4/6/14

Transport: my opinion about the Trans-Siberian.


When I see how popular with foreign tourists the Trans-Siberian Railway is, I clearly understand how little they know about Russia and travel by train. To be honest, I've never travelled by the Trans-Siberian but I'll never  ever do it because that's how I see it.

Russia beyond the Urals. 

The main historical events of Russia took place in the European part of the country, hence, not further than the Urals. The Urals and Siberia were mostly the industrial regions where natural resources were exploited, some factories were situated but all the culture and most historical sights have always been in the European area (Moscow and Saint-Petersburg, towns of the Golden Ring of Russia).

What do travelers expect to see beyond the Urals?  One has to be a thorough explorer of history in order to shortlist proper sights in that area to see. However, if you are into nature, you'll be able to see a lot but by not staying on the train. Travelling by train you're most likely to see the characteristic of Russia  lots of plain areas with rows of half-destroyed unattractive log cabins (apparently most country citizens live in such houses), monotonous kilometers of dense forests and fields.

The attractive site  there is the Chusovaya River but in order to see it you have to go rafting, and get off a train. Maybe horseback riding in Altai  but, again, avoid the train. ))

You may also hope to see some Russian towns and enjoy tours of them. I wouldn't be so optimistic about it. Russian economy is in decline due to overwhelming corruption, flight of capital, overall poverty of Russians. That's only natural that nowadays most towns are degrading. Even the towns of the Golden Ring of Russia which I dearly love and laud in my blog for their unparalleled archaic atmosphere look rather poor, deserted, outdated in terms of ordinary people's life quality. Leave alone some ordinary industrial towns like those you'll see traveling by train in the remoteness from main cultural centers.

The train travel. 

Have you actually travelled by train for more than 5-6 hours? I have. We used to travel a lot to Vyatka/Kirov, a town half-way to Ekaterinburg, to my granny's.

The journey takes around 30 hours, and even that was boring enough.  After 14 hours on the train one feels his muscles ache a bit since you can't move and have even the minimum of normal amount of daily physical activity. The next day it's finding  ways to fight boredom: watching tree trunks flashing by is no more fun)). It's also poor hygiene a traveller suffers from: the cars of Russian railway are sort of dusty, there's either no air conditioning or it's somehow deficient.

Well, I've just brought up the points they will never reveal to you at travel agents' or when you buy overpriced Trans-Siberian tours. It's up to you to decide. On the bright side, you'll certainly have a new exotic experience, see the true Russia without the gloss of tourist deceptive traps, feel the country's enormousness and make your dream come true (because you should really want it badly if you take the risk of going throughout all Russia by train).


3/12/14

The band Lyapis Trubetskoy was prohibited performance …

Here we go again, nothing can teach us, we just seem to reject fiercely what we've gone through during  the oppression of the Soviet period, all the pain, poverty, madness, hypocrisy. Do we want more of it?

It's painful but the problem of the Russian Federation is not putin, but the Russians, serving their patron with  obsequiousness. Nowadays putin is gaining more and more support with ordinary people. And although I don't watch Russian television nowadays, since it's all lies, there's one piece of truth in the news nowadays - putin is gaining support. Regardless the fact that lots of Russians still don't have running water in their houses and go to the toilet outside the house, many can't find a job that can support their family, they feel pride for putin who doesn't give away Crimnea.

Censorship in the USSR  crystallized into ugliest, most perverted and absurd forms then. That is exactly what we're heading for nowadays. The popular band Lyapis Trubetskoy was prohibited a performance in Pskov (Russia) due to the complaint of the local Communist Party members. They suppose the videos and songs of the new album "Matreshka" produce Russia's image in an unflattering and miserable way.

Of course, we all have to watch this "mean" and "evil" video which so embarrassed the delicate taste of the Communist Party members.


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http://www.newsru.com/cinema/06mar2014/komm.html 

1/1/14

the M-10 Russian "highway"

Believe it or not, one of the busiest highways of Russia connecting Moscow and Saint-Petersburg has 3 lanes and driving from Saint-Petersburg to Moscow takes from 7 to 12 hours depending on traffic jams.

The 50/50  state / private -owned company has been building the other highway M-11 going round the major towns in order to avoid traffic jams … since 2006… The notorious daily traffic jam at Vyshny Volochek may take from 1 to 5 hours and entrenches upon hundreds of people's time. More schemes and photos here. 

Here is a video of the M10 in the region of the Valday Hills: the road itself, the view, the traffic, you might be interested

12/28/13

GUM: the Main Universal Shop. The 120th anniversary.

Before 1815 the site had been occupied by trading stalls. Retail trade and whole sale prospered there. The stalls needed renovation badly but the tenants were against it since it would decrease their revenue. The building was in such a bad condition that "once a layer of plaster fell on the buyers, but another time, a lady, trying on a velvet dress that suited her very well, failed through the rotten floor, broke her leg and so was taken to the hospital in the unpaid new dress. The owner was afraid to remind her about it, at the meantime being happy that she didn’t recover for her loss."

However, after a long-term opposition between the government officials and merchants who owned the stalls and the plots of land on which they were located,  in 1893 the grand opening of a new building of the Upper trading stalls took place. You can learn more about the GUM building construction on its site.

Nowadays it is  an enormous boutique with hundreds of departments. Its one side overlooks Red Square and the others - picturesque old-fashioned narrow Moscow streets. It also houses the Gastronome №1 (a large food shop), some cafes, and occasional exhibitions.



12/20/13

It's better to be feared than loved. Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland


 

The press-conference, 19th December (broadcast by public channels all over Russia) held to honour putin's reign and general effulgence was preceded by the detention of 20 activists.
The people had come in order to hand over to putin the letter of support for Bolotnaya's square held prisoners.
The policemen refused to introduce themselves.
It's getting scary here… really.


11/16/13

Taking a walk along the Moskva River: a pedestrian in Moscow.

Moscow is not a pedestrian friendly city. Cars parked on pavements, scarcely located underground walkways, too many people who normally rush around.

Well, I know I can't help grudging about the city. Here I would offer a route from the Novospassky Monastery along the Moskva River to the Red Square and further on to Tverskaya street, a pompous reminder of Stalin's Empire style.

You may start at Proletarskaya underground station then take your time relaxing in the garden of the Novospassky Monastery where you should also have a meal. Beware:  a walk along the river will take 2-3 hours and there are not so many crossings or underground pedestrian walkways. As far as I remember there were 2 or 3 of them.

Once you start your trip along the embankment, you won't get much chance to cross the road which is all along the embankment and is a very busy one. Strange but true: there aren't benches or any facilities for taking a break on the embankment.

However, the views unfolding will reward you for some inconvenience. 


8/11/13

Useful links for those who study Russian

The Russian language is quite popular nowadays. Recent political events have caused the interest in Russian culture.

Learning Russian is certainly NOT a piece of cake. So I wish patience to those who's got the nerve to do it. With a little help from your friends you may succeed eventually.

You may watch Russian cartoons  here.  From the Soviet ones to modern. (in Russian, of course)

An extensive and exhaustive collection of classical Russian literature pieces records are here. From Dostoyevsky to Platonov. (in Russian)

Lenfilm (Leningrad Film) production channel which I've recently discovered will introduce you to a great number of classic Russian films of the Soviet period (which most of us, Russians consider the golden age of film production in the country).

The film I particularly adore is "A stranger's wife and a husband under the bed" after Fedor Dostoyevsky's novel, which is one of the lightest comedies portraying the life of the 19th century average man. If you study Russian, there's one more advantage: the language of it is quite simple relating to daily problems and worries which we all might encounter (hopefully, not...))

A number of Russian novels by Gogol, Chekhov, Dostoyevsky were made into movies by Lenfilm. You can also find them on the Youtube channel. 

8/4/13

Russian summer soup or Green shchi.

Russian Cuisine is something not so expansively promoted as Italian Cuisine. However, overall Russian food is healthier if we delve into the subject. Sugar, coffee, cakes were not common in the mostly argricultural country. Such vegetables as beetroot, cabbage, turnip were cooked in stoves (pech') I think if nowadays chefs were not so narrow-mindedly concentrated on making pizzas,  frog's legs or foie Gras  they would learn a lot from what was Russian Cuisine in the past.


7/13/13

Дело против Навального - Дело против меня.

Navalny is changing the whole course of Russian politics.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16057045

“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.”
Mahatma Ganndhi