Top choice in Western European Russia

Russia’s most beloved poet, Alexander Pushkin, lived several years at his family estate, Mikhailovskoe, near the small town of Pushkinskie Gory (Пушкинские Горы; Pushkin Hills), 120km south of Pskov.

The family first came to the area in the late 1700s, when Pushkin’s great-grandfather Abram Hannibal was given the land by Empress Elizabeth. The family house was destroyed during WWII and has since been rebuilt. The surrounding 20-hectare park includes servants’ quarters, orchards, cute bridges and a wooden windmill.

Pushkin’s writing room has also been re-created, with his comfy leather chair, portraits of Byron and Zhukovsky (Pushkin’s mentor, also a poet) and a small statue of Napoleon. The thick religious book on his writing table is the one he supposedly grabbed from the family bookcase and pretended to be reading whenever he saw the local priest coming for a visit.

At Pushkinskie Gory, about 1km north of the bus stop, is the Svyatogorsky Monastery (Святогорский монастырь), where Pushkin is buried. Monks remember him in their daily prayers.

Many travel agencies run excursions from Pskov on Saturdays with Russian-speaking guides only (R900, excluding admission fees); for an English-speaking guide get in touch well in advance with the Pskov tourism office. See www.pushkin.ellink.ru for accommodation options.

You can catch a bus to Pushkinskie Gory from the Pskov bus station (R200 to R250, 2½ hours, at least six daily); the first bus leaves at 7.20am. The Pushkinskie Gory bus station is about 6km from Mikhailovskoe. If there's no local bus to cover the last leg, take a pleasant country walk. Turn left out of the bus station and walk for 1km along the road – you’ll eventually see the Svyatagorsky Monastery on your left. From there a road leads off to the right towards Mikhailovskoe. However the best option is to hire a taxi from Pushkinskie Gory to take you around for the day; expect to pay R1500 to R2000.