Blogs from Russia, Europe - page 5


Europe » Russia » Siberia » Omsk May 20th 2014

Omsk and Tomsk are ten hours and 49 minutes apart, flanking the better known city of Novosibirsk. Omsk is a city is southwestern Siberia, the second largest city east of the Urals with 1.1 million population. Siberian Cossacks settled the region, though they were neither land owners or peasants. But they did participate in military conflicts on behalf of the Tsars. The city stretches along the banks of the Irtysh River where is joins the smaller Om River. It is an important railway hub, and is the junction of the northern and southern routes of the Trans Siberian Railway. Construction of the railway galvanized the growth of the city back at the turn of the century. It also serves as a major highway hub. The waterways connect Omsk to coal and mineral mining further up the ... read more

Europe » Russia » Urals » Yekaterinburg May 19th 2014

I am boarding the train tomorrow (Monday) morning for Moscow. I am sending this email a day early, since the wireless service in my room has stopped working. I am using the Business Center here at the Novotel in Yekaterinburg. Finally, this area is best described as "European" Russia, more densely populated than Siberia, for sure. The Ural Mountains signify the beginning of Europe in many people's minds. We previously crossed the famous Volga River at the rather scenic city of Nizhny Novgorod. The route also takes us past the ancient city of Vladimir, with golden domes and spires. The Perm Oblast is home to the foothills of the Ural Mountains, which stretch from Kazakhstan to the Arctic Kara Sea. These mountains were famous for their mineral treasures. Many call this section of the Urals "particularly ... read more
Sunset Over Ekat
Urals Univiversity in Ekat

Europe » Russia » Siberia » Irkutsk May 19th 2014

The place to eat here, they say, is a café called Figaro. What I find most charming is the fact that it is located on Karl Marx (Karla Marksa)Street. And it is not mentioned in any of my guide books. I found it online through Trip Advisor. The food is a combination of Italian and French. And they speak English and are very friendly. The Italian chef is actually from Italy. They have something called the screwdriver salad. Is it made from vodka and orange juice? I actually had sushi last night. I give it a grade of C. But the worst part was the staff. They were Japanese waitresses, but spoke no Japanese!!! They only spoke Russian. Now, how am I to order uni (sea urchin) in Russian? At least, I could point at a ... read more
A familiar food
Some Russian beer

Europe » Russia » Urals » Yekaterinburg May 19th 2014

There are many ways to say good-bye, or just say sayonara. But I am/was in the heart of Siberia. And I think it deserves a formal good-bye. So, let's start with some comments from Michael Myers Shoemaker in 1902. "So good-bye to Siberia! I shall always remember it as two vast stretches of sadly silent country, limitless steppes, silent forests, dreary mountains, all leading up to that one great point of interest, that sea of ice, frozen Lake Baikal. Somewhat of the fascination which possesses Arctic explorers is understood by the winter passage of that lake, with its stretching snow fields, its black waters and fields of floating, plunging ice, and its grand air." At this point, I am not sure about how I feel about it. I have looked forward to seeing both Siberia and ... read more
Snack time, goes good with beer
My two Aussie friends flanking their guide

Europe » Russia » Urals » Yekaterinburg May 19th 2014

When many of us think about Russia, the reign of the tsars comes to mind. The tsarist regime, the Romanovs, ended with a thud in Yekaterinburg after their 1918 execution. The Socialist era began with their execution. Nicholas II was the last emperor of Russia. What follows is a bizarre tail, not that he was innocent of much domestic violence and military losses to Japan. The Romanovs were moved from Tobolsk to Yekaterinburg in April 1918, imprisoned in a house that belonged to a rich man named Ipatyev. Their last two months were spent here, not happy days I am certain. After a few tries to save them, the Bolsheviks ordered the Tsar's elimination. Just before midnight on July 16, 1918, the Tsar, Nicholas II, Tsaritsa Alexandra, and their four daughters and son, were taken down ... read more


Europe » Russia » Urals » Yekaterinburg May 19th 2014

My life has been full of great timing. No more so than today here in Yekaterinburg. Just a 7 iron from my hotel is the Red and Black Bar, a real Russian biker bar if I am describing it correctly. I took some photos of some really great bikes. But nobody in the entire place has heard of Sturgis! What self respecting biker can be a real biker without paying homage to the holy grail of Sturgis? Of course, they all do not have Harleys. Some have a Russian brand X, and some have a Victory or, pray tell, a Honda, Suzuki, or Ducati! I find it all so amusing, on the other side of the world. Bikers are bikers. Meanwhile, my new friend from Switzerland, Michael has found himself in a hotel complete with a ... read more
Second Place
Tough Biker Bar?   NOT!!!!
Biker Bar, but they never heard of Sturgis!!!

Europe » Russia » Urals » Yekaterinburg May 19th 2014

Time to Drink? 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 ... read more

Europe » Russia » Urals » Yekaterinburg May 18th 2014

The fourth largest city in Russia is called Yekaterinburg. It also serves as the administrative center of Sverdlovsk Oblast, located in the middle of Eurasia, the border between Asia and Europe. The population in 2010 was 1.4 million. It is the main cultural and industrial center of the Ural Federal District. Between 1921 and 1991, this city was called Sverdlovsk, after the Communist party leader, Yakov (love that name) Sverdlov. The area was founded back in 1723 Vasily Tatischev and Georg Wilhelm de Gennin. They chose to name it after Tsar Peter the Great's wife, Catherine I (Yekaterina). Its start was based on metal-working businesses. As a result, the city was built with a large amount of iron with many iron works and residential buildings at the center. They surrounded the city with fortified walls, making ... read more
Yekaterinburg's modern skyline
Yekaterinburg map

Europe » Russia » Siberia » Irkutsk May 18th 2014

Many of us have heard about the legendary Genghis Khan, either in history books, TV shows, movies, or brief articles about Russia or Mongolia. But in reality, who was he, and why is he so famous? His legacy lives on in this part of the world. He was born, Temujin in Mongolia in 1162. He married at 16 and had many wives during his lifetime. He amassed a large army at the age of twenty, with the intention of taking over, uniting, and ruling the tribes of northeast Asia. He was successful, building the largest empire in the world before the British Empire. It lasted well beyond his death, the empire that is. His original name came form a Tatar chieftain that his father, Yesukhei, had captured. Young Temujin was a member of the Borjigin tribe, ... read more

Europe » Russia » Siberia » Novosibirsk May 17th 2014

The train was used extensively in wars on the Russian front, particularly during the Revolution of 1917. The train carried both troops and supplies throughout the region and continent. Trains might only move a short distance, due to fighting up ahead, availability of food, lack of warmth, and most importantly, lack of fuel, basically wood to keep the steam powered locomotives ready to move. For those of you in need of a refresher, the Bolsheviks ultimately became the Communist Party in what would become the Soviet Union. The Bolsheviks were founded by Vladimir Lenin and Alexander Bogdanov. One of their fiery leaders was Leon Trotsky. I hope by now, the names have jogged your memories, either Sophomore World History, or Western Civilization in college. But, as I was saying before I digressed, the train played a ... read more

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