Blogs from Russia, Europe - page 5


Europe » Russia » Siberia » Ulan-Ude August 21st 2013

Well I've done the Trans-Siberian (part of it at least) and now I'm in the city of Ulan Ude just by Lake Baikal. The Tran-Siberian is a very famous train ride but as most people reading this will know there's not actually one train called the Trans-Siberian, it is a whole fleet of trains servicing the country. The routes the tourists usually take are the Trans-Siberian route which remains entirely within Russia and goes between Mosow and Vladivostok (very few tourists go westwards in the opposite direction); the Trans-Mongolian which goes from Moscow to Irkutsk at Lake Baikal and then turns south to go down through the middle of Mongolia to Beijing; and the Trans-Manchurian which skips the Mongolian part, but likewise goes from Moscow to Beijing. The trip is basically a famous “must-do” trip simply ... read more
entrance to Traveller's House hostel
the biggest Lenin head in the world
...and the smallest. Chortle.

Europe » Russia » Siberia » Lake Baikal August 18th 2013

Apparently, the Lada 2107 is the cheapest car in the world. Not only economic in fuel consumption, service costs and spare parts are astonishingly cheap. This fact I’ve discovered for myself as I’ve repaired and tinkered with Agatha over the course of my journey. One of the first improvements I made was to change the cracked windscreen she came with when I bought her. The cracks were in my line of sight and distracted me while driving. However, at the Lada garage in St. Petersburg I snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and fatally agreed to have a windscreen with a tinted band at the top. A Lada 2107 is quite a small car, so that things like traffic lights and road signs are visible in the top part of the windscreen. The tinted band ... read more

Europe » Russia » Far East » Vladivostok August 18th 2013

On my last full day in Vladivostok I went back to Russky Island and found a couple more new birds. One of them popped up on to the top of a bush while I was trying to re-find a shrike (it turned out to be a brown shrike and not a bull-headed shrike as I hoped) and my immediate thought was “reed warbler” but of course there were no reeds anywhere for miles around. It was actually a thick-billed warbler, which is in the same genus as reed warblers but lives atypically in woodland and scrub. I don't know if it's considered a “good bird” to get (all new birds are good to me) but I was pleased with it. The other bird was more surprising to me. I was hanging round the beach waiting for ... read more
In Russia the train plays with you
train scenery
train flood scenery

Europe » Russia August 17th 2013

I first read about Staraya Russa a couple of years ago, did not find it much interesting, but now I actually realize how many of the small places in the vicinity are worth taking a glimpse at. I now have a list of about a dozen of such places. First, I bought a guided excursion with Davranov Travel but they cancelled it (I suppose because of the lack of tourists). In a week, I found another company offering excursions to Staraya Russa (about five Euros cheaper than Davranov's), Pervye Linii, paid 30 Euros (1190 roubles) and waited. I did not go to the office, but paid at the nearest Evroset Office via an automated payment machine to a Yandex Dengi account (the agency instructed me by telephone). The name of ‘Russa’ might actually spell very much ... read more
Fountain at Staraya Russa Resort
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Europe » Russia » Siberia » Lake Baikal August 16th 2013

One of the results of the breadth of state control in the Soviet Union was that it encouraged the attitude that ‘The State will look after everything’. Perhaps this is one factor that contributes to widespread littering in Russia: a lack of personal responsibility for the consequences of individual actions. Another result was the almost complete lack of civil initiatives. Seen as a threat to the power of the Communist Party and the stability of society, non-government organizations in any form (political, religious, even recreational) were forcibly opposed by the state. Although there were many opportunities for worthy civil activities (such as cleaning up rubbish, planting trees and helping pensioners or disabled war veterans), these were always organized and controlled by organs of the state. Consequently, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, such ... read more


Europe » Russia » Far East » Vladivostok August 16th 2013

Russia is a sort of time-warpy place. The city is the same as any other city in the west but it's like the people decided the 80s were so great they'd just stick with that. You see lots of girls in ripped-up jeans and stone-washed denim jackets, but the height of female fashion appears to be based on “80s action-movie hooker”. The mens' fashions aren't so obviously 80s but there are still lots of gold chains, mesh T-shirts and crushed-velvet jumpsuits. Honestly you see some guy walking down the street and all you can wonder is if he's a low-level Russian mafia figure from an American movie or if he's gay. The no-smiling thing is getting a bit tiresome too. At least in Korea I saw people smiling at each other, even if they were afraid ... read more
view of the aquarium
Kamchatka king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus)
kaluga tank

Europe » Russia » Far East » Vladivostok August 14th 2013

I found some birds today. When googling yesterday trying to find if there was a tourist information centre in town (there was, in the marine terminal building) I discovered that last year the Russians had built a whacking great bridge across to Russky Island, which is why I couldn't find the ferry building because now people get there on the bus! The bridge isn't hard to miss: it's so big that it can be seen from pretty much anywhere in town. I went to the tourist information centre where, seeing it's a tourist information centre, the lady at the counter only spoke a little English (instead of none). Poor lady couldn't understand half of what I was trying to ask her, but I did discover which stop the buses to the island leave from and which ... read more

Europe » Russia » Far East » Vladivostok August 13th 2013

And now I'm in Russia. I'd managed to rip half the sole off one of my boots while at Juwangsan National Park in South Korea and so when I got back to Seoul I had gone to the shoe market to find some new ones. Understandably the range in my size was somewhat limited, so now I'm wearing a pair of shiny new $60 Korean shoes with bright green laces as if a couple of baby pit vipers are attacking my feet. It'll be interesting to see how long they last, and indeed how well I can hike in them. I liked my old boots, they were well broken in and looked right. These ones make me look like I mugged some kid from a Korean boy band and stole his shoes. Anyone familiar with the ... read more
hostel entrance

Europe » Russia August 12th 2013

I was going to leave this entry until I had a chance to put photos up but I have lost my European power adapter (Hopefully I can replace it soon or I won't be able to use my camera :() so I will have to put them in later I will also be putting photos on if you interested, just search the tag of certain cities to narrow it down if you like :). Today I was reading a postcard that I wrote the day I arrived in St Petersburg and only just got around to posting today and in it I had written that it looked like St petersburg had lots of touristy churches and Museums but not much else. I don't think I could have been more wrong! I know I wrote about ... read more
Flea Market
Love locks

Europe » Russia » Northwest » Saint Petersburg August 11th 2013

11/8 (morning) I’m comfortably sitting on my coach to Tallinn (Estonia) and it has just started to properly rain. I’m rather pleased it didn't start to rain while I was walking, en route to this bus. However I think that even if it had I would still be in good spirits. I guess that it’s the high that am on purely because of how much I have loved St Petersburg but I am just in a really good mood this morning! I will probably hit a low by the end of the day though, I didn't have breakfast this morning because the guy who was working at the hostel was asleep at the front desk rather than putting out the breakfast things. I did try to wake him to ask where the coach station was, he ... read more

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