And in sports news – Misha is the chess champion!

Oh yes, the boy’s done good ace! Mikhail Antipov, our chess champ, has won the World U20 Championship 2015!

How the boy’s come on – from the modest boy-next-door, to the widely known (at least in the world chess clique:) world-beating champion with major trophies on the mantelpiece already! What’s especially pleasant about this news? Actually, all of it!…

First – chess is a very useful and proper pastime for training the brain. And if it grows into being a professional undertaking with worldwide recognition – ah, that’s the second already. And third, it’s nice to know we had a hand in seeing Misha make it to the top, after supporting him since his early days in the game.


Read on:

Kamchatka-2015 – If you can walk with bears…

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, and you find yourself on the bank of Kurile Lake and are told to ‘go check out the sand bank’ by your guides, make sure you agree and get yourself over there! For what you’ll get is a heady cocktail of adrenaline, delight and emotions. Why? Because… of all the bears. And not just a handful, but a whole big pack of them…


Read on: the place is packed full of grizzlies…

Kamchatka-2015 – Kurile Lake: Sock-eye salmon and beady-eye bears.

They say that the world’s largest population of sockeye salmon – several million of them – comes to spawn in Kurile Lake. And, having been there, I can believe it: it’s packed full of fish, lots visible to the naked eye, splashing about frantically. Not quite as packed as the lakes in Alaska (you can’t see through the fish there’s so many there), but all the same – impressive.

Kurile Lake – rather, the land surrounding it – is also big on… bears: big, as in, the largest population of brown bears in the world – around 5000 of them, if my memory serves me well. At least – it was 5000 several years back. Now it’s probably a lot higher as they’re propagating at a turbo-charged rate of late. I remember the norm for a family unit of bears being mummy bear plus just one or two cubs. These days there are normally three if not four cubs! So it looks like everything in the bears’ reproduction department is doing just fine :).


Read on: how many bears can you see in the next pic?…

Rage and F1 in Japan.

I get to Japan a lot on business.

Normally the airport procedures you have to go through to get from airplane seat to airport exit, luggage in hand, are quick and efficient. But just sometimes, it seems, things don’t run quite so smoothly: just recently we landed in Osaka and the line for passport control lasted two hours! Just look at the crowds of disgruntled travelers. This is just… unacceptable! I mean, Japan, come ON. Is it really that difficult to put more staff on? Hello?

Read on: Things only got more unusual…

Kamchatka-2015 – Ilynsky – the Kempinski of the volcanoes.

Next up on An-Kam-2015Ilynsky.

This is one grandiose volcano. There’s no arguing about it.

And the bigger – the better. Or so it seems at first… (more on the downside below). Anyway, we decided almost impulsively to get ourselves to its peak, for the views from up there are sure to be amazing – weather permitting.

Here’s what it looks like from the window of a helicopter, and also from the shore of Kurile Lake:



Read on: we FINALLY MADE IT!…

Top-100 Series: Europe.

You’ll probably already know about a lot of the man-made wonders and beauties on this continent – the cradle of western civilization – for it does have them in spades. However, it also has plenty to see in the natural-historical-phenomena department too, some of which you may not be aware of. Until now!

Curiously, practically all European natural-historical marvels are situated on or by the coast or on islands. Deep into its territory there’s practically no ‘top’-worthy stuff. But that doesn’t matter, for Europe has plenty of both coastline and islands :-). All righty. Off we go!…


28. Volcanic Iceland.

One of the most volcanically active places on the planet. Volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, plus the glaciers and harsh northern climate you’d expect from a country with the word ‘ice’ in its title. I was there just this summer. It was out of this world. Even gives Kamchatka a run for its money. Only saw a small part of it though. Must get back and explore the rest…



Read on: cliffs, islands, volcanoes, bays …

Kamchatka-2015: Ksudach – the Countach of the volcanoes.

The Ksudach volcano is one of the most unusual and breathtakingly beautiful places on our planet – I assure you. And since I’m lucky enough to have been practically everywhere on the planet, my assurances can be trusted, I do hope :).

All righty, what we got here?…

Basically, a colossal (7km – SEVEN KILOMETERS – in diameter!), almost perfectly round caldera of a very old volcano, which on maps looks like a crater on the moon. Inside the caldera there’s a cone of a new volcano (whose mouth is approx. one kilometer across); there are also two lakes, hot springs on a sandy beach, scrubby slopes on one side, gray-yellow volcanic slag on the other, and a sheer drop down to one side of the main lake. In all, the most out-of-this-world and unusual and heart-stirring and spine-tingling and goosebumps-giving sight you could ever possibly behold, at least on this planet.



Read on: Stunning, moving, crazy, astounding…


As if the Beijing temples and Summer Palace weren’t sufficient, we also managed to experience a full-blown state military parade right on Tiananmen Square!

One word: grandiose.

We got there early in the morning in fully festive spirit, as did other ticketholders – all 50,000 of them! Most had cameras, and many were decked out in full traditional national costume – including most of the children. Oh, and as I explained how in my previous Beijing post, there wasn’t a cloud to be seen anywhere over the capital.



Read on: spectators assembled, troops at the ready, let’s begin!…