The Cats of Russia and Ukraine

The Cats of Russia and Ukraine

          Cats and people are the same the world over.  Here are a few of the cats I came across in the cities of Rostov on Don, Russia and Yalta in the Crimea, Ukraine.

Lazy Cat in Rostov on Don, Russia

Lazy Cat in Rostov on Don, Russia

Sidewalk Kitty in Rostov on Don, Russia

Sidewalk Kitty in Rostov on Don, Russia

Cat on a Window Ledge, Rostov on Don, Russia

Cat on a Window Ledge, Rostov on Don, Russia

Cat in the Box, Yalta, Ukraine

Cat in the Box, Yalta, Ukraine

Cat in Yalta, Ukraine

Cat in Yalta, Ukraine

Cat on a Ledge in Yalta, Ukraine

Cat on a Ledge in Yalta, Ukraine

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  

A Train Ride into the Ural Mountains of Russia

A Train Ride into the Ural Mountains of Russia from Perm to Yekaterinburg

Earning My Keep in Perm, Russia

          Perm is a common stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway and while there is not a lot to see of historical interest there, I did have a pleasant stay at the Hotel Prikamye.  When the front desk staff found out that I was from the U.S. they asked if I would take a look at the new restaurant menu they were working on and see if I had any editing suggestions.  Of course, I was happy to do it and I was able to correct a few grammatical errors for them.  I had a wonderful dinner that evening at a nearby restaurant that came with chicken borsht soup and a shot of Vodka!

Dinner In Russia Comes with a Shot of Vodka

Dinner In Russia Comes with a Shot of Vodka

A Pleasant Train Ride through the Ural Mountains

          The next day I boarded the train heading for Yekaterinburg and enjoyed the beautiful ride into the Ural Mountains.  Unlike Perm, Yekaterinburg has tremendous historical significance.  Named for Catherine (Katerin) the First, second wife of Peter the Great, it is the infamous place where Tsar Nicholas II and his family were murdered by the Bolsheviks on July 17, 1917.  In 1977 the building where they were executed was destroyed by the order of Boris Yeltsin and a beautiful cathedral now stands in its place.  The bodies of the Romanov family were moved to the Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, where they now enjoy renewed respect and reverence from the Russian people.

Cathedral at Romanov Death Site in Yekaterinburg, Russia

Cathedral at Romanov Death Site in Yekaterinburg, Russia

Buying Train Tickets Was the Biggest Challenge on the Trans-Siberian Railway

          By this stage of my trip across Russia I had discovered that buying tickets at the train station each day was my biggest challenge.  The lines were long and the ticket agents and other customers had little patience in dealing with someone who did not speak Russian.  With that one exception, the Russian people everywhere along the way were extremely friendly and helpful.  I met a nice, very intelligent young man on the train who spoke excellent English.  I learned a lot about Russia from talking with Maxim and on arrival in Yekaterinburg he helped me buy my train tickets for the next several days which was a tremendous help.  We then took a walking tour of the city and had dinner before he had to get to the airport.  I stayed at a fairly elegant hotel that evening, the Hotel Tsentralny, to rest up for the next leg of my trip…a long stretch into the Western Siberian Plain.  It would be three days on the train before I stayed in another hotel.

Join Me on a Quick Train Ride into the Ural Mountains of Russia

Nizhny Novgorod, Russia

A Beautiful City Just Outside the Golden Ring

          The Sunday morning train ride from Vladimir to Nizhny Novgorod took a little over two hours and cost about $30.  While this was only a small step eastward on the Trans-Siberian Railway, the short ride meant more time to explore this beautiful city.  Nizhny Novgorod turned out to be one of my favorite stops on the entire cross county trek and I highly recommend planning a visit here, even if it is just a side trip from Moscow 250 miles away.  Nizhny Novgorod is located at the confluence of the Volga River and its largest tributary, the Oka River, making it an important hub of cargo and passenger shipping.  The charm and beauty of Russia’s fifth largest city today belies its dark past during Soviet times.

Confluence of Volga and Oka Rivers with Church of the Nativity in Foreground

Confluence of Volga and Oka Rivers
with Church of the Nativity in Foreground

Inside Kremlin at Nizhny Novgorod

Inside Kremlin at Nizhny Novgorod

Where the Oka River Meets the Volga

          Nizhny Novgorod straddles the Oka River which divides the city into the eastern and western sectors.  The main train station is on the western side, while the most popular attractions are on the eastern side of the river.  Before leaving the train station I booked my seat on the train to Perm for the next day for about $96.  Even with my backpack I enjoyed the long walk from the train station through the bustling streets and over the bridge crossing the Oka River, meeting friendly locals all along the way.  I got a nice room with breakfast included at the Hotel Troitskaya for about $84.  Located right in the historic district, the hotel was the perfect jumping off place for walking excursions to the main attractions.

Kremlin at Nizhny Novgorod

Kremlin at Nizhny Novgorod

Kremlin Walls Nizhny Novgorod

Kremlin Walls
Nizhny Novgorod

Main Points of Interest in Nizhny Novgorod         

          From my hotel in the historic district I took a walking tour of the eastern sector that encompassed many of the significant sights in Nizhny Novgorod.  The route I took was essentially a large circle and in only a few hours I was able to really capture the essence of this wonderful city.  The hotel was located just off ul Rozhdestvenskaya, a cobblestone street dating from the 18th century.  On this street you will find the Church of the Nativity, one of the most beautiful churches in the city, built by the Stoganovs under Peter the Great.  A walk up the hill takes you to the Kremlin which dates back to the 16th century.  With its 12 towers and spectacular view of the surrounding area, this is surely the main feature of Nizhny Novgorod.  And admission is free!  You can walk around the Kremlin walls and then once within the walls you can visit the City Hall, the Governor’s mansion, the Cathedral of the Archangel Michael and the State Art Museum, all punctuated by beautiful gardens.  You can also access this bluff by climbing the Chkalov Steps, a serious climb, rising from the banks of the Volga River.  At the top you will come to Bolshaya Pokrovskaya, a beautiful pedestrian street lined with interesting buildings, shops and markets.  At the end of the street is Gorky Plaza with a statue of the famous Russian author, Maxim Gorky.  As you complete the circular walking tour, you come to a beautiful green belt overlooking the Oka River with a spectacular view of the western sector.

Chkalov Steps Rising from Volga River

Chkalov Steps Rising from Volga River

Bolshaya Pokrovskaya Pedestrian Street

Bolshaya Pokrovskaya
Pedestrian Street

Hotel Troitskaya

          Recommended in the Trans-Siberian Handbook by Bryn Thomas, the Hotel Troitskaya could not have been in a better location.  The long walk from the train station on the other side of the Oka River gave me a good orientation to the city layout and once in the eastern sector the hotel was easy to find.  On my return trip the next day, the hotel manager personally walked me to the tram that went directly back to the train station.  For about $84 I had a large, well-appointed room at the Troitskaya Hotel with private bath, television, refrigerator and large, cheery windows.  The hotel was clean and safe and was operated by a friendly, helpful staff who went out of their way to accommodate their guests.  The breakfast the following morning was prepared individually and was outstanding.  Considering all that I got for about $84, the Hotel Troitskaya was a good value and rates the designation as an ‘Awesome Accommodation’ on Blue Orb Travel.

My Room at the Troitskaya Hotel Nizhny Novgorod, Russia

My Room at the Troitskaya Hotel
Nizhny Novgorod, Russia

Kremlin at Nizhny Novgorod

Kremlin at Nizhny Novgorod