Nick Axon Head of HistorySee all
We are lucky to have some exceptional people working with us to make your school tour an unforgettable experience. We'd like to introduce you to a few of them.
They work tirelessly in various capacities to ensure our tours are a success. We refer to them as Area Representatives, Guides, Tour Managers but essentially they are local specialists who have a passion for the city you are visiting and they can't wait to share their knowledge and experience with you. They regularly go above and beyond what's expected of them and we want to thank them for making our tours so special.
We are positive that if you are lucky enough to have one of them on a tour with you, you will be requesting them again and again in the future.
Lena Andrianova, Moscow
Lena worked as a Professor of English at a University in Moscow for 13 years and has been a Moscow Guide for 10 years. She has a passion for English and realised an early dream when she took her first trip abroad to London many years ago and fell in love with England. Since then, Lena has seen a lot more of the world, largely due to a secondary career in interpreting which has seen her visit Iran, South Korea, Vietnam and Laos. Independently she has travelled to Japan, South Africa, USA, Canada and most of Europe.
Lena's work as a guide has forced her to give up her teaching role. "I have always been interested in history and art", Lena says, "and I love communicating with different people and sharing stories about my hometown and the Russian culture. Guiding is like teaching in a way, because you are still sharing what you know, so I do still see myself as a teacher, but to foreign students instead of local ones. I like working with your student groups because they are here to learn and try to understand our country. This is good, I can help them with that."
Lena has a wealth of experience when it comes to leading our clients around Moscow and is our longest serving guide having worked with us for 9 years. She is now our Moscow Area Representative and we liaise with her closely to plan every itinerary, assign local guides and make reservations for our groups. Many clients say that having Lena as their guide was like having another teacher along on the trip and in a way, it is!
Maria Smolentseva, St Petersburg
Maria studied English and History at University and has been a professional St Petersburg guide for 18 years. Maria led her first tour for us in 2006 which makes her one of our longest serving guides. 9 years on and Maria's involvement in our school tours to St Petersburg has risen dramatically. She is now in charge of all our St Petersburg guiding operations, from assigning guides to work on our tours to helping us purchase tickets in advance, from advising on museum closures to sourcing new restaurants. In fact it's a wonder Maria still finds time to lead many of our school tours herself!
Maria loves working with our student groups, "I find it extremely satisfying to show my hometown off to people who are seeing it for the first time. I love to tell them all about it and it feels great when I see how much they enjoy St Petersburg and I know they will go home and tell everyone what an amazing place it is."
Maria loves to travel, some of her recent visits include China, Italy & Spain. Maria's energy and enthusiasm for guiding in St Petersburg always leave our clients raving about her and we're delighted to have her as part of the team.
Nick Jackson, Berlin
Nick graduated in Archaeology at University College London in 1989 and excavated widely in the Near East for nearly a decade. After a research post at Cambridge University he made Berlin his home, becoming one of Berlin’s foremost English language guide lecturers on modern Berlin history.
A qualified authority on KZ Sachsenhausen, guest lecturer at Stanford in Berlin and a long term active member of the Berliner Unterwelten eV. documenting and researching Berlin’s underground history, Nick has divided his research time between exploring Nazi bunkers, travel journalism, touring the city and lecture tours on the Eastern Mediterranean.
Not many have the ability to have an audience hang on their every word but it can be truly said that when our schools are exploring Berlin on a tour with Nick they truly feel they have been taken back in time. Whether it be running through the last days and hours of Hitler’s life at the Fuhrer Bunker or reliving the construction and fall of the Berlin Wall guests will be fascinated as they get to touch and experience these incredible periods of history. No one can bring Berlin to life like Nick can!
Canden Schwantes, Washington DC
Canden is a full time guide, working mainly with school groups. She says "young adults ask the best questions!". As a certified Guild member guide of Washington, DC, not to mention a former History teacher and general knowledge enthusiast, Canden aims to know everything about the city and is well placed to make sure the students learn as much as possible whilst at the same time still having fun. From the history and politics to finding the best views of sites and the best restaurants, if she doesn't already know it, she'll figure it out.
As with all our Area Specialists, Canden does much more than just guide however. She is in constant communication with TCBC and, when possible, with teachers, to assess the groups' requirements and meticulously plan for their DC visit to ensure that each school has as memorable a time as possible. She will advise on dining options, best photo opportunities, assist in getting tickets, tell groups of interesting shortcuts and secret alleyways that students love to take. Anything to personalise the visit.
Chris Stanley, China
Chris graduated from London's City University with a property investment degree but almost immediately decided that wasn't for him and set off travelling through Africa and Asia ending up in China in 1997. He popped in to a travel company in Beijing to buy a ticket and ended up staying 11 years, leaving just after the 2008 Olympics having acquired an in-depth knowledge of travel in China, a large amount of tourism experience and a Chinese wife and child!
This unique knowledge of China has been put to good use since returning to the UK and founding one of the UK's leading China tour operators. He says "China is such a huge country and increasingly important on the world stage yet there is very little known about the real China by most people - it is very rare that a visitor to China says it was exactly what they were expecting it to be and almost all are pleasantly surprised."
On top of providing in-depth travel experiences in China, Chris's real satisfaction comes in educating people about this enormous country. "There is no group of people this is more important for than today's school children who are likely to have to increasingly deal with China through their careers." Chris is delighted to be involved in the running of our China school tours and works tirelessly to ensure every requirement is met and all the little details are taken care of.
Gayane Oganissyan, Russia
Yana is our chief Tour Manager in Russia. Tour Managers are a great idea when it's your first trip to a country, when you have a large group or when you simply feel the need for an extra set of hands. As opposed to guides, Tour Managers stay in the same hotels as your group, accompany you on the overnight train and provide assistance with the general day to day running of your tour to ensure as smooth an experience as possible.
Yana has years of experience accompanying student groups around Moscow and St Petersburg. From Rostov-on-Don, Yana began her career in 1998 working as an English speaking guide on Russian River Cruises before moving on to represent TCBC in Russia. She is used to working with our school groups and diligently looks after every single one entrusted to her care. An English teacher by profession, Yana's communication and language skills are of the highest quality. She enjoys working with our groups and her aim is to ensure that everyone returns home with a fantastic impression of their visit to Russia.