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Kamchatka – Land of Fire and Bears

No roads connect the peninsula of Kamchatka in Russia’s far east with other parts of Russia’s Far East. So you call it a pretty isolated place. Only in the late 17th century did Russian explorers arrive. Why travel to such a remote place? First of alI, I love exactly such places, plus Kamchatka has a lot of offer: Bears big&small fishing bright red salmon and volcanoes, 160 of them, 29 are still active. I climbed three, Tolbachik, Mutnovsky, Gorely, lived a couple of days with reindeer herders and spent four days at Kuril Lake watching bears big and small catching salmons.

Mighty Tolbatchik

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Birobidzhan – Where the Jews aren’t

Stalin tried to establish a socialist Jewish utopia in Russia’s Far East. I had read about this extraordinary project -many years prior to this trip, but had no idea though that it was close to Khabarovsk. How did I learn that the Jewish Autonomous Region of Oblast started right across the bridge

Location of Birobidzhan on the Amur River, close to China.

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Khabarovsk – Green City on the Amur River

Siberian cities? Doesn’t everybody’s phantasy run wild? Dirty, cold, mosquito infested, dull places? Well you could not be more wrong, Khabarovsk is a beautiful city, green as it can be, trees line every street, with lots of parks full of kids. there are numerous museums, a lively  art scene and a water front. Winters are harsh though with 30 degrees minus but the city and people are equipped for these temperatures. Like so often when visiting unusual places, I realize how manipulated and brainwashed we all have become and what terrible stereotypes we live with.

The Ponds

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Iturup Island- Russia’s wild frontier

Iturup has a certain rawness that comes with being such a remote and exposed place. For me, simply being in such an inaccessible place was already an adventure. Add climbing volcanoes, walking along endless beaches and bleach-white cliffs, soaking in super hot rivers, marveling at spectacular waterfalls, chasing bears and catching my first fish ever. It was an epic trip.

The White Rocks stretch for miles alongside the shore of Prostor Bay. Bleach-white cliffs covered by a carpet of thick plants

Why Iturup?

The story begins in 2016 when I met Seereen during a trip in Kamchatka. A native of London she is working for SHELL in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. We kept in touch and this is how I learned about a planed trip to Iturup with some of her friends. I had not heard the name Iturup before, this fact got me immediately interested. A quick google search revealed Itrurup as the largest island of the Kuriles, a chain of volcanic islands between Japan and Kamchatka. Cradled by the Sea of Okhotsk and the northern Pacific this 200km long island and neighboring Kunashir are is still claimed by Japan.

The islands of Iturup and Kunashir are still claimed by Japan

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Bears Country – Kurile Lake – Kamchatka

Paradise was the first word that came to my mind when the Mi-8  descended onto the little heliport next to the small cabin on Lake Kurile. The water of the lake below was painted in different colors, green forests threw their shadow into the lake where bears were hunting salmons, lots of bears. Kronotsky Nature Reserve in southern Kamchatka is Bears’ Country.

Approaching Lake Kurile

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Vladivostok Russia’s San Francisco

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

View of Vladivostok’s bay from the top of the funicular

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Olkhon the scared Island

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.

Shamanic site on Olkhon

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Irkutsk – the Paris of Siberia

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.

 

Irkutsk 19th century architecture

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Moscow – Off-sights

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.

Moskau luck charm (1 von 1)

Good luck charm in Moscow’s metro station

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