Mentioned for the first time in the Chronicles in 903 the ancient Pskov is attractive for the visitors for two main reasons: it has a lot of monuments of the ancient Russian culture and is located conveniently close to St.Petersburg, the Russia’s major tourist center.
Although the city can be easily accessed from St.Petersburg either by bus or by train, the present tour offers customers a rather exotic way of getting to Pskov by MI-8 helicopter, which has a specially designed passenger cabin and covers the way for an hour. After dissolution of the ancient Russian state Kiev Rus into several independent principalities (12th century) Pskov became the part of the Novgorod land.
It remained the Novgorod's dominion, and the capital of the Republic of Pskov at the same time, until the end of the 15thcentury, when both Novgorod and Pskov were annexed by the mighty Moscow principality.
During its long history Pskov played repeatedly the role of the Russia’s stronghold in the North-West. Besides defending the country from many invasions, it was also the city where from Peter the Great started his glorious campaigns. With founding St.Petersburg Pskov lost its trade and commercial importance, but nevertheless stayed the important cultural and religious center, which witnessed many significant events, including abdication of the last Russian Emperor Nicolas II.
The present-day Pskov is renowned for the numerous 11th - 1th century architectural monuments including the Kremlin and the majestic Trinity Cathedral. Of special attractiveness are the old churches that dot the city and the unique stone structures of long standing. Among the other highlights of the tour are the Pechorsky Monastery of Assumption and the suburban town of Izborsk, one of ten Russia’s oldest towns.
Pskov region is located in the northwest of Russia in the area influenced by the Baltic Sea. It borders on the west with Estonia and Latvia, on the south with Belarus, on the north with Leningrad region, and on the east with Novgorod and Tver region. Its population numbers over 840 000. The region covers more than 55 000 sq. km.
The main waterway of the region is the Velikaya (Great) River. It flows over 430 km from south to north, fed by more 250 tributaries along its route. The Velikaya flows into Pskov Lake, which is linked to Chudskoye lake and, further on - through the Narva River - to the Baltic Sea. In size the two lakes located in the northwest of the region occupy fourth place among the lakes of Europe and are the main natural point of interest of Pskov region.
The geographical relief of Pskov region is determined by two lowlands: the Pskov lowland to the west (the Velikaya River basin) and Priilmenskaya to the east (towards Ilmen Lake in Novgorod region). Between them there are three hills running north to south: the Luzhskaya, Sudomskaya, and Bezhanitskaya elevations.
The climate of Pskov region is moderate. The proximity of the Baltic Sea is reflected in the area's high humidity, which makes the winters milder and the summers humid. Winter here lasts about a hundred days. The average temperature in winter is - 5 C - 7 C , although - 30 C is not totally unheard of. However, really cold days do not last long. The first part of winter is warmer than the second half, and there are sometimes blizzards in February. The snow melts in March, but there may be cold spells in May. The ice melts on the rivers in late March, the average temperature of which is + 4 C. Foliage appears on trees in early May, and the meadows blossom in June. The temperature during Pskov's hottest month - July - is + 16 C +18 C, but there are also days when the temperature reaches +32 C. Autumn is warmer than spring. The trees shed their leaves in October. November is cold and overcast, with frequent drizzles. Winter arrives in December when the rivers and lakes freeze over, but there is often a snowfall before then.
Pskov region is located in a forest zone. 32 % of its territory is covered by forests, haymeadows and pasturelands cover 16 % and arable land makes % of the total area. Most of the forestland is to be found in northern Pskov region. The most widespread tree is the pine (49%), second place is taken by the birch (23 %), and third place by the fir (12 %). The basic types of deciduous trees are the ash, linden, maple, elm, and oak. Every year Pskov region produces more than one million cubic meters of timber.
Pskov region provides fire-resistant clays, gypsum, lime slabs, and peat for industry and construction.
The beauty of Pskov and its neighborhoods has been extolled for over a thousand years. This beauty derives from the deserted sites of ancient towns on hilltops, its dove-grey, rose-tinted boulders on steep slopes, the gentle beauty of Pesno Lake which charmed N. Rimsky-Korsakov, and Zhizhitsy Lake which enchanted M. Mussorgsky. Its beauty comes from the stratified canyons of the Velikaya River, and its thundering water as it passes over the rapids, its nights filled with nightingale songs and the copper disc of the moon as it hangs over the dark silhouette of the ancient fortress, and its bright streams and golden autumn which so captivated A. Pushkin. Its beauty also comes from the scarlet ash berries glistering along the roadside in autumn and lowering, legend filled woods.