Tag Archives: russia

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.

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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…

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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…

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

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Kamchatka-2018: Kam-route, Kam-vids, Kam from outer space.

Hi Folks!

Herewith, the LAST post in the series on our Kamchatka-2018 expedition! No, really. “What? No meandering 30-post extended-version travelogue with several hundred pics?” Nope. Not this year. Don’t worry though: I’ll make up for this year’s scant reportage after the next Kamchatka mission.

But back to this year’s trip…

So. What have I got for you today?

First, of course, there’s the full route taken this year in on the peninsula, with a few assorted pics inserted at different points along the way:

I do hope that this route – plus the few travel-tales in the earlier Kamchatka-2018 posts, or indeed all my Kamchatka notes (and there are a lot of them!) – might make the seemingly daunting destination of Kamchatka a bit less intimidating for some of the more adventurous among you, dear readers. If we can do it – average folks with average fitness levels – so can you! Just follow our route and you’ll be fine ).

Now what else?

As it’s Tuesday, and you’ve probably got enough reading on your plate already, I’ve got for you today a series of videos on this year’s expedition:

1) Expedition highlights:

Read on: Bears in action!…

There’s North; then there’s Norilsk.

I’d been planning on getting myself in early September to the Far North industrial city of Norilsk. I’d a chock-full itinerary planned, including giving speeches, business meetings with the management of our highly esteemed customer, plus of course a spot of tourism: checking out the main natural must-see of the region: Putorana Plateau.

At least, like I say: that was the plan. But then Kamchatka-2018 put paid to all that – six weeks with a leg in plaster. So I had to put the trip off. But only I had to postpone it: all the others in our delegation still went. And they had a whale of a time, by all accounts.

Well one of those accounts I’ll give you here: that of D.Z., one of my most-regular travel companions. Herewith, his short essay,plus photos.

(Note (from me): Unfortunately there are no pics of Putorana. Much like what happened most of the time this summer in Kamchatka, the weather turned real bad – not fit for flying. So there was to be no helicopter flight to the Siberian Traps, which incidentally came about around 250 million years ago as the result of a mega volcanic eruption. Btw: that eruption was one of the most global geo-catastrophes this planet of ours has ever seen: it changed its climate, and brought the Paleozoic Era to a close while ushering in that of the Mesozoic and its all its dinosaurs. Remnants of that prehistoric cataclysm can today be found around 100 kilometers from Norilsk, but are rarely accessible to tourists due to the habitually terrible weather conditions above the Arctic Circle. Oh well: next time…

—8<—

For someone who’s never been to Norilsk, the place is a mere city in the Far North of Russia. However, a taxi ride from its airport around the territory and to its downtown changes this visualization: Norilsk is a more than a mere city; it’s a whole industrial district (one of its official titles is the ‘Norilsk Industrial District’), which covers the wide expanse of land from the Yenisei River to the Putorana Plateau. And its residential neighborhoods – with a population totaling nearly 200,000 – dot this industrial landscape to almost resemble oases.

Read on…

Leaden sky.

My definition of happiness: In excellent company; in nice weather (under a warm sun and clear blue skies); with oh-my-gorgeous views all around (and no other tourists getting in the way!); not counting the great many kilometers trekked, or the number of rivers waded or zip-lined across, or the masses of mosquitoes and innumerable insects (which mysteriously disappear all of a sudden); having ones mind, body and soul filled with the rejuvenating tonic of exotic expedition; with a fresh wind blowing; with a spirit that is tranquil, contemplative and meditative… where?… – you guessed it: in KAMCHATKA!!

Along wild meadows, dry tundra, and sometimes swampy stretches; across volcanic rubble… – it all equals contentedness.

Read on…