Fresh start ... Lake Baikal from Olkhon Island.

Siberia's holy water

Stephen Phelan takes the plunge in Lake Baikal — so deep, so mysterious and so very cold.

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Walks of life ... a portrait of Dostoevsky in a cafe on Nevsky Prospekt.

Tales of the unexpected

Brian Johnston looks beyond the imperial grandeur of St Petersburg to the everyday life celebrated by the great Russian novelist Dostoevsky.

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Gilt and grandeur ... in the huge collection of paintings are these portraits of Russian generals in the 1812 campaign ...

Came so far for beauty

So much art. So much backache. Lissa Christopher tours the behemoth State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.

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When in room ... and from Hotel Le Continental, Bordeaux.

Keys to the cities

A Bordeaux bolthole for $120 a night? A riverside retreat in Lisbon for the same? Here's our guide to some of Europe's best-value hotels and guesthouses this season.

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Walkers beneath Fussa volcano.

Wildlife and wild weather

Louise Schwartzkoff paddles with otters and cruises beneath volcanoes on a dramatic expedition in the Kuril Islands.

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French actress Edwige Feuillere

Railway trips to dine for

Ah, the romance of long-distance train travel ... Ute Junker shares her experiences of carriages and cabbages.

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