Thoughts Sans Boundaries

Cold war between Russia and America?

Posted in photography, trans siberian, travel by Aditya Moorthy on March 31, 2010

Who says Americans and Russians don’t get along. All my life I grew up hearing the differences between the USA and erstwhile USSR and how they started an arms and space race. That may have been true in the 60s or even up to the 90s but the Russia today is a very different place and they don’t hold any grudge against anyone, atleast from my perspective. We visited the Red Square on the 22nd of February and the emotions I experienced was something unique. I grew up studying about Trans Siberian Railway in my Geography lessons, enjoyed Misha children’s magazines, bought books publised by the MIR Publications that sold at phenomenolly cheap prices and had a poster of the St. Basil’s Cathedral next to the Kremlin in my bedroom wall for many years. When it really happened and I was about to enter the Red Square, I was thrilled… hmm for two reasons. One, I just mentioned and the second, to see this in front of the Red Square…

Homer Simpson posing for photo with a young Russian girl, Red Square, Moscow, 22nd February 2010

Ahem… and do I spot Sponge Bob in the next photo…

Homer Simpson and Sponge Bob galavanting at Red Square, Moscow, Russia, 22nd February 2010

Advertisements

Beautiful People

Posted in photography, trans siberian, travel by Aditya Moorthy on March 30, 2010

Russians seem to have a natural flair for fashion. It is not surprising to see most people walking on the streets and dressed as if they are on their way to a party or some event. They don’t dress expensive if that’s what you are thinking. Some do of course, you can see some ostentatious display of fur (which I frown upon though) but most of them are dressed in simple clothes and winter wear. But what adds to the fashion flair is the way they carry it. Apart from the fact that people (especially women; of course I am biased here 😉 are very beautiful, the dressing style just accentuates their innate beauty. If you are keen to see more people pictures and fashion, go to @nat’s picasaweb album. But today I am not going to be posting and talking about beautiful women, but about kids – they are simply adorable as anywhere in the world.

Kids playing in a playground made of ice, Irkutsk, Russia, 17th February 2010

We came across a some ice sculptures in the middle of the town in Irkutsk. It was late afternoon and a bunch of kids with their parents were having fun in the playground in which everything was made of ice.  A brother and sister duo were coming down the ice slide and I fortunately had my camera ready.

Click on the pictures to see the full versions.

Numbed in Novosibirsk

Posted in photography, trans siberian, travel by Aditya Moorthy on March 29, 2010

Traveling over 12,000 kilometers by train across a vast country like Russia leaves you with countless impressions that I’m afraid will fade over time. Photos can be a great trigger to get those memories back and little snippets of experiences that make the journey worthwhile.

Traveling from Irkutsk to Ekaterinburg, we stopped at several small stations along the way, met wonderful people, shared stories about our lives and philosophised about many things under the sun. One such person was Ilya who spoke a little bit of English and worked in a coal mine in northern Siberia with temperatures going below -60 celsius. Ilya was a nice companion who said something that made a lot of sense to us as our journey progressed. According to him, Siberia was the heart of Russia, Ekaterinburg the intellect, St. Petersburg the face of Russia and Moscow its wallet. How very true! Below is a photo of him when he said goodbye in Novosibirsk station.

I especially like this photo even though it wouldn’t stand a chance for quality photography. It was one of the very few pictures we have of Ilya, and the picture gives a surreal feeling with the wind and snow, late in the evening mixed with happiness and sadness of forming new friendship and parting quite shortly.

Surreal moment in the station. Bidding goodbye to Ilya. Novosibirsk, Russia, 18th February 2010

(L to R) @aish, @nat, @ilya and @pradeep

Update: Extremely saddened by the bomb blasts in Moscow. We were there in the Lubyanka station more than once while commuting within the city. May the dead rest in peace and their kith and kin be able to bear the loss of their dear ones. Violence is never the answer for any problem. It is sheer madness and we can only hope for a society in future that is free of violence and people matured enough to deal differences through dialogue.

Stairway to Heaven

Posted in photography, trans siberian, travel by Aditya Moorthy on March 28, 2010

Before we left for Moscow, I read a number of articles on the Internet about the Moscow subway and how beautiful they are. I had high expectations and I was not disappointed. In many ways, the subway experience will remain in my memory for a long time to come. Although the Singapore subway is arguably one of the best in the world, I always found it to be kept that way with a lot of effort both by the companies operating it and the government with strict laws. I am not a proponent of rebellious behaviour but sometimes too much of shepherding can get to you after a while. Non stop announcements as to how we should report strange unattended baggage, how we should mind our step when we get out, in loud speakers can be quite annoying. Moscow has, what I call the people train system where you are responsible for your actions. There is no loud announcements as to how you should behave on the train, no warning signs that says not to cross the yellow line, but people automatically do the right things. They are of course not as clean as Singapore’s subway but I liked it the way it was because, the level of cleanliness was something that people maintained without being threatened with a huge fine for drinking water inside the train.

Very long escalator ride, Moscow, Russia, 22nd February 2010

The trains also run quite deep underground. I timed my escalator ride and it was a good 2 minutes before I got off the escalator at the other end. Most train stations are decorated with frescos, artifacts and chandeliers. They run every three minutes and the timing was perfect. Russian train system can give a stiff competition to Japanese trains with regard to punctuality. Below is the shot of a fresco at the entrance of a subway.

Moscow art with snow and a lovely couple, Moscow, Russia, 22nd February 2010

Click on these images to see the enlarged version.

Strangers in Moscow

Posted in photography, trans siberian, travel by Aditya Moorthy on March 28, 2010

In the entire trip we experienced weather changes from -2 to -34 degrees celsius. Moscow was the first place where the temperatures eased a bit and when we arrived from Ekatrinburg, the temperature was about -3 or so and it was snowing heavily. Below is a photo of three of the six member gang – @nat, @aish and @pradeep. We had to look away from the way wind was blowing as we kept catching the snow in our eyes. This picture was taken right outside the Moscow railway station while we were waiting for the taxi.

(L to R) @nat, @pradeep, @aish - Strangers in Moscow, 22nd February 2010

One of the good things about this trip was that everyone enjoyed long walks and we took full advantage of it. Below is a photo taken while we were crossing a park. It was snowing mildly and the temperature was just nice for us to enjoy the day walking across the city of Moscow.

Pack of six cutting across the park, 22nd February 2010

Fire in the Sky

Posted in photography, trans siberian, travel by Aditya Moorthy on March 27, 2010

When we booked the flight tickets to Vladivostok, we had to find a balance between a not so long flight and cost. Since it was around the Chinese New Year time, any flights via Korea, Japan or Hong Kong was impossible. It was prohibitively expensive. @nat as usual did his research and got tickets for us via Dubai. But we never imagined the strain the long flight was going to put us through. We flew from Singapore-Colombo-Dubai-Moscow-Vladivostok. It was nearly 24 hours of continuous flying. I ended up getting some sort of red spots all over my leg when I reached Vladivostok. But hey, everything turned out alright and I recovered in a day or so.

Dawn at Dubai, 12th February, 2010

This photo was taken at the Dubai airport while we were boarding the flight to Moscow. I love the colours the sky throws up at dawn and dusk.

Spasskaya Church, Irkutsk

Posted in photography, trans siberian, travel by Aditya Moorthy on March 25, 2010

The first true stop of the journey was at Irkutsk. I wouldn’t count Vladivostok as one of them since we spent just over 8 hours in that city and didn’t quite get to see it as much as I would have liked. Irkutsk brings a lot of fond memories for me. It was the first place where we got to know the people of the town and found them to be charming and wonderful. Like most cities in Russia, Irkutsk has its landmark churches. The photo below is of the Spasskaya church built around 1706. It was one of the rare ones we saw that was not painted in colours. This is still a functioning church and I thought a fitting image would be one in black & white.

Spasskaya church, Irkutsk, Russia, 17th February 2010

I still need to hone my photo taking skills. I realised that I cropped the cross above the church. But hey, this is part of the learning! We saw few other churches, very colourful. I will post them sometime soon and you can enjoy the rich colourful temple art of Russia. So stay tuned.

Serenity now, serenity now!

Posted in photography, trans siberian, travel by Aditya Moorthy on March 24, 2010

Frozen Sea of Japan, Vladivostok, Russia, 13th February 2010

(Click on the photo if you want to see a larger version) For those of you who are Seinfeld fans, you’ll know what I mean by the title. Watching the frozen Sea of Japan was quite a serene experience and I was far from the state of mind of George’s father in Seinfeld.

I was sitting and having lunch at Hotel Vladivostok and I could see this through the window of that cafe. It was beautiful. People ice fishing out in the sea (you can see them as black dots in the photo) and some even taking a late afternoon walk along the coast. The temperature was about -18 Celsius. I remember having some vegetarian dumplings for lunch. I have an photo of that dish below.  At Vladivostok it was just myself, @nat and @pradeep. @aish, @scott and @angelo joined us later in Irkutsk.

Russian vegetarian dumplings, Vladivostok, Russia, 13th February, 2010

From Russia with Love

Posted in photography, trans siberian, travel by Aditya Moorthy on March 23, 2010

I had a chance of a lifetime to go to Russia and experience the Trans Siberian rail journey starting at Vladivostok and finishing at St. Petersburg. I jumped at it and never regretted it even for a moment except of course the hole it burnt in my pocket. Nevertheless, it was still a journey that ranks as the best I have ever done in my life.

As soon as I came back I wanted to do a travel log and blog about the experiences from day one till the day I came back to Singapore. I wanted to create a photo montage of all the cities I visited and the people I met. But days went by and I didn’t quite do anything of that sort. The folks that I traveled with did justice both in writing about the experiences and posting pictures that they took along the trip. I realised that I was not going to add anything more beautiful than what has already been written and the pictures taken and posted on the Internet. I give below the links to please your visual senses.

@nat
@scott

But I couldn’t just keep quite about the whole experience, even though I know I’ll never be doing justice to what I really felt and the days I spent with my group in a country that is beyond beautiful. So, I decided I will post random pictures that I took in this trip (hopefully each day) and write just about the picture, the events surrounding it and the story if any associated with it. I start with a not so interesting one but I hope progressively it will get interesting if you follow this blog regularly.

Glass Painting at Crown Plaza, Moscow, Russia, 22nd February 2010

The above picture was taken at the Crown Plaza hotel in Ekaterinburg around mid-morning. I just finished breakfast and was waiting for some of the folks to join me to explore the town. This was along one side of the wall of the cafe inside the hotel. It was a painting on glass, backlit by tubelights behind the glass. I had my first true Russian dish, a vegetarian Borsch made of beetroot. The period when we were in Russia was the period of Lent and several restaurants served vegetarian food and this cafe had a special vegetarian menu. Stroke of luck and I capitalised well on it.

More to come, stay tuned.