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We have always wanted to go to Russia. My mother gave me my first Russian matryoshka nesting doll for Christmas when I was 5 years old. It was a 5 piece Semenov maiden, made in the U.S.S.R. From then on, my mom would buy me one whenever she found them for sale at a reasonable price. Craig and I bought a hula dancer nesting doll on our honeymoon in Hawaii, and we also bought a traditional Russian matryoshka when we were in Alaska. We couldn't resist buying some pop culture dolls as well It is a collection that I treasure. In addition to the lure of the dolls, we grew up during the Cold War. The Soviet Union was shrouded in a mystique of intrigue that penetrated all levels of pop culture. Craig remembers school books from his youth with alluring photos of Moscow and Leningrad (the name St. Petersburg was given during Soviet times), and he has always bee interested in the space race. The travel companies that we frequently use do not offer Russia as a destination. It is a huge country, and we didn't know where to begin. However, in November we received a Black Friday e-mail from Abercrombie & Kent, a high end travel company. They were offering off-season specials to a variety of destinations, for a set itinerary on set dates. One of the destinations was Russia: Moscow and St. Petersburg. Craig always keeps up with the variuos offerings of travel companies, and had been aware of this trip through A&K. However, it had always been priced out of our range. When we saw that this same trip was now available as a private trip for a reasonable, discounted price, we decided to go for it. Cody at A&K was quite helpful with planning our trip. Though the itinerary was set, it was possible to add extra days at the beginning or end for additional cost. After doing a little bit of research, I saw that the birthplace of the Russian matryoshka craft was very close to Moscow, and could be visited on a day trip. Cody helped us to add an extra day to the itinerary, and to arrange a visit to a matryoshka factory and toy museum. A friend and colleague of mine named Maria grew up in Moscow, before moving to the USA. She was very excited that we would be visiting her country and city, and she arranged for some of her friends in Moscow to meet us at a Russian art museum. She also gave us tips on things to do and food to try. Traveling on a shoulder season is great for us. The destinations are less crowded, and the weather (though winter in this case) is comfortable for Craig. Heat aggravates his Multiple Sclerosis, so cool weather is definitely best.