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.

Chekhov in Hell, Soho Theatre, London

Chekhov died of tuberculosis in the German spa of Badenweiler in 1904, aged 44, uttering the famous last words, "I haven't drunk champagne for ages." His coffin arrived in St Petersburg in a railway wagon labelled, "fresh oysters".

Video: Endeavour's final spaceflight delayed

Endeavour's final spaceflight has been delayed to avoid a "schedule conflict" with a Russian cargo flight.

A Day That Shook The World: Beslan school siege

On 1 September 2004, Muslim Chechen terrorists took 1,200 children and adults hostage in a school in Beslan, North Ossetia.

Whatever the weather: Rain and snow for 190 days a year – then summer sun transforms St Petersburg

St Petersburg is situated along the shores of the Neva Bay in the Gulf of Finland; it has a continental climate, moderated somewhat by the Baltic Sea. Because of the city's northerly latitude it experiences a huge variation in daylight hours during the year, ranging from six – in midwinter – to 19 hours a day. Twilight may last all night in early summer, from mid-May to mid-July, and this celebrated time is known as the White Nights.

Joseph Brodsky: A Literary Life, By Lev Loseff, trans. Jane Ann Miller

Joseph Brodsky's observation that what he liked about life in the US was "being left alone to do what I can do" is faintly reminiscent of Philip Larkin's commendation of Hull as "a town that lets you write." In fact, the free-range Russian exile and the travel-shy Englishman share several affinities, including jazz. Lev Loseff records Brodsky's early poetic attempts at creating an effect of improvisation: "I'm a son of the outskirts, the outskirts, the outskirts,/ in a wire cradle, dank hallways, are my door and my address,/ streetcars clanking, rattle bang ring, stone sidewalks, soles,/ girls lined against painted wood fences,/ grassy banks, oil spot/ factory lights" ("Russian Gothic").

Video: Ice traps Russian ships

Icebreakers are trying to free three Russian vessels trapped in the frozen waters of the North Pacific.

Book of a Lifetime: The Overcoat, By Nikolai Gogol

Books aren't like assassinations: even with the most exhilarating, it can be hard to recall where you were when they happened. I'm not sure exactly how I came to read 'The Overcoat' by Nikolai Gogol, though it was definitely several years before I went to live in Moscow. I do remember that Gogol's dizzying short story about Akaky Akakiyevich, a St Petersburg clerk who buys and loses a new coat with a cat-fur collar, was a revelation.

St Petersburg's tower to the sky fails to get off the ground

Dreamed up in the heady days of ever-rising oil prices, before the financial crisis struck, it represented the optimism and swagger of the new cash-rich Russia.

Open Jaw: Cruising's carbon footprint causes concern

Where readers write back

Vladimir Nabokov's unpublished love letters are released

Though he and his wife, Vera, were rarely apart, the author wrote to her for more than 50 years

Something To Declare: Bargain of the week, Royal wedding avoidance tactics

The embarrassment of bank holidays in April, caused by the impending royal wedding on 29 April, makes it possible to squeeze an extra trip without taking much more time off work.

Siberian stowaway hitches freezing lift

A 17-year-old has survived a 50-minute flight hidden in a plane's landing gear in Siberia.

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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 15 May 2015
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