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Archive for russia

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.

Chains of Love in Moscow

By Linda Tancs

Moscow, it seems, has a lock on love.  Though hardly known as a city of romance, authorities there have taken the tradition of attaching padlocks to public fixtures as a gesture of love one step further.  They’ve institutionalized the practice by placing a series of metallic love trees along Luzhkov bridge, adorned with colorful locks.  Now, who’ll have the key to your heart?

Underground at the Hermitage

By Linda Tancs

To tens of thousands of travelers, Russia’s Hermitage is the cat’s meow, its 365 rooms in the Main Museum Complex located in the historic centre of St. Petersburg boasting nearly three million works of art by the likes of masters from Italy, Spain, Holland, Flanders, France, England, Germany, and other Western European countries.   What most visitors may not know is that its labyrinthine underground tunnels are home to nearly 100 cats, whose function is not to meow but to rid the massive complex of any mice or rats, a tradition begun centuries ago by Tsarina Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the First.  Sounds like a purr-fect solution to a vexing problem.

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Ukraina’s Facelift Complete in Moscow

By Linda Tancs

Warm spring weather in Moscow provides leisurely boating opportunities down the Western bank of the Moscow River. For guests at the newly renovated Hotel Ukraina, a jaunt from the hotel’s jetty makes cruising a breeze. The 1950s Gothic-style monument to Stalin’s regime strikes quite the pose against the skyline opposite the Russian Government’s White House. A stone’s throw from the commercial hustle and bustle of Novy Arbat Street, the 30-story building with a combination of 1000 rooms, suites or apartments will reopen on 1 June, offering grand panoramic views of the city. In keeping with its moniker, the hotel offers a renowned authentic Ukranian restaurant. Other amenities include a 24-hour fully equipped business center, conference facilities, on-site shopping and a sightseeing and excursion bureau, all in the heart of Moscow.

DISCLOSURE OF NO MATERIAL CONNECTION

The author has not received any compensation for writing this content and has no material connection to the brands, topics, products and/or services that are mentioned herein.

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Road Rage

By Linda Tancs

Of the world’s economic superpowers (to the extent we have any these days), the award for worst traffic goes to (drumroll, please) Russia. Funny that a country producing over 15 Nobel Prize winners has accomplished so little to unblock the box–gridlock, that is. Moscow stands on the brink of traffic collapse as drivers idle along at 8 to 11 miles per hour through major arteries that were never designed for the influx of over 3 million vehicles pounding the pavement daily. Add to that reports of the underground suffering under the weight of nine million commuters; it’s only been designed to handle seven million. So what’s an anxious motorist to do? Might want to try the helicopter taxi–at a mere 2000 euros per hour. As the writer Jim Herron observed, “All they have to do is look down at the traffic and suddenly they don’t feel like [flying is] that expensive a way to travel after all.”

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