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Days 30-31: Saturday, July 2 - Sunday, July 3
Kurgan / Ekaterinburg
(542 km / 339 miles)
Ekaterinburg, founded in 1721 and named after Catherine I, is best known as the place where the last czar, Nicholas II, and his family were imprisoned and executed by the Bolsheviks. Today, the Church on the Blood stands over the spot where the czar and his family were killed in 1918. A recent development is the unusual memorial in Black Tulip Square, commemorating the tragic loss of life in the various Soviet military campaigns, most notably in Afghanistan.
Visit one or two of the city's museums, such as the History & Local Studies Museum, the Military History Museum or the Mineralogical Museum.
Day 32: Monday, July 4
Ekaterinburg / Perm
(338 km / 211 miles)
After breakfast this morning drive to Perm, the city known in Russia as the gateway to Siberia. Located in the western foothills of the Urals on the Kama River, it has been an important industrial and trading city from its foundation in 1723. Beginning as a workers' settlement for the nearby copper foundry, the city also became a supplier of salt. Boris Pasternak lived in Perm as he wrote Dr. Zhivago, and based the novel's country town, Yuryatin, on Perm.
Day 33: Tuesday, July 5
Perm / Izhevsk
(283 km / 177 miles)
Depart to Izhevsk, capital of the Republic of Udmurtia of the Russian Federation. Founded in 1760 on the banks of the Izh River, the town grew around an ironworks owned by Count Shuvalov. The republic, about the size of Denmark, is the homeland of the Udmurt people, a Finno-Ugric people whose name translates as "meadow people." Over 750,000 Udmurt people live in Udmurtia, many of them in Izhevsk.
Izhevsk is known as the place where Mikhail Kalashnikov designed his AK-47 assault rifle. Its arms factory has supplied the Russian army since 1812. It is also the birthplace of the Russian motorcycle industry. Today Izhevsk is a big industrial center.
Days 34-35: Wednesday, July 6 - Thursday, July 7
Izhevsk / Kazan
(393 km / 244 miles)
From Izhevsk, drive to Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. Kazan is an old city on the Volga River with a fascinating multiethnic history. Genghis Khan and his successors conquered Russia as far as Kazan, which became the capital, or khanate, of an offshoot of the Golden Horde. The Slavs and other Europeans began to call all the Turkic-speaking people ruled by the Mongols Tatars, and the name has remained.
When Ivan the Terrible won Kazan from the khans in 1552, making the Volga a Russian river, he brought with him Orthodox Christianity. Today a Russian kremlin wall surrounds the old town, and both Orthodox churches and mosques are found in the city.
A city tour of Kazan includes the city's UNESCO-listed kremlin, the Peter and Paul Cathedral, the beautiful new Qol Sharif Mosque, the University, Millennium Park and the shores of Lake Kaban.
Day 36: Friday, July 8
Kazan / Nizhny Novgorod
(399 km / 249 miles)
Today drive to Nizhny Novgorod. Founded in 1221 at the confluence of the Volga and the Oka River, Nizhny Novgorod grew to be an important strategic and trade center. Its huge kremlin walls, built from 1508 to 1511, were able to withstand two Tatar sieges. The wealthiest family in Russia, the Stroganovs, chose Nizhny Novgorod as their headquarters, influencing the architecture of churches and public buildings. Russian author Maxim Gorky was born here, and the town was named after him for many years during the communist era. Dissident scientist Andrei Sakharov was exiled here until 1986.
The town is renowned throughout Russia for its traditional crafts, such as khokloma, the art of hand-painting wooden dishware, developed by peasants in the 17th century. The signature colors of red, black and gold have meanings: red for life, gold for wealth and black for mortality.
Days 37-38: Saturday, July 9 - Sunday, July 10
Nizhny Novgorod / Moscow
(420 km / 261 miles)
Arrive in Moscow this afternoon and transfer to a centrally located hotel. Founded in 1147 by Yuri Dolgoruky (literally "Yuri of the Long Arms"), Moscow rose to prominence during Mongol domination and eventually became the Russian capital. Eclipsed for 200 years by St. Petersburg, Moscow was restored as the Russian political center after the October Revolution in 1917, and celebrated its 850th h anniversary in 1997.
A city tour begins with a visit to Red Square, the Kremlin and the Armory Museum. The Moscow Kremlin is the center of Moscow and Russian politics. Inside the Kremlin walls are numerous cathedrals, government buildings and the Armory Museum. Built in the 16th century as a warehouse for the Kremlin's weaponry, the building was turned into an exhibition hall and museum in 1814. The Armory Museum now houses Russia's national treasures such as religious icons, Faberge eggs, a bejeweled chalice belonging to Prince Yuri, and Catherine the Great's ball gowns and shoes.
Enjoy a drive by motorcoach through the city, taking in the panoramic views of the city from Sparrow Hill and Moscow University. The bus also stops outside UNESCO-listed Novodevichy Convent and cemetery.
Day 39: Monday, July 11
Moscow / Velikie Luki
(475 km / 295 km)
From Moscow, drive to Velikie Luki. Located along the northwestern border where Russia meets Europe, Velikie Luki has always been a city of strategic importance since its founding in 1166. A large fortress was constructed in 1211, which served to protect the city for centuries.
Day 40: Tuesday, July 12
Velikie Luki / Daugavpils, Latvia
(306 km / 190 miles)
Today depart Russia, crossing the border and arriving in the Latvian city of Daugavpils. A packed lunch is provided today.
Located near the borders of both Belarus and Lithuania and relatively close to the Russian border, Daugavpils is an ethnically mixed and diverse part of Latvia that is primarily Russian-speaking. Now the second largest city in the country, Daugavpils was founded in 1275 as part of the Lithuanian duchy. The city boasts the largest extent fortress in Europe and many buildings with classic 19th century architecture.