Children of Mongolia

Children Playing in Mongolia

          Children are much the same all over the world.  They just have different toys.  While the children of Mongolia may not have all the fancy toys that Western children have, they sure look like they’re having fun out on the Gobi Desert.

Fun on the Gobi Desert

 

The Children of Mongolia

Russian Rainbow

The Pot of Gold at the End of the Russian Rainbow

          I caught this interesting photo in Vladimir, one of the medieval capitals of Russia just 120 miles from Moscow.  Vladimir is the first stop on the Trans-Siberian Railroad and the gateway to the stunning little village of Suzdal about a 20 mile bus ride north.  It was a rainy day as I explored the town of Vladimir with its many cathedrals and while looking out over the beautiful Oka River Valley, I spotted this rainbow that looks like it is coming right out or the power plant.

Russian Rainbow

Russian Rainbow

 

 

Blue Orb Travel ‘Best Pick’ Destinations

Add These Often Overlooked Travel Gems to Your Itinerary This Year

          Check out some of John’s favorite places by visiting these Blue Orb ‘Best Picks’ when you travel this summer.  By clicking on the link it will take you to our full article on each travel destination.

Shrewsbury, England

          A charming little town straddling the River Severn near the border with Wales.  Located in County Shropshire, England Shrewsbury is only 170 miles from London.

The River Severn, Shrewsbury, England

The River Severn, Shrewsbury, England

Konigssee, Germany

          This hidden gem of Bavaria is one point on a small tourist triangle that also includes Berchtesgaden with it’s Eagle’s Nest and Salzburg, Austria.  Just 100 miles from Munich, Konigssee is easily accessible by train and you can walk to the lake from the train station.

The Konigssee Lake in Bavaria, Germany

The Konigssee Lake in Bavaria, Germany

Nizhny Novgorod, Russia

          This shining gem just outside the Golden Ring is 260 miles from Moscow and one of the first stops on the Trans Siberian Railway.  Located at the confluence of the Volga and Oka Rivers, Nizhny Novgorod is the third largest city in Russia and is home to a fabulous Kremlin and many splendid cathedrals.

Kremlin at Nizhny Novgorod

Kremlin at Nizhny Novgorod

Luang Prabang, Laos

          Located off the beaten path in the hill country of Laos and accessible only by bus or plane, Luang Prabang is well worth the trip!  This French colonial town on the Mekong River is full of old world charm, wonderful restaurants, great shopping and inexpensive hotels.

The Cathedrals of Russia

The Cathedrals of Russia

          It is exciting to think that the Russian Federation may soon have closer and more friendly ties with the rest of the world, particularly the western world and most particularly with the United States.  Having traveled Russia from north to south and west to east, I’ve had the opportunity to interact and meet with many folks throughout Russia and I can tell you, they are friendly, welcoming and anxious to get to know us.  I also noticed an awful lot of capitalism going on in Russia as well as a vibrant culture of Christian faith, both of which would have been impossible during ‘soviet times’.

St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square, Moscow, Russia

St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, Moscow, Russia

          Perhaps the most iconic landmark in all of Russia is Moscow’s onion domed St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square.  But did you know that the adjacent Kremlin, the seat of the Russian government, contains four beautiful cathedrals?  Quite often, the most important landmarks for tourists to visit in each Russian city are the cathedrals.  These cathedrals are open and free for anyone to visit and are usually packed with parishioners who stand rather than sit in pews.  It is a moving experience to rub shoulders with other Christians amid the splendor of magnificent artwork while the beautiful music of live choirs echoes throughout these architectural treasures.

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia

          Other than the few remaining busts of Lenin, usually splattered with pigeon droppings, there are few vestiges of Russia’s sad dalliance with the Bolsheviks.  Even the mortal remains of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, who were brutally murdered in Ekaterinburg on July 17, 1918, enjoy a renewed reverence in Russia.  Their mortal remains were removed and interred in the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg eighty years to the day after their murder.  A visit to Russia should be on everyone’s bucket list and the cathedrals throughout this beautiful country are a must see. 

St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, St. Petersburg, Russia

St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, St. Petersburg, Russia

 A Glimpse Inside Russian Cathedrals  

Christmas in Finland

Christmas in Finland, Where Santa Lives

          When contemplating travel during the month of December we usually think of the Christmas Markets of Germany, Austria, France, Belgium and the Czech Republic.  One of my favorite Christmas shops is Kathe Wohlfahrt’s year round shop in Rothenburg, Germany.  But Christmas is actually celebrated throughout the world, including countries like Japan which are not traditionally thought of as Christmas destinations.  Many believe that Finland, which is an overwhelmingly Christian nation, is one of the most ‘Christmassy’ countries in the world.  After all, they say, Santa Claus himself lives in Lapland, a region in northern Finland, located near the North Pole.  The fact that there are as many reindeer in Lapland as there are people only adds to the mystique.  Whether or not you believe that Santa originated in Finland, the Finns certainly do and there is much evidence for it as one travels throughout this beautiful country.  I hope you enjoy these photos from my recent trip to Finland that make one think of Christmas.

Santa Claus Figure Outside Shop in Helsinki, Finland

Santa Claus Figure Outside Shop in Helsinki, Finland

Child in Finland Decked Out in Christmas Colors

Child in Finland Decked Out in Christmas Colors

The Finnish Orthodox Uspensky Cathedral in Helsinki

The Finnish Orthodox Uspensky Cathedral in Helsinki

     

Porvoo, Finland

The Old Train Station at Porvoo, Finland

          On a recent trip to Finland, Russia and Ukraine I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful little town of Porvoo, Finland.  Just a 30 mile bus ride from Helsinki, the capital of Finland, Porvoo is a small medieval town located on the River Porvoonjoki.  I was captivated by an old deserted train station located just outside of the old town and could only imagine all the comings and goings from this station over the years.

Porvoo, Finland

The Old Town of Porvoo, Finland across the River Porvoonjoki

Porvoo, Finland

Porvoo, Finland

Porvoo, Finland

Porvoo, Finland

 

The Old Train Station at Porvoo, Finland