Posted July 5th, 2007, 12:29 PM
As for shopping, I tend to like unique arts and crafts specific to that region (like in Russia I would shop for the nesting dolls). I don't have many more specifics than that but I still would appreciate any more general advice you or anyone else has on the topic! Thanks!
I cruised the Baltics in 2003 and 2005, and the nesting dolls are available at every turn. So I decided to look before I bought (which is usually not my practice traveling in Europe because a lot of passengers leave wishing they had bought something that they saw). We last toured in St. Petersburg with Denrus, and they took us to some wonderful stores. I toured with Red October in 2003 and can tell you that the Red October stores do not offer the selection that we were offered in visiting various stores with Denrus, and the RO store prices are not as good. You will see prices ranging from $8 U.S. to over $500. After you look, you will be able to note the difference in the quality of the painting as well as the number of pieces (as low as 4 dolls to stack to over 30), and this is the basis of the price. The large set that I bought ($150) features scenes of St. Petersburg. These dolls are available in every color under the sun—the ones that feature the St. Petes city colors of cobalt blue and white are very popular—and also range in design style. Another popular set shows George W. Bush on the outside, second doll is Clinton, third doll is Daddy Bush, fourth doll is Ronald Reagan, etc.
I thought the small wood lacquer boxes that are painted with various Russian scenes were very nice. I bought one that was a thin sheet of mother of pearl on the top of the box with a scene painted on it in Tallinn. And then I was so surprised and pleased when my St. Petes tour group (25 in 3 vans with separate drivers and guides) gave me another one, so I treasure that one.
One of the things that I bought that I really like is an Amber ship. The one that I bought is small (approx 2” high), and even the sails are made of Amber. Mine has different colors of Amber, but some other designs were all one color. These also range in price from approx $40 U.S. and up. The Amber jewelry is very nice, but you’ll also see Amber cats, dogs, boxes, etc. etc. etc. If you like design like I do, you’ll enjoy seeing all the ways that Amber is used to make mementos for tourists.
My best shopping tip (as based on the feedback from family and friends who went to Russia after we did) is to carry U.S. cash with you. We last sailed the Baltics in 2005, but I doubt the situation has changed much in the last two years (the exchange rate was approx $1.25 dollars for a Euro in 2005, and the dollar is approx 5 – 10% weaker now). In many shops, the prices were marked in Euros. We were offered a deal to pay the Euro price in U.S. dollars, so that’s a savings of approx 30%. And if you spend over $100 U.S., you (or your guide) should ask for and receive a 10% discount.
One of the stores that we shopped is http://www.onegin-gallery.com/catalog/index.php
, so you can look at that for a preview. I’m sure a Google search will link to a lot of other sources to preview shopping in Russia.
If you stop to shop at the market by the Church on the Spilled Blood, be wary of pickpockets. I was in one group that had been warned and still had one passenger who was pickpocketed (but only $20 U.S.). This is a good place to shop for low prices, but be aware.
As suggested by another board member, I think reading a guide book would benefit you so that you can narrow your options. I’m not a big fan of Rick Steves and liked the Frommers book a lot better (http://www.amazon.com/Frommers-Scand...648709&sr=8-1)
, but any guide book will help you at this stage. You can use the guide or Google to find web sites for places that you’d like to visit.