Food from the Road – Morning Kick Coffee

Handsome Devil

Handsome Devil!

“Nothing in the world is more common than unsuccessful people with talent, leave the house before you find something worth staying in for!” It’s what I read on his facebook wall the other day and it reminded me of why we got along so well. It was my old friend Genrikh Klimenko from back in Moscow.

I have left so many things on the long finger since I began this journey and one of them was to share another one of his recipes. Getting time on the road is much more difficult than I initially thought it might be, so today I made some. I started by digging out a few photos which were buried deep in the lightroom library and the shred of paper safely stowed at the bottom of my backpack where I had scribbled down the recipe all that time ago. Continue reading »

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Trans-Siberian Part 5 – Dosvidaniya Rossiya

End of the Trans-SiberianThe guidebook calls it Russia’s San Francisco, and although I have never been to the latter, Vladivostok is how I imagined San Francisco to be. With its hilly streets, foggy weather and its own Golden Gate Bridge, there are countless similarities.

I had finally arrived to the end point of the Trans-Siberian railway, the Pacific port of Vladivostok, a massive 9289 km and eight time zones from Moscow. I was to spend two days here, the last two days on my visa before taking the Eastern Dream ferry to Korea. She sets sail once a week, every Wednesday between Vladivostok and the port of Donghae, South Korea.

I’m a long way from home now and for the first time in my life I see the Pacific ocean. Temperatures are in the mid teens and the weather here is a far cry from what I experienced in Siberia. It doesn’t seem like Russia here, at least not the Russia I have come to know so far on my travels. Continue reading »

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Trans-Siberian Part 4 – Life in Platzkart and The Russian Psyche

Platzkart Carriage

Modern Platzkart Carriage

Its 11:20 pm as I sprint down platform 7 of St. Petersburgs ‘Moskovsky Vokzal’ train station to get the 11:30 night train to the capital. Carriage 4 out of 16 is a long way back, and passing by the 1st and 2nd class carriages, I can’t help but notice they are almost empty. I see from a distance that there are long queues around mine and neighbouring carriages, as provodnitsas stand waiting outside checking tickets and passports. After presenting mine, she casually tells me “mesto soroc dva” (bed 42) but I don’t understand her as I enter my carriage almost last, just minutes before departure.

I’m in Platzkart, the Russian equivalent of 3rd class, an open carriage of 54 beds which for the locals is the most popular way to travel in Russia. The carriage is full and it’s easy to tell who the locals are, they have their routine as they roll out their mattresses, dress the bed, slip on some tracksuit bottoms and slippers, before making tea. It’s my first time, I’m lost, and making a bit of a scene. Firstly, I can’t unfold my bunk from against the wall, then I can’t find my mattress, and later, worst of all, I can´t figure out how to get up onto my top bunk. Believe me, it’s not easy getting up, if you have been assigned an upper bunk! Continue reading »

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Trans-Siberian Part 3 – On to the Russian Far East

Russian TrainI arrived to the train station in Irkutsk at 19:30, over an hour before the train to Khabarovsk departed. As I took a seat and waited, I was struggling to stay awake. I had realized earlier in the day that something was amiss with my body. Whatever I had eaten, was now coming out both ends. I thought I’d be reserving these activities for when I arrive in India, but I’ve been unlucky and have been struck down in Russia.

As I sit waiting, I look up at the timetable and realize that the train I’m due to take only runs as far as Khabarovsk and doesn’t continue onto Vladivostok. Continue reading »

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Trans-Siberian Part 2 – The Blue Eye of Siberia

Frozen Lake Baikal at Sunset

Frozen Lake Baikal at Sunset

Russians, when talking about the attractions their motherland holds, constantly mention the oldest, largest and deepest freshwater lake in the world. Many have never been but long to go one day. It’s the one obligatory stop, even for them, when you’re out in these parts of Siberia. It’s Lake Baikal, affectionately known as the ‘Blue Eye of Siberia’ situated deep in the heart of Siberia.

I arrived into the Siberian city of Irkutsk after a 20 hour hop on the train from Krasnoyarsk. It has a distinctly Asian feel to it, and I had to come this far east before I noticed a difference. After a day spent exploring the street markets of Irkutsk and shaking off some kind of bug I had, I took a bus to Listvyanka, a small village by the lake shore. Continue reading »

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Trans-Siberian Part 1 – Crossing the Urals

Provinitsas WaitingThey mark the divide between Europe and Asia, and the beginning of the expansive landmass known as Siberia, but to me, the crossing of the Urals went unnoticed. By my calculations we crossed them in the middle of the night, at the start of a marathon 57 hour journey across four time zones from Vladimir to Krasnoyarsk.

It was good to be back on the trains again. Although European Russia had been immensely enjoyable, it was time to leave the dome roofed churches behind and get off the beaten track in Siberia.

The train journey had its ups and downs. I was travelling platzkart, so I’d have plenty of company, problem was, no one spoke English. Most people on the train weren’t going the entire way to Krasnoyarsk, so plenty came and went during the two and a half day journey. As new passengers boarded at each stop, in my desperation for a bit of conversation with an English speaker, I´d ask those that sat in my vicinity “Veu gavarite pa angliski?” Invariably the answer was “Nyet”. Continue reading »

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My appearance on Russian TV

InterviewWell, here it is, my long awaited appearance on Russian TV! It was aired within the last few days and I have just received the link.

After almost a month here, unfortunately my Russian hasn´t improved much. All I catch is my name, that I´m Irish, have a blog and am going to Vladivostok!

You can read more details about the interview here. Continue reading »

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Food from the Road – Childhood’s End Porridge

The Final ProductWho would have thought that a Crimean man and an Irishman, separated so far geographically, could instantly connect experiences from their childhoods, 20+ years ago, over the subject of a bowl of porridge? I could vividly remember the emotions evoked while having to eat the thick, dry, overcooked, tasteless, rubbery paste called porridge all that time ago, as new ways of looking at food were being divulged to me by a man I meet during my time in Russia. This time it was a unique recipe for porridge, invented by a Crimean man, by the name of Genrikh Klimenko, in an effort to eat healthily but avoid the monotony of eating the unflavored version that he had been forced to eat as a child. Childhood´s end porridge is the unusual name he gives to this recipe, for obvious reasons!

After trying the porridge, and liking it quite a lot, Genrikh kindly offered me the opportunity to document the recipe. I never could have predicted that I´d be sharing recipes from Russia on the blog, as so many tourists return from Russia only to complain about the food. That´s something which I certainly won´t be doing. Continue reading »

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The Golden Ring

Golden RingThe Golden Ring is one of Russia’s most famous historical regions that helped shape the early history of the country. It consists of a few large towns and numerous small attractive villages, populated with traditional wooden houses. Even though it´s only a few hours away from Moscow, people here live much simpler lives. Many of the Golden Ring towns are a little off the beaten track, and require a different form of transport other than trains to get there. A car would be ideal, the Golden Ring could be explored in great detail this way. While passing through this area I had time to visit two of the Golden Ring towns, Vladimir and Suzdal. Continue reading »

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Moscow and my TV appearance

St. Basil's Cathedral

St. Basil’s Cathedral

Spending time in Moscow, confirmed my own personal long held theory which is that, upon visiting a place, regardless what you did, and regardless what you saw, the opinion that you form of a place you visit upon leaving, and the abiding memories that you retain long after the fact, will have been influenced almost entirely by the interpersonal relationships experienced.

I arrived on a night train from St. Petersburg at 6:30 am after a 7 hour over night journey, and my first experience on Russian Platzkart (more on that in later posts). Even at the ungodly hour of 6:30 am on a Saturday morning, Moscow’s metro stations were jammed. I also had the added problem that the names of metro stations are only signalled in Cyrillic, and not in Roman equivalent. I hadn’t planned for this, so clearly Moscow was going to be more difficult to navigate than St. Petersburg, which was a breeze.

After deciphering the metro map and arriving at the old Soviet style apartment block where I would be residing, I met my host, a man originally from Crimea by the name of Genrikh Klimenko. Continue reading »

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St. Petersburg

Saint Isaac's Cathedral

Saint Isaac’s

After many months of preparation and research that began with the arduous task of getting a Russian visa in the first place, I have finally crossed the border into Russia. The ruckus that formed on the train as we approached the city of Vyborg, just over the Finnish-Russian border, was enough to get everyone’s attention. Border guards swarmed the train, checking passports and luggage, but thankfully they gave me no trouble.

The train station, Finlyandsky Vokzal, in St. Petersburg, serves trains from Northern destinations. I expected a spacious, modern station with helpful signs for ATM´s and metro, but it couldn’t have been more different from what I had envisaged. As I left the train and made my way down the platform, passing Russian Police with German Shepherds by their side, I dared not take a photo. The difference between here and Finland is stark. Police are everywhere. Towards the end of the platform, we were ushered out through prison like gates and directly out onto the streets of St. Petersburg, by-passing the terminal entirely. At the sight of us, Russian men jumped from their Lada´s and made their way towards us rambling in Russian, all I understood was “Taxi”, I said no, and continued walking with no idea of where to go. Continue reading »

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