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Archive for russia

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 five miles long, over two 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.

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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.

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