Travel Passengers dine in the restaurant car of the Red Arrow to St Petersburg

For 150 years the railway line between Moscow and St Petersburg ran as straight as an arrow for 403 miles. Straight, but for one big bend near Novgorod. The story goes that Tsar Nicholas was so fed up of officials dithering over the route that he plonked a ruler on the map and drew a straight line between the two cities, accidentally drawing around his finger in the process. Too terrified to point out his error, the builders constructed the railway with the Tsar's bump in place.

Get me out of here: Madrid, St Petersburg, Reykjavik

Now... Departing on 6 August, there's a three-night city break to Madrid being offered by easyJet Holidays for £149 per person. The price includes flights from Gatwick and B&B at the smart, centrally-located Petit Palace Alcala Torre hotel, close to the lively cafés and upmarket shops of the Gran Vía. The Royal Palace and Almudena cathedral are within reach nearby. Holidays.easyjet.com

Catherine the Great's influence felt at new Edinburgh art show

Empress Catherine the Great demonstrates her powerful and enduring cultural influence over Russia in a new art exhibit at Scotland's National Museum that opened today.

The Queen of Spades, Grange Park, Hampshire
Così fan tutte, Holland Park, London

This impressive staging of Tchaikovsky's opera manages to be both playful, and deadly serious

Ksar Char Bargh, Marrakech: 'It was an oasis of elegance and tranquillity. The hammam was unforgettable'

Marina Salye: Distinguished geologist who became a vociferous opponent of Putin

Marina Salye was a geologist of considerable repute, locating mineral deposits in the furthest and least hospitable reaches of the Soviet Union and producing dozens of academic papers and six monographs. But she came to prominence as a pugnacious and eloquent leader of the perestroika-era democratic movement in Leningrad, and as a sharp critic of Vladimir Putin ever since she uncovered gross financial malpractice in his St Petersburg office in the early 1990s.

Gay rights activists protest in St Petersburg with banners reading 'Homophobia is a shame on the State'

St Petersburg: Gay communities living in fear

As Russia launches a new legal crackdown, homosexuality is becoming a love that dare not speak its name

St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra / Temirkanov, Barbican Hall, London

When you are arguably the greatest violinist in the world a four-year “time out” from the public arena can seem like an eternity.

Madonna at the Super Bowl

Madonna pledges to speak up for gay rights

Madonna faces a showdown with the Russian legal system after she promised yesterday to speak out against a new law prohibiting "homosexual propaganda" in St Petersburg.

Madonna vows to fight anti-gay laws in concert

Madonna faces a showdown with the Russian legal system after she promised today to violate a new law that prohibits "homosexual propaganda" in the city of St Petersburg.

Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has denied that he opposed the health reforms

Russia vote 'needs investigating' says William Hague

Foreign Secretary William Hague called today for allegations of irregularities in Russia's presidential elections to be "thoroughly investigated".

Leading article: Mr Putin must not stifle this chance for change

When a misty-eyed Vladimir Putin celebrated his election victory with supporters in Moscow on Sunday, he said: "We have won in an open and honest battle." That is not what the OSCE observers concluded. In their preliminary report, they said that while the actual voting was well organised and efficient, the campaign was "clearly skewed" in Mr Putin's favour, "and the process deteriorated during the count due to procedural irregularities". Golos, an independent Russian election watchdog, said the polls could not be considered "fair and open".

Thousands contest Vladimir Putin's victory at Moscow rally

Thousands of Russians gathered today for a massive rally to challenge Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's victory in Russia's presidential election, chanting "Shame!" and "Russia without Putin!"

Britain 'keen' to see Russian election reports

Britain is awaiting the reports of independent election observers “with interest” after Vladimir Putin claimed victory at the Russian polls.

Britain 'keen' to see Russian election reports

Britain is awaiting the reports of independent election observers “with interest” after Vladimir Putin claimed victory at the Russian polls.

Army of volunteer monitors is mobilised to help make vote-rigging a thing of the past

The calls came every few seconds yesterday to the headquarters of Citizen Monitor, where dozens of telephone operators sat in booths hired from a call centre for the weekend. The operators were all volunteers, as were the 4,000 or so monitors that the organisation had posted around Moscow to watch over the vote at various polling stations.

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Prices correct as of 17 September 2014
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam