Tag Archives: russia

The St. Petersburg International Forum – despite problems, still awesome.

Hi folks!

As mentioned in my previous post, I was up early down in Sochi after the long toasts the night before, and heading to the airport. Next stop – St. Petersburg; specifically – its International Economic Forum, which I was attending for the first time.

For nearly a quarter of a century SPIEF has been impressing with its scale and the caliber of its participants. Official figures state the number of those taking part this year at more than 19,000 – coming from 145 countries of the world. And that includes CEOs of multinationals, and ministers and presidents of countries – all toing and froing and hobnobbing and speaking up on stages, often with their deputies and press services not far away.

So. SPIEF. Herewith, the plusses:

It’s really convenient: in a short time it’s possible give a presentation in among other heavyweight speakers, give a slew of interviews, and meet and chew the fat with whomever you need to or want to – all under one roof and within two or three days. Indeed, this is the whole reason for forums such as these. Also – St. Pete isn’t far for me, plus it’s always a pleasure having a stroll up and down Nevsky. In short – the plusses are very substantial plusses.

Now – the minuses:

The traffic jams! Not that this is the forum’s fault, but still. From our hotel in Pushkin on the outskirts of the city to the ExpoForum Center it’s just a seven-kilometer drive (and you totally miss out downtown!), but every morning we were more than an hour getting there! First, because they reduced the width of the normally three-lane highway to just one lane; second, because the security checks at the entrance to the complex took so long; third, apparently, because there was a complete and utter – catastrophic – absence of any public transportation serving the event. Organizers: I hope you’re reading. In three words: ‘GET A GRIP’! Don’t let such basic logistics matters spoil an otherwise excellent event!

Wait – there are more minuses!…

The signage and guidance around the ExpoForum Center was idiotic. We twice ended up walking around in circles in trying to follow the signs to get from point A to point B – which were a mere 100 meters apart! Next, the line at lunch was so absurdly long I gave up waiting and went hungry. I don’t have time to waste like that! I’m sure the other participants don’t either. So, what, bring sandwiches next time? Looks like it, given such progressive organization of the catering arrangements.

Read on: The St. Petersburg International Forum – despite problems, still awesome.

Sochny Sochi, and lots of toastski.

Oh my grueling! The other week was reeeaaal high-pressure. Geographically, it went like this:

Moscow > Sochi > St. Petersburg > Moscow. Five days, three cities, two events, five hours in planes, and around 10 hours in cars.

So, like, why?…

First, there was our traditional global conference I had to get to. A quick bit of background to begin with:

A long time ago, when we were just a wee company, we started to gradually grow the number of partners we had all around the world. And when visiting one such technology partner, we saw how it put on yearly international partner conferences. ‘Great idea!’, we thought, and soon later – we put on one of our own: in 1999 we organized our first ever global partner conference, which took place in Moscow and which was attended by 15 guests from Europe, the U.S. and Mexico.

The following year, we spread our wings just a little further – with our partner conference taking place up in St. Petersburg. The year after that – Cyprus (attended for the first time by partners from Asia and Australia); after that – Barcelona; after that – Malta; next – Antaliya, Turkey; Portugal; Athens, Greece. It was when it came to Italy’s turn to host our partner conference that we realized that, for sure, we simply could not fit any longer into the regular conference halls in large hotels. And so it came to pass – we were all grown-up all of a sudden. Like with all children eventually – it was time for a bigger room ).

Thing is, we really didn’t want to bump the format up to expo-center level; therefore, from 2008, we decided to split the large global events into smaller, regional ones: North America, Latin America (sometimes together with North), Europe (including some sub-regional conferences), Russia (held in the Russian language), APAC (Asia & Oceania), and Japan (which had its own for a while). And everything was hunky-dory.

Later, having another think about all this, we figured we should have a special international get-together for our favorite, most successful partners. Thus – what goes around comes around – the international partner conference was back, albeit in a different format.

So, two years ago (in 2017), our first global ‘greatest hits’ partner conference took place – much like our first ‘demo tape’ did back in 1999 – closer to at home, in Moscow (I didn’t write anything then about it as June 2017 was fraught with other pressing business). The following year, again, we chose St. Petersburg as the host city, and that time I did manage to write a few words thereon.

Then, this year (the third year), we traveled a little futher from home (like to Cyprus in 2001)… to sochni (‘juicy’ in Russian) Sochi on the Black Sea in Southwestern Russia! Yes, where the Winter Olympics were held in 2014 – that Sochi ).

We’d thought long and hard about where this year’s global partner conference should be. Eventually, remembering that June is the perfect month to visit Sochi – not too hot, the Black Sea is refreshing but bathable (yep, we had a frolic therein), and up in the mountains above the city it’s pleasantly cool – Sochi got the most votes. And why not? Why not show our visitors this wonderful, unique city? So in everyone flew – all 140 of us, including 98 guests from abroad – from 35 countries, and all in order to talk business and its development.

Of course, Sochi isn’t the most convenient of locations to get to for everyone – especially those coming from America, Australia or Africa. Most folks needed more than one connecting flight, with some journeys taking 40 hours! But it was worth it: the infrastructure put in place for the Olympics is all still there, and can easily impress even the most sophisticated of international guest. And for a boost in immunity – especially cyber-immunity – at this time of year there’s no better place in Russia!

The event took place in the Hyatt Regency:

Woah. Hold on – deja-vu!…

Read on…

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Why gold’s so expensive – ver. 2019.

Around a year ago, I told you on these here blog pages about an excursion I was given around a gold mine. Down we went deep into the bowels of the earth, where we were shown the whole process of beneficiation through which they extract out of every ton of earth a mere 7-8 grams of gold (which eventually find themselves in a .900 – ~20 karat gold bar).

Now, during that excursion, I recall how we were told by our guides how, though the mine we were in was really quite sufficiently modern, mechanized and automated, it still remained somewhat a ‘diet’ version of a gold mine. If we wanted to see a ‘full fat’ version, we needed to get ourselves… somewhere like this (which, a year later, is just what we did):

Read on…

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Buryatia and Transbaikal – the Buddhism center of Russia.

Buryatia and Transbaikal are two of the main centers of Buddhism in Russia. As if to demonstrate this, not far from Ulan-Ude there’s the great Buddhist monastery-university Ivolginsky Datsan. Another demonstration: on the way to the monastery there’s the famous Buddhist mantra emblazoned on a hillside: Om mani padme hum.

Datsan’s an interesting place well worthy of a visit and walkabout thereat. First impressions – a slightly Russified version of a Buddhist temple complex in China:

Read on…

We carry on – to the island of Olkhon.

In getting to the island of Olkhon (while still on the mainland), I have a feeling we were taken off-road on purpose – so we could put the Land Rovers through their 4×4 paces to the max while also getting some of the better views of the lake while driving alongside it. Well, the Land Rovers not only perfectly passed the test – they also helped pull out a mini-bus that had gotten bogged down in a spot of mushy ice that had been melted by the sun.

The story was quite a fun one, btw: the mini-bus was carrying some Russian tourists, and it was following a route along which probably one vehicle passed each day – well that was this vehicle!  So, they were literally in the middle of nowhere, stranded, with little prospect of being rescued – at least on that day. You can imagine how desperate those poor tourists were becoming. Anyway, all of a sudden – da-daaa – along come eight mighty Land Rovers! They couldn’t believe their luck. Then, when I got out of the driving seat of one of the Land Rovers, was recognized, hooked the rope onto their bumper, then got back behind the wheel to pull the mini-bus out of the mush, well, I have to say it looked like they might faint!

Soviet joke digression!

The Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev was know to like fancy cars. One Sunday, he fancied a drive. So in he jumped, with his driver transferred to the front passenger seat. Off he races out into the countryside. Of course, after a while of doing well over the speed limit, eventually the traffic police pull him over. One of the police officers goes over to the car while Mr.Brezhnev winds down the window. The driver, naturally, is stunned, stands there frozen, eyes as big as saucers, and slowly turns back to his colleagues, who shout over: “What’s up Boris? Who’s the VIP being driven around at such crazy speed, then?” To which Boris replies: “Well, actually, I don’t know; but his driver is Brezhnev himself!”

Still on the mainland, perhaps the most memorable experience was stopping off at the village of Bugul’deyka, or, rather, its abandoned marble quarry. The place is nothing too special, but it was worth a quick look around. I wondered – why did they give up extracting marble here? Surely there’s always a demand for this posh construction material loved by five-star hotels (and five-star metros:).

My wonderings were soon answered: apparently this marble is a soft kind – only good really for sculptures; no good at all for construction. In Soviet times, when statues of Lenin were always popular (there would be many in any city, at least one in most towns), this place was kept very busy. These days, with patriotic-ideological monuments less in vogue, there’s just no need for its marble any more. The only folks who come here are the occasional tourists who’ve wandered off the beaten track.

Read on…

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!

Read on…

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:

Read on…

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…

Read on…

Up to my waist in Karelian snow.

Of late you’ve been getting nothing but tropical-equatorial-EcuadorianGalapagosian dispatches from me. Which is hopefully just what you need if it still feels like winter where you are. However, this post, as the title gives away, is a typically wintery post, just for a bit of variation…

So, without further ado, here we have…: snow. Lots of:

But why am I lying down like that in the snow? Simple: if I tried to stand up, I’d sink into that snow up to my waist!

But… why is the ice in the below pic green? Actually, it’s not the ice itself that’s green, but I’ll get to that in a bit. But green is our corporate color, so it suited us just fine.

Read on…

Top-100: Russia.

Hi folks!

On we go with my journey around what are to me the 100 most beautiful places in the world, all of which I reckon need visiting at least once in a lifetime without fail – so as not to live the rest of that lifetime with regret!

Next up, the world’s largest country!…

Russia.

Russia’s East European Plain doesn’t have anything outstandingly must-see when it comes to natural beauty. Of course, there are beautiful places – and many of them, but none quite make their way onto my Top-100. Then, east of the Urals there’s the West Siberian Plain – a rather plain… plain, this time all tundra/taiga/steppe (from north to south, respectively), marshes, rivers, lakes, oil extraction and mosquitoes. Things only start getting Top-100-worthy still further east. But I’ll get to that in a bit. For now though…

39. Red Square and the Kremlin.

Many foreign friends who come visit us here in Moscow tell us that Red Square – with St. Basil’s Cathedral at one end, the Kremlin to one side and GUM on the other – is the most beautiful spot in Europe, especially at night when lit up. And who am I to argue? I too am a big fan.

Note: St. Petersburg is in the Cities section of the Top-100 series.

ru_1Source

info_ru_20 wiki_en map_ru_20 gmaps foto_ru_20 google flickr

Read on…