Blogs from Far East, Russia, Europe - page 8


Europe » Russia » Far East » Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky October 5th 2010

October 1 to 5, 2010 --- Kamchatka Russia When we arrived at the business terminal in Toronto it was like old home week greeting former fellow travelers from previous “Around the World Tours” and meeting new people who we will travel with for the next month and come to know. In Vancouver again we greet people we also haven’t seen for some time and meet new voyagers. The next day is our longest in the air; Vancouver to Anchorage Alaska for refueling then on to Kamchatka. We have passed the international date-line losing a day which we will gradually regain as we continue flying west. It is immediately obvious that this area is not use to the arrival of many tourists since it took well over an hour for the sixty of us to clear customs. ... read more
Typical Kamchatka apartment
Moose antllers turned into art

Europe » Russia » Far East » Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky October 4th 2010

Woke up much refreshed. Breakfast in the hotel's tiny cafe, completely unprepared to feed 60 people more or less at once. People basically had to fend for themselves. Knowing Russian is a definite asset, as the staff knows no English beyond "thank you" and "welcome". Back on the bus and off we went for our city tour, with Ziggy describing the main features of the city. First stop was the city museum. Although old-fashioned by Western standards, it was loving done, focusing on the region's rich natural beauty and flora and fauna, as well as its almost-extinguished aboriginal peoples. Next stop was a bank where our team leaders exchanged money for us en masse. We then visited an official souvenir shop, whose wares ranged from tacky to exquisite. Violet purchased two matreshkas (Russian nested dolls) and ... read more

Europe » Russia » Far East » Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky October 2nd 2010

Got up at 6:30, packed and went down to a buffet breakfast. Shuttle back to the airport and off we went. Three hours to Anchorage Alaska for refueling before heading out across the Bering Sea for another 3 hour flight to Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka. On the way, we crossed the international date line and so suddenly it is Sunday.    Scenery as we were landing in Kamchatka was incredible. Rugged snow-capped mountains poking out of the clouds. Very long wait to get through Russian customs. The inefficiency of the Soviet era is alive and well. Shuttle bus to hotel, about a half-hour drive into Petropalovsk. On the way we get acquainted with our guide, Igor aka Ziggy, an extremely nice young man  He studied English here and in Alaska  Our hotel, the Avacha, looks rather shabby from outside ... read more

Europe » Russia » Far East » Vladivostok August 1st 2010

Vladivostok can be translated to "possess the east" and is a port city on the pacific and the end of the Trans-Siberian rail line. It houses the Russian pacific fleet in the golden horn bay and was closed off to foreigners during the Soviet era, reopening again in 1991. It is sometimes called the "San Francisco of Russia" due to it being on the ocean and the hilly area on which most of the city sits. The city is the midst of a construction and development boom with a couple of bridges, several large scale hotels and new roads in the works for the APEC summit the city is set to host in 2012. I arrived by train in the afternoon and had arranged to couch surf with a local there called Dimitry. Couch Surfing is ... read more
The Lighthouse
The Bay

Europe » Russia » Far East » Khabarovsk July 29th 2010

Finally after 50 hours on that damn train, which was hot and stinky, I had reached Khabarovsk, which turned out to be a pretty pleasant place. And maybe even the cleanest city I've been to since...can't remember. I stayed in the train stations resting room for the night then the following day walked the city. It lies along the beautiful Amur river, filled with loads of parks, tsarist era buildings (way better than soviet style to be sure) an amazing boardwalk area boasting many cafes and snack stalls. I walked to Dynamo park on the evening I arrived and watched as people strolled about. I got eaten by mosquitoes though! The next day I was up really early and walked to the nearby town center, where I saw historic buildings, and walked the gargantuan board walk ... read more
Lenin Park

Europe » Russia » Far East July 28th 2010

The famous Trans-Siberian Railway, covering two continents and spanning over 9000 km of track from Moscow to Vladivostok, any train lover's dream. It was built back in the early 1900's and connected much of Russia's vast and remote regions. In my case I only cared for the train in a transportation perspective, but I'll admit it was going to be an interesting ride and a good place to meet Russians from all walks of life. I left from Ulan-Ude, stayed in the plastkartny section (3rd class) which consisted of open berths (six per berth) and boy do Russians like to feel at home on them. The olfactory sensation alone will forever be tattooed to my mind. All sorts of food, clothing strewn about, people in their undergarments, and the smell of sweat invaded the senses. Of ... read more
My Berth

Europe » Russia » Far East » Vladivostok July 13th 2010

Our first stop in Russian is Pogranichay and despite arriving 3 hours late our man, Pavel, is still waiting for us. Any sensible person would have just got the bus from the Chinese border straight to Vladivostok and avoided the need to argue with the Russian border guards (complete with guns) and be dropped in the middle of nowhere several miles from the town you are trying to get to. So why did we do it? Because approx. 80km away, at Gaivoron, Dr. Victor Yudin has established a reserve where he has bought up and studied 3 orphaned Amur (or Siberian) tigers. To get there we head cross country through beautiful green rolling hills on red dirt roads. Its all grasslands, no signs of cultivation yet a few miles back, over the border, in China every ... read more
Russian Landscape
harvest time
typical village of little wooden house

Europe » Russia » Far East July 11th 2010

The first stage of the return journey is get to ourselves from China down to Vladivostok, the starting point for the Trans-Siberian Express. Of course most sensible people would catch the Trans-Mongolian direct from Beijing to Moscow but I want to go on the Trans-Siberian so we have 2 overnight journeys on the Chinese railways to get us from Beijing to Harbin, then Harbin to Suifenhe and the China:Russia border. The first challenge is finding the right train. I adopt my usual strategy of making a fool of myself and waving my tickets at everyone and anyone until an official finally escorts me to the right train as they want to make sure you leave their territory ASAP. The trains are quite comfortable, we are in a little 4 birth cabin and bunk beds. We are ... read more
St Sophia church, Harbin
St Sophia church, Harbin
even the central revservations look Russian

Europe » Russia » Far East » Khabarovsk July 4th 2010

The train number on the train didn't match the one on my ticket, and who knows what platform it was on, but it seemed to be going to Khabarovsk (my cyrillic is coming in handy), so I took my chances. The provodinitsa (carriage attendant) didn't kick me off so I took that as a good sign. I was very lucky because the carriage was nearly empty, so I ended up getting the whole compartment to myself instead of having to share with 3 others. And I was really looking forward to those all-night vodka parties I had heard of - not! And because Vladivostok is the start of the line, the toilet was respectable and stayed that way. It is so cramped in there though that you had hardly fit your head above the basin to ... read more

Europe » Russia » Far East » Vladivostok July 2nd 2010

Well the first hurdle was that my BRAND NEW big toothpaste was dismissively thrown in the bin at Tullamarine airport. Oh crap, why didn't I remember that old liquid/gel restriction thing. The flight in cattle class to Soeul, Korea was comfy - not. In-flight entertainment took a dive back to the cave age with no personal consoles, just one big ol' screen up front. Only one decent movie was shown, the second one I had grit-eye too bad to watch and the third one was a Korean movie with english subtitles too small to read plus I had a melon-head in front of me so couldn't see past. The stop-over was first class though. I was put up in the Hyatt Hotel near the airport and got a free dinner in their restaurat. Also enjoyed the ... read more

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