Time is running out for the lighter days and later nights, both here in the UK, Russia and everywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere. Envy those south of the equator who are currently heading towards spring, but envy is a futile endeavour – an added problem in itself on top of the inevitability of winter. Time to grit your teeth against the oncoming darkness, and to make the most of whatever sunlight is still available.
I’m curious to see what Russia during the autumn has to offer, as out-of-season costs should be more favourable to visitors, right? Magnify this by the current decrepit state of the Ruble and we should be able to go places for a comparatively modest outlay. Low season (by definition) also results in less tourists visiting the country. Fewer bodies, fewer queues, less people to trip over. Great for your inner misanthropist. Sign me up.
Scanning around the web, it would appear that mid-October is ‘pushing it’ as far as weather is concerned. Arguably better to be returning at that point, rather than setting out – but we must do what we can. The month as a whole appears to be something of a trade-off in terms of conditions versus spectacle.
On the one hand there is Pushkin’s Golden Autumn: with its cascade of windswept leaves in hues of red and yellow blanketing city parks under bronzed sunlight. On the other: the rain – increasing its presence as a precursor to the descending ice to come. For Moscow I found an average quoted incidence of 15 rainy days out of the the 31! Essentially, flip a coin. Temperatures are decidedly sobering too: fluctuating between 3° – 8° Celsius, again, on average. That’s a notable combination, even by rainy, moaning-Brit standards. Time to pack/dress accordingly.
They (the Russians) have a term for it apparently: rasputitsa aka ‘mud’ or ‘quagmire’ season. There’s two in fact; the big one at the time of the spring melt and its smaller brother during the fall.
It’s not so much a problem if you are planning to hang around central Moscow, but something to bear in mind for extended countryside visits. The worst-case photographs of the phenomena make rural landscapes look like they’ve succumbed to hip-deep mudslides; very handy for impeding advancing German forces during WW2, not so good for contemporary sightseeing.
Russia can have it’s own ‘Indian Summer’ though: a short spell which will coincide with your trip by sheer luck alone. It’s called Bab’e leto or “peasant woman’s summer” and is one last respite before conditions take a downturn (ie: November).
In spite of summer’s last embers, we are still heading into the icy abyss. I read some sagely advice about the autumn/winter flu’ season – still as relevant in Russia as anywhere else. Russia is seemingly big enough to have multiple strains of the disease at large, each potentially prevalent in its own region! That’s certainly a factor if you are planning to have a vaccination. We’re not qualified to give medical advice here, but recommend having a chat with your doctor about this and any other Russian jabs or health issues.
In terms of venues, museums, galleries and so on, fortunately the indoors is not going anywhere. All premises still have bills to pay and will be looking for your custom. You’ll also have fewer fellow tourists to contend with generally and possibly greater haggle-room (where appropriate), plus: a choice of low-season flights and accommodation that can be distinctly affordable. You’ll have missed most of the festivals; the season has waxed and waned by early September.
The wait is on for the winter festivities, so it’s arguably something of an in-between time in that respect, but if festivals are your thing then you wouldn’t be looking at an autumn visit anyway.
So assuming that you favour a relatively quiet time, then it’s almost certainly down to whether you can handle the climate and the considerations that accompany it. Something to think about.
[Photo by alex1983]