Page 6 of golfkat Travel Blog Posts

Europe » Russia » Siberia » Olkhon May 12th 2014

Those who stepped before me are numerous and rather surprising. Captain John Smith of Pocahontas fame, served as a mercenary in the army of the Holy Roman Emperor before becoming famous in America. John Quincy Adams visited in 1781 as a persona secretary and interpreter for America's minister to Russia. James Buchanan was minister to Russia in 1832 and 1833. Of course, this Presbyterian from Pennsylvania was socked by the lack of religion by the Russians. Samuel Colt, the gun maker, attended the coronation of Tsar Alexander II. He made several visits to Russia to sell guns. Mark Twain met Alexander II on the Black Sea in 1867. Even Whistler's Mother visited with Whistler's father, an engineer, who helped build docks and railroads. The list goes on, with the likes of Marquis de Custine, Admiral John ... read more

Europe » Russia » Siberia » Krasnoyarsk May 12th 2014

So, what exactly is a Russian gulag? Gulag is actually the Soviet agency that administered forced labor camps during the Stalin era form the 1930s to the 1950s. The camps housed a wide range of convicts, from petty criminals to political prisoners. No doubt, the Gulag was the major instrument of political repression in the Soviet Union. But the term gulag is also used to describe the camps themselves. Some of you may have heard about or read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize for Literature. He introduced the world to the term gulag in his 1973 book, Gulag Archipelago. He described the gulag as a system where people were worked to death. As recently as 1940, there were 53 separate camps and 423 labor colonies. Nothing to scoff at, my friends! img= read more

Europe » Russia » Siberia » Irkutsk May 11th 2014

Siberia has been under Russian rule since the late 16th century, similar to the Americans settlement of North America. Treaties placed cast tracts of land under Russian rule. Until the railway was built, travel to and across Siberia was slow and painful. The Great Siberian Railway or Iron Road was one quarter complete in June, 1895. Criminal labor was used with incentives to make the work attractive. A regulation was made by the Governor-General of Irkutsk so eight months of railway work counted as one year of imprisonment, or hard labor. For exiles, the term requiring them to be registered as peasants was reduced in the proportion of one year for two. For those compelled to live in far Siberia, the term of deportation was shortened by counting one year as two. Of particular interest to ... read more

Europe » Russia » Siberia » Krasnoyarsk May 11th 2014

The best of Siberia resides in its natural resources. The huge coal reserves in the Kuznetsk Basin are the largest in the world. The Basin is also rich in iron ore. Siberia also contains cobalt, zinc, copper, lead, tin, and mercury in great amounts. Norilsk is the second largest city north of the Arctic Circle where the Soviets dug the world's largest nickel mine. Diamond mines in Mirny, near the Vilyui Rover, are second only to South Africa's. Russia also has some of the world's largest oil and natural gas reserves. I am trying to tell you something good about Siberia. That may be about it! American companies have tried to harvest timber, but the deals generally go wrong. The famous Russian business practices of corruption and bribery make it difficult. But geologist have always been ... read more

Europe » Russia » Siberia » Novosibirsk May 11th 2014

When I travel through a state or country, I enjoy unearthing famous residents. I would think Siberia would be home to quite a few interesting characters. The list includes Boris Yeltsin, Catherine the Great, Vitas Bering, Rudolf Nureyev, Dmitri Mendeleev, Grigori Rasputin, Raisa Titorenko Gorbachev, Kim Jun Il, Yul Brynner, Boris Godunov, Genghis Khan, and Ivan the Terrible. As a young teenager in high school, I learned much about Mendeleev. He is credited with formulating the periodic table of elements. He created his own periodic table of elements and used it to correct the properties of some already discovered elements and to predict element yet to be discovered. But perhaps most importantly, he was appointed director of the Bureau of Weights and Measures, where he formulated the new state standards for the production of vodka. In ... read more

Europe » Russia » Centre » Vladimir May 11th 2014

Russia, or rather, the old Soviet Union was our mortal enemy through most of our youth, up until the fall of the Union in 1991. But what do we really know about this often misunderstood and huge country? First, Russia is the largest country in the world, with 17 million square kilometers. With 142 million people, it is the ninth largest country by population. Most of us know that Moscow is the current capital, though it was moved to St. Petersburg during the reign of the Peter the Great. Making communication more difficult, as if the Russian language is not difficult enough, are over fifty indigenous peoples and languages, both written and spoken). Talk about a failure to communicate, Luke! Also surprising are the two main religions, Christianity and Islam. Yet, rather surprisingly, the life expectancy ... read more

Europe » Russia » Siberia » Novosibirsk May 11th 2014

I know better, but I read a great book by Rob Lilwall, a geography teacher in England. He cycled home from Siberia, via Japan, South Korea, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Southeast Asia, Tibet, Nepal, Singapore, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and on through eastern Europe, western Europe, and home to London. He learned to say hello in 21 languages. He stayed with over 200 different people. He gave over 70 lectures, to help fund his trip, along the way. He sent thousands of emails home. He raised over $34,000 for charity. He spent his entire life savings on the trip, about $12,000. But mostly, he had 157 tire punctures on his three and a half year journey over 30,000 miles, on a single bicycle. The bicycle's name was Alanis, after the singer. ... read more

Europe » Russia » Siberia » Omsk May 10th 2014

I have heard various things about Russian food, mostly bad. But I hear and observe there is more to Russian cuisine than borsch and chicken Kiev. The main goal of trying Russian food involves eating most of my meals AWAY from the train, and its dining car. Train food has been stuck back in the 1950s, unless there has been a radical change in the last year or so. When a Russian eats at home, their first meal of the day may include fruit and cheese, eggs, bread, jam, kefir (sour yogurt drink), tvorog (cottage cheese), or kasha (porridge). Lunch and dinner may consist of at least three courses. Zakuski is the name of Russian hors d'oeuvres that may include some or all of the following delicacies: sausage, cold meat, salmon, pickled herring, pate', tomato salad, ... read more

Europe » Russia » Siberia » Ulan-Ude May 10th 2014

It seems like Russians are always drinking something, if not beer and vodka, then a cup of tea. Tea is more popular than coffee, and often served black with a spoonful sugar or jam. Most coffee is instant, and it may require a visit to a decent local café for a decent cup of coffee. It was introduced to Russians by Peter the Great back in the 17th century. Bottled mineral water is also available almost everywhere, and is usually carbonated. I am told to avoid tap water in St. Petersburg since it has giardia. And everywhere in the world, Coca Cola is available, along with home-grown versions such as Takhun. But on the train, boiled water is available from the samovars in each carriage. One good tip I received by reading these travel books is ... read more

Europe » Russia » Far East » Vladivostok May 9th 2014

I met two of the nicest people on the first leg of this trip. Janet, a retired teacher from Kalamazoo, and Michael, a young programmer from Zurich. I am using Janet's ipad since my computer will not work. And Michael was my cabin mate from Khabarovsk to Irkutsk. The famous Trans Siberian Railway stretches almost 10,000 kilometers from Moscow to the Pacific port of Vladivostok. This is the chance to see the Russia that the Cold War never uncovered. This is the Russia with curious and twinkly eyed Russians, dressed in track suits, curious to know the foreigner who is crazy or passionate enough to tackle their Mother country from one side to the other by train. The Russians will offer all sorts of food and drink, a truly generous lot of humanity that we know ... read more
Can you believe this is First Class?
I found some scret COLD beer!

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