Optional St. Petersburg Post-Tour: Please see additional itinerary for dates and activities here.

Please note that this trip is more physically demanding than many tours. There is a considerable amount of walking and standing involved throughout the program. You must be able to climb and descend stairs easily without assistance and walk over uneven and cobblestoned areas. Often, we will visit multiple museums a day, with one to two hours or more in each museum where we will be standing and walking through the collections. Unfortunately, if you use a wheelchair, we will not be able to accommodate you on this tour due to the limited access of ramps and elevators in museums, hotels and other sights. If you use a cane or other assistance for walking or are not able to walk long distances, our Founder's tours may not be the best fit for you. We kindly ask that you consider your physical abilities with regards to the itinerary for this program, as the itinerary cannot be amended to accommodate any physical limitations.

 

    

 

Day 1
Arrival | Arrival Sunset - St. Petersburg, Russia

Guests participating in the White Nights Founder’s Tour have the option of extending with a pre-tour in Moscow. There is a separate itinerary available for those interested.

For those who participate in the pre-tour to Moscow, you will be met by your private driver and assistant for your transfer to our hotel, Hotel Astoria, located next to St. Isaac’s Cathedral on St. Isaac’s Square.

For those arriving directly into St. Petersburg, please collect your baggage at the airport carousel and proceed through Customs. You will be met by your Exeter International driver who will be waiting for you just outside of Customs, who will transfer you to your hotel in the city center. Please look for a sign with your name or Exeter International on it. Please note the cost of flights is not included in program cost.

Later this afternoon, our guide will meet us in the lobby for a visit to Peter Paul Fortress, the birthplace of St. Petersburg. After walking through the many gates and across the bridges and moats, you will begin to sense the feeling of the late 18th-century era that required such fortification. As Peter’s original outpost against the Swedes, St. Petersburg was born from this fortress and its historical significance is felt to this day by the presence of every Romanov tomb, from Peter the Great to Nicholas II.

Tonight, we welcome you to St. Petersburg with a dinner at one of our favorite St. Petersburg restaurants.

Exeter Services: Group Arrival Transfers; Vehicle, Driver & Guide (4 Hours)

Hotel: Hotel Astoria

Meals: Welcome Dinner

Day 2
Peter the Great & His Window to the West | Peter the Great & His Window to the West Peter Paul Fortress - St. Petersburg, Russia

Today’s touring will continue with yesterday’s introduction to the founder of this great city, Peter the Great.

This morning, we will meet our guide and focus our touring today on the founding of the city and the man who built it, Peter the Great. The first stop of the day is Peter the Great’s original log cabin on the banks of the Neva River. Following this visit, we will continue to his Summer Palace in the city’s Summer Gardens, located on the opposite side of the river. We will then head down the banks of the Neva to visit his original Winter Palace, the foundations of which are still visible today underneath the Hermitage. Here, there is a wonderful display showing how the city developed during Peter the Great’s time. Despite being called the “Venice of the North,” it will become evident that Amsterdam, not Venice, was Peter’s true inspiration for his city.

After some time to enjoy lunch, we continue the tour with a visit to the Menshikov Palace, the former home of Prince Alexander Menshikov, located on the Grand Neva embankment on Vasilievsky Island. Since its construction, it has been one of the most beautiful Baroque palaces in St. Petersburg. Menshikov, was of humble origins, and first served in Peter the Great’s personal guard, gradually becoming his closest friend and confidante. Menshikov accompanied the tsar on many of his foreign tours and military campaigns, rising through the ranks to become a field marshal and vice admiral. At home, Menshikov became the governor of St. Petersburg, and as such, was known to entertain in grand style at his home. After Peter the Great’s death, Menshikov was the de facto absolute ruler of Russia for two years and played a large role in engineering Catherine I’s (Peter’s second wife) ascent to the throne. By the time the palace was finally completed in 1727, Menshikov had been overthrown by the old noble families, arrested for corruption, stripped from all his titles and wealth. He was ultimately exiled to Siberia, along with his entire family.

Following the tour, you will have the evening at leisure. Tonight is the perfect opportunity to take in one of the White Nights Festival performances. We will provide a listing of performances available this evening. Please note the cost of performance tickets is not included and will be quoted separately.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide (8 Hours)

Hotel: Hotel Astoria

Meals: Breakfast; Lunch

Day 3
Catherine the Great | Catherine the Great Amber Room workshops, St. Petersburg

The focus of today’s touring will be one of the most notable figures in Russian history – Catherine the Great.

We will head out into the Russian countryside to see one of the city’s most elegant and beautiful palaces, Catherine Palace (formerly Pushkin).

Exeter International Extraordinary Experience: VIP Entrance to Catherine Palace

Upon our arrival, we will enjoy VIP Entrance into the palace. We will enter through the main Golden Gates of the palace with our guide, avoiding all the lines. We will then be met by a palace representative, who will walk us to the main entrance from the gates and take us into the private reception area, where we will be able to use the facilities and leave our coats. Our tour of the palace will then begin.

Catherine Palace was originally designed in the 1750’s in the Rococo style by the famous architect Rastrelli (who also designed many of St. Petersburg’s grandest buildings, including the Winter Palace, parts of Peterhof, the Stroganoff Palace, and the Smolny Cathedral) for the Tsarina Elizabeth, who named it after her mother Catherine I, Peter the Great’s second wife. Later, Catherine II (also known as, Catherine the Great) commissioned the Scottish architect Charles Cameron to re-design the palace’s interiors in the then-fashionable Neo-Classical style. After Catherine the Great’s death, the palace remained largely unchanged for centuries until the Second World War when the retreating Nazi army, intentionally destroyed the palace almost entirely. After the war, the magnificent palace and its interiors were thoroughly and painstakingly reconstructed and rebuilt, but renovations throughout some parts of the palace still continue today.

Exeter International Extraordinary Experience: Amber Room Workshops

After visiting the palace proper, we will be invited into the Amber Room Workshops, where a team of master craftsmen painstakingly reconstructed the famous amber panels from the Amber Room in the palace lost during World War II.

After some time for lunch in the village of Pavlovsk, we head to Oranienbaum and its hidden gem, the Chinese Pavilion. Unlike many of St. Petersburg’s palaces, the Oranienbaum was spared during World War II. The exquisite interiors of the Chinese Pavilion, including a gallery of magnificent ceremonial rooms, have remained virtually intact since the date of its construction in 1769, as the personal palace of Catherine the Great. The

Chinese Pavilion is only open in the summertime and is weather-dependent. This palace will close unannounced due to inclement weather.

We will return to the city and enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure before we meet again this evening for our visit to the Hermitage Museum. You may wish to enjoy a light bite prior to our evening excursion, which will end around 8:30-9PM.

Exeter International Extraordinary Experience: Evening at the Hermitage

This evening, the museum will be opened especially for us after the general public has left. Our visit to the Hermitage Museum will take us to another world; a time when Catherine the Great commissioned whole buildings to house her ever growing collection of the world’s finest art. We will be one of the few to see the winding of the famous Peacock Clock, as well! This museum holds the largest collection of art in the world, though only a fraction of the collection is on display to the public. Our guide will escort us through the highlights of the collection, from Rubens to da Vinci and beyond!

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide (6 Hours); Evening Guide (3 Hours)

Hotel: Hotel Astoria

Meals: Breakfast; Lunch

Day 4
Before the Revolution – The Height of Russian Culture | Before the Revolution – The Height of Russian Culture Matisse's Dance at the Hermitage Museum - St. Petersburg, Russia

We will meet this morning and continue our exploration of St. Petersburg, concentrating on the era prior to the revolution when Russia was experiencing a cultural renaissance.

Today, we will continue our visit of the Hermitage collection, specifically to the General Staff Building. Designed by Carlo Rossi, one of the central architects that conceived St Petersburg, the General Staff Building was originally the army headquarters during Imperial times. At just under 2,000 feet long, it is the longest building in Europe. Today, it is now the home of the Hermitage’s contemporary art collection, including its collection of French Impressionists pieces. A large portion of the museum’s pieces come from the collections of cloth merchant, Sergei Shchukin, and textile manufacturer, Ivan Morozov.

After our visit, we will continue to the famous Yusupov Palace on the banks for the Moika Canal. We will have a private tour of the palace, including its famous theater and Arabian Room. Here, our guide will recount the infamous story of Rasputin’s murder.

Exeter International Extraordinary Experience: Private Faberge Tour

We will continue to visit St. Petersburg’s first Fabergé Museum, housed in the Shuvalov Palace on the Fontanka Canal. The palace displays a selection of the celebrated Fabergé collection of the Link of Times Foundation owned by Russian Entrepreneur Viktor Vekselberg. With over 1500 choice pieces, the collection now easily outranks the comparatively small collection of the Kremlin Armoury Museum in Moscow . Mr . V ekselberg has assembled the most formidable collection in the world of works by this great Russian master craftsman, best known for his celebrated million-dollar Imperial Easter Eggs. The museum is closed to the general public today, but we will enjoy a special private entrance.

Exeter International Extraordinary Experience: Neva Canal Cruise

This afternoon, (weather permitting) we will have a private boat tour of the canals of St. Petersburg. This is one of the most enchanting ways to explore the city, as we take in the sights while gliding along the canals and rivers of the city. During the cruise, we will pass by the Winter Palace, the Mariinsky Theater, the Summer Gardens, and many other important sights. Champagne and soft drinks will be served on the boat.

We will disembark near the ornate Church on Spilled Blood, located on the Griboyedova Canal for a visit inside the church. The Church on Spilled Blood is so named because it stands on the spot where Tsar Alexander II

was assassinated on March 1, 1881. Its unique design was inspired by St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square in Moscow. This is the only church in the world covered completely inside and out by mosaics made of precious and semi-precious stones. This is one of the most extraordinary buildings in St. Petersburg, and well worth the visit. During the Bolshevik revolution, the church fell into a state of decline and only recently has it been fully restored to its former glory.

Enjoy the rest of the evening at leisure. Tonight is another great opportunity to take in one of the White Nights Festival performances. We will provide a listing of performances available this evening. Please note the cost of performance tickets is not included and will be quoted separately.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide (8 Hours)

Hotel: Hotel Astoria

Meals: Breakfast; Lunch

Day 5
Soviet Russia | Soviet Russia Bronze Horseman St. Petersburg

This morning, we will be met by our guide and concentrate today’s touring on Soviet Russia, with visits to the Political History Museum and the Museum of the Defense and Siege of Leningrad.

Once the former art nouveau mansion of the Mariinsky Theater’s prima ballerina, Mathilda Kshesinkaya (most famous for being Nicholas II’s paramour), the mansion at Kuibysheva Street was converted to the Political History Museum after the Russian Revolution. Lenin gave one of his earliest and most famous speeches from the balcony of the second floor during the early days of the Revolution and thus tying it in perfectly to the theme of the museum. The mansion actually became the Bolshevik headquarters for several years before becoming the Museum of the Revolution, and later the Political History Museum. We will see a large collection of personal items from leading 20th century leaders, including Nicholas II, Lenin and Gorbachev, as well as, banners, flags and posters from the Communist era. The museum displays the political history of Russia from as far back as Catherine the Great through to today’s Russia and is home to an unsurpassed collection of Soviet-era exhibitions.

Later, we will visit the Rumyantsev Mansion, now a branch of the Museum of St. Petersburg History. Count Rumyanstev was the founder of the famous Rumyantsevsky Museum, which was located on the mansion’s premises during the first half of the 19th Century. Currently, the exhibition Leningrad in the Second World War displays over 2,000 war objects, including unique documents and photographs, examples of arms, ammunition, and personal possessions of both Leningraders and the defenders of the city during the famous 900-day siege.

We will enjoy a lunch in town before the group breaks off for afternoon activities. Below are the options for this afternoon. Please note, some activities have special remarks and are reserved on a first come-first served basis with limited availability.

Option 1: Exeter International Extraordinary Experience: Off-Limits at the Hermitage

This afternoon, you will have the rare opportunity to enter and view the Hermitage Museum’s vast storage chambers. Located in a secure, closed storage facility 40 minutes from the Hermitage, these chambers hold a forgotten gamut of treasures ranging from the Tsar’s kitchen relics and world-class works of art, to royal carriages, original palace furniture, and imperial wardrobes. Please note that these facilities are closed to the public and are visited on an appointment-only basis. Appointments cannot be rescheduled.

Option 2: Exeter International Extraordinary Experience: VIP Steeple Climb

Return to Peter Paul Fortress you will be invited in as VIP guests of Peter Paul Cathedral to climb to the top of the steeple. Here you will enter the soaring steeple of the cathedral through winding steps and wrought iron ladders, passing some of the most fascinating and historic mechanisms that keep the cathedral running. You’ll see the ancient clock mechanisms that still keep the time and connect to the extraordinary array of cast iron bells that ring every hour and can be heard across the city. Don’t miss the “Peter the Great stood here” sign! The climb is for relatively fit travelers who are comfortable in tight spaces and climbing steep spiral staircases at times. The views from the windows near the top are unforgettable as the steeple is the tallest building in all historic St. Petersburg. This experience is limited to four guests.

Option 3: Exeter International Extraordinary Experience: Soviet Apartment

Today, you will be invited into an extraordinary early Soviet apartment, now owned by one of the leading antique dealers of the city. The home is a historically accurate recreation of what the original apartments in this specific building looked like before they were converted into multi-family communal apartments. The apartment complex was built just before the Revolution as one of the most advanced and luxurious apartment complexes of Russia. It was so advanced in fact, that the Soviet leaders used it to house their top officials.

Sergey, the owner, will greet you and give you a personal tour of the antique-filled rooms, set with authentic artifacts of the 19th and 20th centuries. Of particular note is the antique lacquered box collection. Sergey is a true expert in the history of lacquered boxes in Russia and will gladly explain how they became such an important part of Russian art for hundreds of years. Should you be interested, nearly everything in the apartment is actually for sale. Please note that you will need your passport for this experience. Also, the apartment is on the sixth floor and while there is a very small elevator, you may need to climb six flights of stairs to enter.

Option 4: Exeter International Extraordinary Experience: Faberge Artisans Studio

Today you will visit one of the most talented and famous of Russia’s artists currently working in the style of Faberge. The studio and workshops are kept on the outskirts of central St. Petersburg. This extraordinary workshop creates the finest enamel jewelry and stone carvings, rivaling that of any Faberge craftsman. You will learn in the studio how they create figurines from semi-precious stones that look like living animals from one single stone and also human figures of captivating realism. You’ll even see how the artists hand-tool Faberge- style enamel jewelry from silver, gold, and precious stones. You will have the chance to chat and ask questions oftheartists. Theseareoperationalworkroomsanditisadvisednottowearyourbestclothingasyouenterthestudio for this visit. Please note that you will need your passport for this experience.

This evening we will enjoy one more meal as a group at our farewell dinner.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide (5 Hours); Optional Afternoon Experience

Hotel: Hotel Astoria

Meals: Breakfast; Lunch; Farewell Dinner

Day 6
Departure | Departure Hermitage Family Travel St. Petersburg

Today, we will be met by our driver and assistant for our group transfer to the airport for our onward flight.

Cost of flight is not included.

Exeter Services: Group Airport Transfers

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