History Pupils Explore Russia Old and New | Epsom College
  • History

History Pupils Explore Russia Old and New

During the Christmas holidays, myself and 24 other students travelled to Russia accompanied by Mr Conway, Mr Dunn and Mrs Keyte. Having never been to Russia before, everyone was very excited about what to see and what to expect regarding culture, history and even getting into the country! 

The trip got off to a very early start as we headed to school at 4:30am. From there we headed to Heathrow where we undertook a four-hour flight to Moscow.

From the airport it was an hour and a half bus journey to our hotel, Ismailovo Gamma where we would spend three nights, located 10 minutes away from Moscow city centre. After we had eaten, we proceeded to have a night tour of Moscow where we passed historical monuments which we were to visit the following day with our energetic tour guide Edward. We even had street performers place pigeons on our heads. 

An action-packed second day began with an early start before we headed out to Moscow city centre. Firstly, we managed to make it in time to see the guard change, followed by a long wait to visit Lenin’s Mausoleum. As we entered Lenin’s Mausoleum the guards’ piercing stares made everyone feel uneasy. Walking around the glass case that entrapped his body we weren’t allowed to stop; the moment lasted at most one minute until we were outside again.

After this, we visited the Kremlin Grounds and Armoury on a guided tour, seeing royal carriages, silverware and the grounds containing sacred and historically crucial Russian buildings. From there we visited the Contemporary History Museum and watched The Nutcracker ballet performance at Christ the Saviour Cathedral. The Concert Hall, which is beneath the cathedral,  was beautiful. 

As we woke up on the third morning, we glanced outside to see a thin layer of snow which made the day feel even more magical (and cold!). We travelled to Sergiev Posad Monastery which was an eye-opening experience as we saw multiple intimate services, Russian monks and astonishingly beautiful churches. Yet again we were swamped by a huge group of pigeons which seemed to love Jennifer!

We then made our way back towards Moscow and visited the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum, followed by a tour of the first Metro to be built in the Soviet Union, one which thousands of workers died in the process of building. Following this, we returned to touristic ways in Old Arbat Street to buy souvenirs before departing for the overnight train to St. Petersburg. The train was a lot less fashionable than we had anticipated with four people squashed into a small cabin housing two short bunk beds, which the boys struggled with more than the girls. A journey to remember! 

Atr 6.40am the following day, we got off the train in St. Petersburg to embark on the fourth day of our adventure. It started with a breakfast we all remember: pancakes, muffins and bacon, with carrot juice for Mrs Keytes.

We received a city tour of St. Petersburg which was beautiful, seeing the Cruiser Aurora and we visited the History of Leningrad Museum where we saw war artifacts and personal diary entries. From there we went on to visit the Political History Museum where we saw a mold of Joseph Stalin’s face. Finally, arriving at our hotel – the Park Inn Pulkovskaya – where we would spend the remaining two nights. 

The fifth day of our trip was my personal highlight as we visited the Peter and Paul Fortress, the State Hermitage Museum (also known as the Winter Palace) and went to watch an Ice Hockey match at the Ice Palace.

After seeing the Peter and Paul Fortress, where we were able to see Lenin’s brother’s prison cell and the church where the Romanovs are buried, we visited the outside of The Church of the Savior of Spilled Blood, built to honor Tsar Alexander II of Russia, who was assassinated at the site where the church now sits. Following this, we had a tour of the Winter Palace which is the second largest Art Museum in the world and was the main residence of the Tsars. Then we watched the Ice Hockey game between SKA St. Petersburg and Cherepovets; with SKA coming back from 3-0 down in the last third to win on golden goal in extra time. An extremely exciting game. 

The final day of the trip saw us have a tour around Catherine’s Palace and Park which was used as a Summer Palace to the Tsars and home to Catherine the Great, this was academically enriching as you were able to see the grand scale in which royalty lived and the sheer beauty of these palaces along with the collection of artworks. Shortly followed by our departure to St Petersburg airport, ending the trip. 

The highlights of this trip were visiting the Winter and Summer Palace along with the Ice Hockey game and being less than five feet away from the ‘real’ Lenin. Learning new and interesting details from our amazing tour guides throughout our stay contributed our understanding of Russian history and the new friendships made between people in different years and classes who you would not usually see made the trip a lot more fun. With a huge thanks to our amazing teachers taking on such a brave task of managing 25 teenagers in Russia! 

By Tilly Wright