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Archive for russia

The World’s Oldest Lake

By Linda Tancs

Curving through southeastern Siberia for 400 miles, Lake Baikal is the world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake. At that length, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s more of a sea, but one fifth of the world’s fresh water is located there. Originating 25 millions years ago and plunging to a maximum depth of over 5,350 feet, you can only imagine the life forms dwelling in this ancient lake. In fact, over half of its species are unique to this watery habitat, such as the freshwater seal and its favorite meal, a translucent fish called golomyanka.


Bounding Europe and Asia

By Linda Tancs

Associated with the boundary between Europe and Asia, the Ural Mountains (the Urals) stretch for 1,500 miles roughly north to south from the Arctic Ocean down to central Russia and reach into Kazakhstan.  Among the world’s oldest mountain ranges, the tectonic activity giving rise to the Urals occurred about 300 million years ago between two long extinct continents.  The range is divided into five parts:  northern, southern, central, polar and sub-arctic.  The southern Urals, stretching from the valley of the Ural River near the city of Orsk to the valley of the Ufa River north of Mount Yurma, are the most popular with tourists thanks to rafting opportunities, but you wouldn’t want to miss a glorious sunset over Shugor River in the polar Urals.


One Big Fish

By Linda Tancs

Imagine a freshwater fish that’s bigger than a school bus.  That’s the beluga sturgeon, the largest freshwater fish in the world.  Prized for caviar, it’s a critically endangered species that breeds in Russia’s Volga River (the so-called national river).  In fact, the largest accepted record is of a female taken in 1827 in the Volga estuary, measuring a whopping 3,463 pounds and 24 feet in length.   Now that was something to write home about.

The Holy Grail of Rail

By Linda Tancs

From Siberia’s wooden cottages to Moscow’s onion domes, the Trans-Siberian Railway journey is arguably the rail industry’s holy grail.  A popular route via the Trans-Siberian Express takes travelers across one-third of the world, beginning in Moscow and ending in Vladivostok, a trading port founded as a military outpost in 1860.  Along the way are history-laden stops like Ekaterinburg, founded by Catherine the Great, where Tsar Nicholas II and his family where executed in 1918.  And Ulan Ude, a Siberian city that is the center of the Buddhist Buryat culture.  Did you know that Lake Baikal, another stop, holds 20 percent of the world’s unfrozen fresh water?  On an epic ride like this, the journey is just as important as the destination.

Where Russia’s Winter Begins

By Linda Tancs

In Siberia’s Yakutian permafrost some say Russia’s winter begins.  With winter temperatures easily hitting minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit there, it may even seem neverending.  Yakutian settlements also boast world records as the “pole of cold,” the coldest place in the northern hemisphere. It should come as no surprise that this is where you’ll find the Permafrost Kingdom, an ice cave some 492 feet long located at Chochur Muran mountain.  After donning a warm coat and boots, you’ll see ice crystals and sculptures aglow in rainbows of light through the slippery corridors.  Opened in 2008, the “kingdom” is in its infancy compared with the prehistoric permafrost underscoring the entire Yakutian region, the onetime home of the extinct woolly mammoth.

A Fought-After Russian Fortress

By Linda Tancs

The Neva River is a storied attraction in Saint Petersburg, hosting its fair share of romantic walks along the granite embankment.  Only 46 miles long, the river flows from Lake Ladoga to the Gulf of Finland.  Perhaps even more storied is the Shlisselburg Fortress, located near the head of the river not far from this popular city.  The site has been fortified for over 800 years, hosting bloody battles between the Swedish and Novogorod Republic for possession.  Russia obviously won.  Nowadays the fortress plays host to an annual rock concert, but its gloomy past as a political prison is also on display at the political prisoners exhibition.

A Russian Wonder

By Linda Tancs

Of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, only the pyramids of Giza still stand.  If you can’t manage a trip to Egypt, then the next best thing might be Russia’s wonder:  a 55-ton pyramid outside Moscow.  Built of fiberglass, the 144-feet-high structure is the largest pyramid across Russia.  Regardless whether you believe in the power of pyramids, it’s a site to behold in perhaps one of the unlikeliest of places.

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