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Current geopolitical tensions make this a good time to temper headlines about Russia with everyday people and places.Tickets for most runs of the high-speed, four-hour train between St. Petersburg and Moscow are around $55 .Three weeks of exploring western Russia left me with the following impressions, along with a number of useful words and phrases. Peter the Great's vision of a Europe-facing nation plays out here among the miles of canals, the fantastic art-filled Hermitage overlooking the Neva River and a younger generation more comfortable with the world abroad.In St. Petersburg, the Russian Museum is a worthy afternoon if the Hermitage left you wanting more, and the Erarta museum is a good collection of more modern art with the rare benefit of detailed descriptions in both Russian and English.In Kazan, as well as in Moscow and St. Petersburg, you can fill your pocket with old 15-kopeck coins and play at the Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines.
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