The good news from Russia is that it is actually quite affordable now, for the first time in many years. A steep devaluation of the ruble means that for foreigners, prices are low. I stayed at a nice small hotel in St. Petersburg, the Kristoff, for $80 U.S. for a room including a generous and delicious breakfast buffet. The hotel is on Zagorodny Prospect, within walking distance of most of the city's attractions. Meals both in Petersburg and Moscow mostly came to $10 or less, which is cheaper than anything except the food courts and fast food places here in Montreal.
Once again, as in 2011, I travelled with Friendship Force International (www.friendshipforceinternational.org.) I stayed with a local host in a lovely home in a Moscow suburb for a week, enjoying some of the famous Russian hospitality and extensive sight-seeing, and met some very interesting fellow travellers from the U.S., the U.K., India and Japan. The local hosts were most accommodating, and the program included visits to two of the centres of the Russian space program. The suburb where we stayed was formerly a closed city, but now it is wide-open and seems to be thriving. Traffic was amazingly heavy, and within just a couple of blocks of my host's home, which was new and very comfortable, a series of five luxury hi-rise condo buildings is going up.
Keep reading in the next weeks for more information on my trip. It's nice to be back, but I miss Russia already.