Stephen and Wil have traveled extensively all over the world with Zoom Vacations. They have wanted to go to Russia with Zoom for some time now but did not want to wait until Zoom Russia 2020. Given all the rhetoric about Russia, they also wanted a travel company they could trust to create a private trip for them that highlighted the best of Russian culture, history, architecture, and arts, and make them feel safe with gay-friendly guides and accommodations. So, of course they called Zoom. Here is what they had to say about their experience.
Zoom: What made you decide to have Zoom Vacations plan this trip you?
Wil: Because Zoom consistently thinks of the little details that make any trip great! I am a notoriously lazy planner, but also don't want to miss out on anything. Zoom is great at asking questions and putting together the pieces of the puzzle.
Zoom: What made you want to go to Russia in the first place?
Wil: Growing up, I was incredibly interested in learning about Imperial Russia, particularly the Romanov's. Being able to tour the grand palaces, view the exquisite art collections, and walk the down majestic embankments in St. Petersburg was a dream come true! Moscow, which wasn't even on my radar initially, proved to be a wonderful experience as well. It showcased a much more modern side of Russia.
Zoom: What was your favorite part of the trip?
Wil: The Peterhof Palace and its fountains. It was essential to tour Russia between May and September to see the fountains. They did not disappoint.
Zoom: What surprised you about Russia?
Wil: Frankly how easy it was to get around. I was worried there would be a huge language barrier (in addition to not being able to read Cyrillic). Most people had a basic understanding of English. Whatever difficulties we had were resolved with patience, polite hand gestures and a friendly smile.
Zoom: What misperceptions do you think most people have about Russia?
Wil: I wasn't expecting to be as warmly welcomed as I was...not just as a gay man, but as a foreigner. The guides truly wanted me to get the most out of my time in Russia which I appreciated.
Zoom: How were the hotels throughout the trip?
Wil: Amazing. The Park Hyatt in Moscow was new and modern while the Belmond Grand Hotel Europe in St. Petersberg dates from 1875. I felt like I was in an Imperial Palace!
Zoom: What was the food in Russia like?
Wil: Filling! Wanting to experience everything, I often ordered too much. You can't go to Russia without ordering Beef Stroganoff. There was also a variety of international cuisine much like any other major city. I had Georgian food for the first (and 2nd) time. I loved it so much that I have to go to Georgia now.
Zoom: Did you experience any gay night life activities while in Russia?
Wil: That I did not do. I have no doubt it would have been fine, but I was slightly hesitant. Perhaps if I was in a group, I'd have been more comfortable. By the way, there is a lot of eye candy in Russia!
Zoom: Were you able to get a sense for how gay friendly the atmosphere is?
Wil: You're not going to see the big rainbow flags or two guys holding hands like you would in other European metropolitan areas, but I never felt unsafe. I was also traveling with my husband so it wasn't terribly difficult to figure out we were together. We make it a point to be respectful and fortunately we get that respect in return.