Summertime Sadness or the Best Time to Travel Russia?
Four Seasons in Russia
Here in Russia we have four seasons which is quite different from countries with the same weather during the whole year. Russians often argue which season are their best: i) withering summer, ii) slurry autumn, iii) which-bank-of-snow-is-my-car winter and iv) i-know-where-you-walked-with-the-dog spring dog. Late autumn is considered to be the worst time of the year.
Russians adore summer! They start waiting the new summer in October. But when it’s over, social networks are full of regrets that another summer has passed away…
Weather: Hot, Cold or Wet
The summer in Russia is so short. It might be cold or hot. It might be raining for several weeks. Usually it’s withering, so you melt under the sun trying to find the conditioner (remember, it’s not just 30 degrees… it’s 30 degrees 30 months after the long cold winter. Russians are not used to the hot weather!)
After several days of burning sun, you usually have a thunderstorm when the rain is so hard that can beat some plants. Lightning and rumbling above your head make you believe in the Zeus powers. My favorite time of the thunder... dark clouds and bright green grass in the last light of the sun.
Sometimes we have a cold summer. Last year I turned on my conditioner only several times for three months of the "summer". And we got snow in the 2nd June.
So the weather is Russia is rarely perfect… It’s too hot or too rainy or too windy. So why Russians adore summer? It’s much better that the winter :)
Which Clothes To Take?
As you might guess, the weather forecast is your best friend when you're preparing the clothes. If you travel in summer, you should take a lot of light clothes like dresses, shorts, skirts, sandals, and t-shirts. Some of my tourists complained that they have no taken their sandals. So sandals are a must! Oppositely, you can put out your "valenki" :)
In the case of rainy days, you should also prepare an umbrella or waterproof jacket. When it's rainy, it's also chilly, so it's good to have something warm like a fleece jacket or a vest with sneakers or boots. Take at least some clothes for +10 C degrees! Even when the day is hot, the evening may be chilly (especially, when clouds came and the wind is blowing).
What's more? Sunglasses and sunscreen might be helpful. If you travel the countryside or like walking in forests, take a mosquitos spray as well (read below) .
I’m sure that the period from the beginning of May till the beginning of October is the best time to travel to Moscow. The climate is harsh even in the European part of the country, so the winter might be really cold and long. Summer is a great option to feel warm and comfortable even if you come from tropics. The length of the day is even more important if you travel. In Moscow, it’s more than 12 hours in summer (from May to September) in contrast to 7-8 hours of the daylight in winter. All attractions are open in summer. You may also participate in one of the open-air festivals that are often taking place in the streets.
The Best Time to Visit St. Petersburg?
The climate in St. Petersburg is very similar to the Moscow one, although locals love to complain about how cloudy, rainy, and windy the city is. I think, June is the best time to visit St. Petersburg because it's the period of white nights (from mid-May to mid-July). It should only be taken into account that at this time in the city there are especially many tourists, and prices for various services may be higher. St. Petersburg is also beautiful in winter if you are not easy to be scared away by harsh winds from the Baltic Sea.
The Best Time to Visit the Russian North?
If you don’t want to experience the extreme conditions of the Russian winter, summer is the best period to visit the coast of the White Sea, Solovki, Karelia, Arkhangelsk region. I would even say that June might be still cold there. So July is the best month for warm-lovers. However, hordes of mosquitoes and various midges are also in love with July. Therefore, the most favorable period for trips is the last couple of weeks of August, when it is still warm but with much less unpleasant insects.
The Best Time to Visit the Siberia and Far East?
The story is simple. If you want to see "soft" winter, travel there during the early spring when the days are long and the frosts are less killing. If you want the warmest weather and don't care about mosquitos, July month is your choice! If you prefer no mosquitos even with the colder weather, August month would be the best for you. In general, you may travel within Russia from May to September with comfort (and some warm clothes in case of early frosts).
Summer for Russians: Activities
How does the life of Russians change in summer?
Summer is a season of vacations and free children! So it happened that hundred years ago we were still an agricultural country, so the summer was the hardest time in a year when you needed to work day and night. Obviously, peasant children needed to help their parents on the fields. Now we still have 3 months of school break every year.
In the Soviet times, people went on vacation during the summer as well to spend time with children and help their parents with garden plots. Don’t you forget that they couldn’t travel abroad, so if you wanted to spend your vacations in some warm and nice place, the vacation in summer is the only option in Russia! Now people are more free, but the habit is still strong.
Sunbathing in Russia
In crowd you can easily see a person who have already gone on vacation by the color of the skin. Majority of Russians still spend their holidays at sea taking back a tan besides the souvenirs.
The most experienced person can even tell have you really got your tan at the sea or just spend a lot of time making potatoes grow.
Swimming in Rivers and Lakes
Russians love to swim in the summer! It's the only time when you can enjoy pleasant water in Russia. In June water is still chilly, in July it's perfect, in August it's already chilly, so Russians seize every opportunity to swim! It's not obvious for people from the southern countries that rivers and lakes are the great places to swim if you're not living on the bank of the ocean. Many Russians live on the bank of the Arctic Ocean, but rivers and lakes are warmer to swim, really!
Lakes and rivers in Russia (especially northern ones) are crystal clear! The water is nice and clean, you can even drink it. There's no crocodiles and other weird animals who love to bite your toes. We rarely have sandy beaches, so walking into the water and back by sludge and seaweed may be embarrassing.
Some people also notice the brown shade of the water, but actually, it's a sign that water is running out from peatlands where the water is distillate and has no dangerous bacteria at all.
Summertime Sadness in Russia
Summer in Russia looks not so bad? Ok, let’s talk about the most disgusting thing in summer… Buzzzzzzzzzz. Mosquitos, beetles, flies! They are all too happy to avoid you. Sitting in the grass you always feel that something creeps on you. It’s a luck if it’s just creeping, not biting!
What’s about biting… sometimes I think that Russians are cursed. We have at least three types of mosquitos. Midges are small flies that nibble your skin to get blood. Even if you used repellent, they fly around and beating in your face. Mosquitos are worse cause their bites are so painful.
Horse-flies are the worst! Their bites are so painful and they don’t care about the repellent! The good news is that they attack you only if it’s hot.
Usually in the countryside we have not so much of mosquitos. I mean, it’s not easy to sit and enjoy the summer without repellent, but still… The forest, lakes and rivers are places where they attack you! What about Siberia… I just remember how I ran for 500 meters to the shop because I couldn’t walk because of them!
How To Save Your Trip for 2 USD?
Use a repellent, it's a great weapon against them (until you start to sweat and then… brrr). The most important sustance is N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide or DEET (C12H17NO). You should have 10%-DEET for children and up to 30% for yourself. Just spray it at your skin and you are safe!
Be Prepared: Water Cut-Offs
Russians are used to it! Every summer in every house people lives without hot water for 1-3 weeks in a row! Summer is the only time when it's possible to maintain the central heating and water-supply (which is a normal story in Russia). So if you want to rent AirBNB apartment, it's an important thing to learn from the host! Usually, it's in June and July, but the exact period without hot water is known only in 1-2 months in advance. Hotels have their own systems of water-heating.
Roads in the City: Dry and Full of Rinks
Summer is the single time when you can repair roads in big cities! So while some of people are sun burning at the Black Sea, the others god a “driving tan” standing in the traffic jams in Moscow and trying not to overheat the engine (especially if you have an old-fashioned tin can as we do).
Roads in the Country: Wet and Dry Mud
The countryside roads are another story. You know, we have a joke that mud have three conditions in Russia: wet, dry and frozen. So the summer is the time of the dry mud on the roads. The bad news if it was a thunderstorm, so you need a big wheels or the phone number of the nearest tractor driver to call if your car could get to your house but couldn’t drive back after the heavy rain.