Anyone 40ish or older has probably seen a million "Russian spy films" during the last days of the Cold War. Mostly Russia was seen as a grey, dreary place that was always blanketed by snow with men wearing big fur hats. After the fall of the USSR in 1991, you won't it to be the Spy Flick Russia any longer. The snow, however, continues to come.
Today's Russia is a lively country with lots of nightlife that includes theater, cinema, concerts, and the good old favorites like the Bolshi Ballet and Opera. Without a doubt Russian Vodka is on the scene, as well as Russian tea and Chai--no matter what kind of entertainment you've chosen for the evening.
Russia is a big country, some 17 million square kilometers, so getting around long distances can be quite time consuming. Traveling from one city to another is best done by overnight trail, and their short-distance rail system is fantastic. Nothing is more famous in Russia than the Trans-Siberian Railway, which'll take you some 9,000km from Beijing to Moscow, the capital city.
It is best not to drive in Russia, and buses might be a hassle--but less so than police checkpoints for driving. Within places like Moscow, the public transportation system is a great way to get around.
Moscow is most famous for its Red Square (it's a UNESCO site, where you'll find the Kremlin and St. Basil Cathedral. Again, if you've seen any spy film you've seen Red Square--and it's here that you'll find the Lenin Mausoleum, where he's been laid out for all to see since 1924.
Some people might prefer to see snow than a decades old dead guy, so head to Mt. Elbrus at 18,510ft that'll take six days to climb up & back. Skiing is done in the Red Valley, and they even offer Heli-skiing for the truly adventurous.
Snow awaits you at Lake Baikal, the world's deepest lake. That is, of course, if you've come anytime during the year other than the Summer. With some 2,000km of coastline, it'll seems like it takes three months to make your way around.
Yes, it's important to pay attention to Russia's weather--since places like Siberia are extremely cold during the winter. In those spy films, no one wanted to be shipped off to Siberia. Today, however, it's a fantastic place to spend some time.
There are parts of Russia that are known for its White Nights, 24-hours of sunshine for just about three months in the summer. You won't find it like that in St. Petersburg, but more so up in the northern reaches of the country.
With that many hours of daylight, you'll get to see so much more of Russia than you might ever have imagined. And now that Russia isn't as closed-off to the rest of the world as it used to be--you'll enjoy all the more.