Russia

vast.

[vast, vahst] /væst, vɑst/

adjective, vaster, vastest.
1. of very great area or extent; immense:the vast reaches of outer space.
2. of very great size or proportions; huge; enormous: vast piles of rubble left in the wake of the war.
noun
1. Literary. an immense or boundless expanse or space.
No… I could have used another word. Dacha? Vodka? Matryoshka? All valid russian words, but they don’t show the greatness of the country. The immensity. Yes, Russia is truly vast. The biggest country in the world, going from Asia to Europe, is full of contrasts. And going by train meant seeing so much landscape, meeting so many people!
I was in Russia for some days in 2010. I was much younger, and it was winter – together, it wrongly gave me a negative impression and I left the country thinking it was one of the darkest places on earth. So wrong. When you meet a man, you judge him by his clothes; when you leave, you judge him by his heart (russian proverb)
Coming back to Russia was an eye-opening. Kazan, city of religions. Baikal lake, a magical island. Moscow, where past and future meets. Immense Siberian grassland. And its people. Going by train and sleeping in a 4 pax cabin meant talking to old russians who shared all their food with us, with young shy students who were starting to learn English, with women who wanted to learn from our cultures, and share their history. Breaking stereotypes. Definitely, this trip was about breaking stereotypes.
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They all looked like doll houses. Colors changed while we travelled from region to region, but the craftmanship of each one was breathtaking.
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When the train stops, you can see dozens of women with dry fishes, vegetables and sweets. We tried all of them, and they were all amazing.
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Lake Baikal is nothing compared to what I had seen before. For many russians, a mystical place full of energy…
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…but also a dirty, chaotic place where it seems anarchy has taken over.
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Baikal’s 5th avenue!
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All in all, when clouds disappear… view is incredible and you actually sense how important this place is for many visitors.
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Kirov square, Irkutsk
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Epiphany cathedral, Irkutsk.
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Russia keeps thousands soviet monuments in the cities, such as this Lenin statue in one of the main squares of Kazan. Past is still being glorified.
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Kazan’s symbol.Qolsarif mosque, said to be one of the most important symbols of the Tatar aspirations.

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We found this small soviet arcade museum and spent a long time there! Highly recommended. You change your 21st century rubel by 20th century soviet coins to start the machines!

 

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Kazan’s museum of the soviet life. Not a must, but we saw many funny toys, fake Marlboro cigarettes, cool Matryoshkas, and Stalin propaganda.
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We loved Kazan, such a clean city, full of nice people, cheap food, and we got to see the world championship of swimmining!

 

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This is the faces of happiness after 2 weeks by train – last 3 days had been terrible: no shower, no windows to be opened, and only 5 minute stop between stations. Transmongolian: CHECK!

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da svidaniya!
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Red square, Moscow.

 

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