Travelrific® Travel Journal

Picture postcards in prose.™ Check out the blogroll on the front page for official merchandise and other resources!

Archive for russia

City of the Dead

By Linda Tancs

At first glance, the Russian village of Dargavs seems like an enchanting village of medieval stone houses hidden away in the foothills of the Caucasus mountains. That belies its actual function as a necropolis, the tidy stone houses being above-ground crypts for over 10,000 of the dearly departed dating to the 16th century. Other reports indicate that the crypts were used as a quarantine location for plague victims in the 17th and 18th centuries. Just over the border from the Republic of Georgia, the remoteness of the valley almost guarantees a serene experience. Although only 18 miles outside of Vladikavkaz, much of the drive is on gravel mountain roads and takes more than an hour.

*************

To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

A Symbol of Unity in Kazan

By Linda Tancs

Of all large Russian cities, Kazan certainly has its share of unique attributes, like the Kazan Kremlin, conquered by Ivan the Terrible in 1552. It’s also the site of the Temple of All Religions, a colorful conglomeration of architectural influences across religions. Established by philanthropist Ildar Khanov in 1992, the complex is still a work in progress, intended to stand as a symbol of respect for all religious traditions. The entrance fee is nominal, and a bus from the city center will get you there in about 30 minutes.

The Yellowstone of Russia

By Linda Tancs

Second to Yellowstone, Russia’s Valley of the Geysers is one of the largest geyser fields in the world. Located in the Kamchatka Peninsula, it’s the only geyser field in Eurasia. Carved by the Geyser River, the canyon is 5 miles long, over 2 miles wide in places and up to 1,300 feet deep, packed with over 40 geysers as well as boiling springs, hot lakes, mud volcanoes and caldrons, thermal platforms and steam jets. Still appealing to tourists since the landslide in 2007, this steaming, bubbling and boiling force of nature is accessible via helicopter tours.

Russia’s Underwater Showplace

By Linda Tancs

In the shadow of the Ural Mountains in Russia’s Perm region you’ll find Orda Cave, the largest gypsum underwater cave in the world. The clarity of its waters afforded by the gypsum makes it a diver’s paradise, but, due to its maze-like quality and freezing temperatures, the inexperienced flippered spelunker need not apply. Ongoing discovery makes its total length a moving target, but 15,000 feet is a fair estimate.

Gateway to Lake Baikal

By Linda Tancs

The hub of Eastern Siberia, Irkutsk is a popular stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway between Moscow and all points east thanks to its vibrantly colored churches and array of theaters and museums. It’s also a popular gateway to Lake Baikal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site nicknamed the Pearl of Siberia. Begin your exploration at Irkutsk Regional Museum, the oldest museum in Siberia and the first provincial museum in Russia. The Moorish-style building contains a history of the museum itself, dating to 1782 before a fire forced its relocation in 1883. You can book tours of Irkutsk and Baikal in the museum.

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.

%d bloggers like this: