Ask your friend to answer quickly your question: " What do you associate with Russia? Name something". Perhaps the times when some of people answered: " Vodka, matryoshka, balalaika" passed away. There was a period (in 1985-1990) when the answer for the same question was "Gorbachev, perestroika, the Kremlin". Today you will not find the answers which are similar. One of the guys who was asked the question what he would associate with Russia answered :"Putin, vodka, USSR, fields, gas". A lot of respondents would tell you about "tall beautiful girls". In a way all these answers are correct. But Russia is a huge country with the largest territory in the world. All the above mentioned quotes (except nice girls) were about Moscow. However, Moscow, the city with the long and rich history ( the place was founded in 1147) is not the quintessence of Russia, its spirit and its diversity.
Russia is the multiethnic country. Over 200 nationalities (!) live there. Each of these groups has its own ethnic specifications. There are some cities and places in Russia where you won't meet the "native" Russian people. Dagestan regions have their own culture. Some people living in mountain villages, do not even understand the official language (Russian) of the country they live in. If you are the person who love extreme and exotic tours, this is the place for you. Dagestan people are famous for their hand-made rugs and carpets. You can buy a unique piece of art for a small price. Those people who want to see the legendary Siberia, but not the cities with the high developed industry and science like Novosibirsk or Tumen, can go to the villages placed on the banks of Yenisei River.
Ural Mountains which form the natural border between Europe and Asia is the place which can tell you hundreds of legends about "The Mistress of the Copper Hill". The monument which marks the border " Asia - Europe" is placed in Yekaterinburg. Visiting this city, you can buy real Ural stones. Malachite, opal, jasper, coil, amethyst and other beautiful stones can be bought there at the Exhibitions of Urals' stones. There you can get stunning compositions made of these stones.
They say the most beautiful city in the world is St. Petersburg. It used to be Russian capital for a long time, when tzars were at power. So it has hundreds of amazing buildings and dozens of gorgeous palaces and galleries. Most of St. Petersburg's palaces which were built in 1700s, are Rastrelli architect works. The talented master was Italian, but he spent most of his life in Russia. Smolny Convent, Peterhof Palace, Vorontsov Palace, Hermitage Pavilion, Winter Palace and other amazing buildings made by Rastrelli can be visited today. As St. Petersburg is the place which opens its "doors" to the tourists from all over the world, the citizens there are absolutely loyal and friendly people. Artists love St. Petersburg and adore White Nights - the unique natural phenomenon which can be watched in may. Tourists and citizens of the city love to stay awake at White Nights watching the unique beauty of the city. You can take a small tour on the boat along Neva river and watch St. Petersburg drawbridges.
Another wonder in Russia which can be associated with this country after you visit it is Baikal - the real pearl of Far East - the cleanest and the deepest lake. The fish from Baikal - omul is a real delicacy which you can try when visiting this place. There are even special fishing tours you can join to catch the unique fish yourself.
Russia is a huge country. Whereas its northern citizens wear winter coats and fur hats, tourists in Sochi dive into the sea and sunbathe on the Black Sea beaches. After the Winter Olympic Games in 2014, the city has become even more comfortable. It was always popular with Russians and loved by tourists coming from overseas, but today it has become the place which can be proud with Amusements Parks, Aquaparks and simply lovely beaches where you can lay under the warm sun and taste local "beach food" - shrimps or corn.
Coming to Russia and spending some time there, especially if you make a tour over this country, you will get the associations which will differ from "Vodka, matryoshka, balalaika" stamps. The country will be remembered not only by its huge sizes and tall beautiful girls, but by the wide nature of people living there, sincere hospitality and special Russian humor which should be sometimes felt with no translation.