Baikal: history, trains, ashore, and more.

A tourist visiting Lake Baikal usually starts out at Irkutsk airport they’ve just flown in to, from where there’s a good quality road southeast to the Lake, the journey along which taking about an hour. The first view you get of Baikal is of the riverhead of the Angara that comes off the lake. This is the only river that flows from the lake (while the rivers and streams flowing into it number over 300!), and it does so in no small measure – the width of the river at the lake’s edge is some 900 meters!

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Crossing Baikal.

As I showed you in yesterday’s post, folks travel across the ice of Lake Baikal on various modes of transport. We went for one of the more glamorous and comfortable modes – Land Rovers!

(Brief ad break: the Land Rovers were supplied by the company Avtorazum, in fact – personally by its owner, Alexey Simakin, who, btw, is the Guinness world record holder for the longest car journey in one country, a ‘Master of Sport’ of the USSR (yachting), and twice champion of Russia in yachting. Check out those links – Avtorazum organizes all sorts of crazy cool auto-expeditions all over Russia and beyond).

And our Land Rovers looked like this:

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New word alert: Baikalian!

Privyet folks!

The other week I had a quick – six day – outing over to Lake Baikal in Siberia. As could have been expected, it was a delightful trip, with the six days passing so quickly it was as if time itself had been shortened. Ice, snow, endless expanses, entrancing enjoyment. And – oh my gigabytes – a ton of photos we appear to have taken. Ok, while I’m sifting, selecting and editing, I’ll give you some traditional aperitif-pics to whet the appetite…

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A Town Called (Diocletian’s) Palace.

Hi folks!

The Roman emperor Diocletian was a strong, stabilizing leader during the twilight centuries of the Roman Empire, apparently. But I don’t want to give a commentary on him as, first, I’m not historian; and, second, I don’t really fancy discussing the merits of lack thereof of historical figures.

I’ll limit myself to something I found very curiously intriguing.

Now, quick rewind. One of my recent posts was on my recent visit to Tito’s secret atomic bunker. Well here’s a ~logical continuation of that – another historical residence built for a leader, albeit 1500+ years earlier. It’s Diocletian’s Palace, in Split in Croatia. It, too, is massive – taking up the whole of the old town district of the city. It’s more of a fortress really, as there are streets running through it. It’s been somewhat adapted over the years – becoming more of a town than a fortress, but it’s still an amazing site – as UNESCO thinks so too.

Ok, in we go…

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Mostar’s new old bridge.

It was farewell to Tito’s bunker, and we were headed to the Croatian city of Split, where we were to have an important business event. On the way – while still in Bosnia–Herzegovina – was visited another magical place: the city of Mostar.

What a beautiful city! It centers around its ‘Old Bridge’ – Stari Most – which crosses the Neretva River, as it has done since the 1500s! The river’s fast flowing, emerald green, and with accessible, bedrock-revealing banks. The only one downside: all the low banks of the river are strewn with plastic garbage.

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Tito’s secret bunker.

As you’ll know by now, I’m a big fan of walkies – be they industrial walkies, cultural walkies, extreme walkies… in fact – just about any walkies, but preferably ones involving anything must-see. And I’m of course not alone with my fandom of all things walkies – therefore they are always accompanied by lots of photos and lots of travelogue-y words. Just like in this post – on a place in Bosnia, 30km (60km by road) from Sarajevo – Tito’s bunker!

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Masada – from up in the sky and down on the ground.

The Masada fortress – oh my Great Herod! What a checkered history. The uprising of the Jews against the Romans. The seizing of Jerusalem, the remains of the rebels locked inside the walls of the fortification on the flat top of this inaccessible mountain with vertical cliff faces all around it.

A siege of three (3!) years. The Romans constructed a ramp and eventually entered the fortress – but so as not to end up as prisoners, slaves – or dead – the defenders of the fortress (around a thousand inhabitants, including women and children) committed mass suicide. A ghastly tale – from the first century BC.

I’d already been to Masada. I didn’t write all that much about the place back then, but I do recall plenty of emotions during my visit. Places like this need returning to – so I returned…

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Rain – in the desert.

Ladies and gents, boys and girls!

If you wake up one morning in a hotel room and open the drapes to see this here scene – don’t rush with the cheerfulness. Appearances can be deceiving…

So, what’s not right in that pic? First: the beach – it’s empty, as in – no folks. Second: not a single human head to be seen bobbing about on that there sea. Third: those palms are looking more than a little distressed with their leaves flapping about frantically in the wind.

So yes, this is not a day for the beach. But not to worry – that means it’s a day… for a helicopter excursion!

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A familiar Kamchatkan grizzly face – in a town in Switzerland.

Hi folks!

The other day I was strolling about the photogenic small city of Fribourg in Switzerland. It was so photogenic my camera seemed to take pics of its own accord! Anyway, you’ll see pics my Sony auto-took a bit later in this post; but for now – a lengthy digression!…

I hadn’t been to Fribourg before, so this was a +1 to the number of towns and cities I’ve visited. And this +1 closely coincided with a question I was asked just recently on the KL Fan Club: ‘How many towns/cities have you visited?’ Well, having visited a full 91 countries, it was clear that totting up the number of towns and cities wouldn’t be all that easy: first, I’d need to recall each one; second – er, but what exactly is a ‘town‘, and what exactly is a ‘city‘?

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Ecuadorian journeyman – 2019: Quito and home!

Hi folks!

After our excursion around the Galapagos Islands, it was time to return to the mainland and to Ecuador‘s capital – Quito for a proper look round. We’d flown over it a few times already, and stayed in a few hotels en route to or from the airport but not investigated the place on the ground.

Maybe there are parts of the city that are well-designed, well-built built, with lots of greenery and leafiness and overall pleasantness; however, we only saw such a place once – the city’s central square.

The rest of the city – at least those parts we saw – leave a lot to be desired. Untidy, ungroomed, seemingly no plan for town-planning ever, and traffic worse that Moscow’s – and that’s saying something. The old town looks much better and there are some neighborhoods that are interesting (for example, where our hotel was located), but even those – I’d hardly call them charming. Alas, the city is lagging behind other Latin American capitals I know of.

One aggravating factor the city’s huge population all crammed into one relatively small area. To compare, Quito covers nine times less area than Moscow, but its population is just 5.8 times less. But Moscow is a city of practically nothing but high-rise buildings; Quito rarely gets much above two floors across the whole city.

Here are some tourists lapping up Quito’s suburban sprawl. It’s not quite a favela, but it’s getting there. There are some places where the houses are better, but they still seem to be made of non-standard materials and hardly ever painted.

I have a simple rule when visiting a new city: the best way to get a proper feel for it is by taking a stroll through it. First decide on a route, then follow it. Here in Quito it went from the Virgin of Quito monument back to our hotel. Alas, I didn’t get a pic of said monument; you’ll have to make do with one I found on the internet:

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