Vladivostok and San Francisco have quite a few things in common. The phantastic setting on hills overlooking a huge bay, streets climbing up and down these hills and the most elegant bridges taking you to green islands. I spent four days simply walking and discovering this great city
On Olkhon Island shamanic symbols are omnipresent with Shaman Rock being the most famous one. I had expected the island to be green, but it looked more like a savannah. Later I learned that Olkhon is the driest spot in the whole of Lake Baikal. The cliffs around Cape Khoboy are spectacular even on a foggy day. Khuzir, the not so lovely capital grows on you, watching the Russian holiday makers with their beach gear became my favorite pastime.
The city celebrated its 350th birthday a few years ago, hard to imagine. It is not a hectic, cosmopolitan place but definitely a thriving city with beautiful architecture. Famous are the 19th old wooden houses of Irkutsk with beautifully painted window panes. Some of them are nicely renovated, whereas others look neglected.
Moscow’s metro stations are still a sight on their own. My last to Moscow was in 1983, even back then I marveled at the beautifully decorated stations. My absolute favorite became one that is dominated by a dog chiseled in black marble. To touch its nose brings good luck. I could not believe how many Muscovites rushed by, quickly brushing over the nose that has changed color already into a dirty white. Some things even outlast Communism.
The start of this one-month trip to Russia’s far east was super easy. My first stop was Moscow where I was welcomed by Sanita and Yuili in their riverside apartment. I met Sanita in 2011 in Ethiopia and we have stayed in contact ever since. There is no better way to get to know a place than with local friends.
It was the very name that first drew my attention, finally a name I could easily remember. Once there, it became ingrained in my memories forever. Large parts of Sushi are still in ruins, 23 years after the war with Azerbijan that cost the lives of thousands of Azari and Aremnians soldiers and civilians. The reminders of this war are much more evident in Shushi than Stepanakert, only 15 minutes drive away.
If I did this trip again, I would spend more time in Stepanakert, I found this a lovely town to stroll around, lots of restaurants, impressive government buildings and two excellent tiny museums reminding of the war. Generally, a very inviting city. The news that one week after I had left, fighting broke out again was extremely shocking. I remembered the people sitting in street-side cafés, children buying ice-cream on the way home from school, couples on benches in the many parks. All in all, living a life as we all do and I wondered what happened to them.
By the time I visited Gandzasar I had had my dose of monasteries and had chosen my clear favorites: Khor Virap with majestic Mount Ararat as a backdrop and fairyland-like Noravank wrapped in a blanket of snow. Gandzasar became the perfect number three. Why? It was so quiet there, I hardly wanted to leave. You could hear nothing, absolutely nothing, but a few birds. At the end of March I was the only tourist, summers are busy I was told. Besides it is a popular wedding destination for Russians.
A Photo Essay
At each of my two visits to the Golden Temple, my expectations were very high and as we all know, such are usually not met. But Amritsar proved this theory wrong, both times! Continue Reading →
Often overlooked as only an entry and / or exit hub, Delhi has a lot to offer and is worth at least a few days to cover some of the major highlights of this city. Of course, with only a few days at hand, you will only be able to focus on the “Tourist Hotspots”… Continue Reading →