SSSR-62At that time Poland and the Soviet Union
Date of travel: June 19 – July 10, 1962
This trip was done mostly by train but had also two flights. It started on railway station in Prague (Czechoslovakia) on June 19 and continued to POLAND with 1.5 day stop in Warsaw. Before noon of June 21 we continued by train to the border of that time Soviet Union specifically to its BELARUS (stop in Grodno). We continuing to LITHUANIA, where by night June 21 and stayed until June 24 (visiting its capital Vilnius and Trakay), by train to RUSSIA for June 25 and 26 (seeing Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, and some of its surroundings). From here by train to ESTONIA for June 27 through June 29 (sightseeing its capital Tallinn). Back by train to RUSSIA for June 30 to July 2 (to continue sightseeing of Leningrad with Hermitage, Katarina Palace and Peter’s Hoff). Night flight to LATVIA where from July 3 to 4 (its capital Riga and its surroundings). Early morning flight back to RUSSIA (this time the capital of Soviet Union and Russia, Moscow, with sightseeing of Kremlin and other historical places and museums), where July 5 through July 7. In the morning on July 8 departing Moscow on a train through Ukraine and its part Ruthenia (which used to be a part of Czechoslovakia between WWI and WWII) and Slovakia the time of this trip part of Czechoslovakia, coming to Prague (Czechoslovakia) in the morning July 10.
Travel office: Cedok (that time the only travel office in Czechoslovakia)
Who took part: About 30 Czech tourists, our Czech leader Prokop H., our Russian leader Svetlana A. and local guides in various visited places.
SSSR-63 At that time Russia, Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine were part of the Soviet Union 1963
Date of the trip: July 13 – Aug 5, 1963
This trip started on July 13 by a train ride 2,544 km long from Prague (Czechoslovakia) to Moscow. Along the way it crossed Slovakia, which was part of Czechoslovakia that time, and Ukraine with Ruthenia (Ruthenia was part of Czechoslovakia between WWI and WWII). The train stopped in Moscow, RUSSIA, in mid day of July 15. After 2.5 day sightseeing the city, we boarded a plane and left Moscow for Jerevan, ARMENIA on July 18. Until July 22 we were sightseeing this country from Jerevan, the capital, to Lake Sevan and visited several monasteries. On July 22 we took a train from Jerevan through western part of Armenia and through Georgia and after more than 27 hours we reached Soci in RUSSIA on the shore of Black Sea. Here we spent 7 days in a youth center with young people from various countries from East and West. We also took a bus trip to Lake Rica in GEORGIA in its autonomous part Abchasia. We crossed Chosta a favorite place for Stalin’s vacations and Gagra place which favored Khruscev both in Abchasia. Late on July 30 we got on a train for a 1.5 day journey to Kiev in UKRAINE. We got there early on Aug 1. Until Aug 3 we were sightseeing the city. Very late that last day we left Kiev on train on our return via Ruthenia and Slovakia for Prague (Czechoslovakia), where early in the morning on Aug 5.
Travel office: I traveled with a youth group, but there were people with us into their 40tieth.
Who took part: 35 members in the group incl. our Czech leader Vladimir T., my childhood friend Frank Z. (Aramis), a Russian leader and local guides.
SSSR-65 Central Asia (that time all these countries were part of Soviet Union)
Date of travel: Jul 26 – Aug 17, 1965
On Jul 26 by train 2,544 km from Prague to Moscow, RUSSIA where on Jul 28. Total of 2.5 days sightseeing of the city.
Late on Jul 30 flight from Moscow to Alma Ata (now Almati) that time the capital of KAZAKHSTAN. Two days sightseeing the city and the mountains in the vicinity.
Late at night Aug 1 flight from Alma Ata to Tashkent the capital of UZBEKISTAN. Then 6 days in this country sightseeing Tashkent, Bukhara and Samarkand.
In the afternoon of Aug 7 flight from Tashkent to Dushambe the capital of TAJIKISTAN. A day trip in the mountains.
In the morning on Aug 9 flight from Dushambe back to Tashkent visiting a state farm and an entertainment park.
In the afternoon Aug 10 flight from Tashkent to Tbilisi the capital of GEORGIA. The sightseeing of the city and late at night departure by train to Batumi on the shore of the Black Sea where 2 days (seeing among others tea plantations and swimming in the Black Sea). At midnight on Aug 12 departure by train from Batumi back to Tbilisi. Here a bus tour outside the city to see early Christian churches.
In the morning on Aug 14 flight from Tbilisi do Odessa in UKRAINE where 2 days sightseeing. Then overnight train to Lvov for a sightseeing tour. Later in the afternoon boarding a train and through Ruthenia (Ruthenia was a part of Czechoslovakia between WWI and WWII, now it is part of Ukraine) and Slovakia (Slovakia was part of Czechoslovakia until the end of 1992) back to Prague where in mid morning Aug 17.
Travel office: Cedok (that time the only Czechoslovakian government travel office)
Who took part: About 30 Czechoslovakian tourists, tour leader from Cedok, Russian leader and some local guides
TS-04Trans-Siberian Railway (RUSSIA)
Date of travel: May 15 – May 29, 2004
On May 15, 2004 at noon I fly on a CSA plane from Prague, Czech Republic to Moscow, RUSSIA, where on the Sheremetyevo airport in midafternoon. A driver with a car and my name is taking me to “Baltschug Kempinski Hotel” near Kremlin in the center of Moscow. I go for a walk to the Red Square and its vicinity. Then our whole group visits the St. Basil’s Cathedral. It is followed by a great dinner in a restaurant.
Next morning there is a sightseeing tour of Moscow. During it we visit the impressive “Cathedral of Christ the Savior” destroyed by Stalin and newly reconstructed. Then we photograph a gigantic statue of Peter the Great at Moscow River and drive to “Novodevichy Convent.” From there to a lookout at Lomonosov University with a view of the city. After lunch, we visit “Kremlin.” It is followed by a free time on the Red Square. I use it to go in the department store GUM. In the evening, we board our train. Soon it starts moving in direction of St. Petersburg.
Our train reaches St. Petersburg in midmorning on May 17. First, we visit the “Catherine Palace” outside the city. Here we see the famous newly rebuilt Amber Room. After lunch, there is a visit of “Petrodvorce Palace” on the shore of Gulf of Finland called the Russian Versailles. Dinner is on a ship taking us throughout the city on River Neva and its estuary. The following day we see St. Petersburg itself. With exception of few stops our coaches just pass various famous places with explanation from our guide. The final stop is at “Hermitage” museum that we see in person. In the afternoon, we are back in our train which starts its journey to Vladivostok.
The following day our train continuous run to the east. Countryside is flat. Here and there a village with very poor houses. In Russia, there is a great difference in living standard between cities and villages.
We were told that our train belongs to the Russian president and that the same uniformed staff, which takes care of us, would be on this train if the president was on board. That enables us to do sightseeing stops along the way. On a regular train from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok, we might wait a week for the next train. There are 57 tourists on our train. The tour director is British. Everybody else is Russian.
On May 20, our second morning on the train, we make a stop in Yekaterinburg. This city is the industrial center of Russia. Though it is behind the Ural Mountains in Asia, its inhabitants protest if one tells them they live in Siberia. The city is in consciousness of people because Russian Tsar Nicolas II. and his family were murdered by Bolsheviks here. Our first stop is at the “Church of Blood.” It stands on the spot, where the Tsar and his family were shot. The room where it happened was reconstructed inside the church. Later we visit “Museum of WWII.” There are also some pieces of the Gerry Powers’ U2 plane exhibited here. His plane was shot down at Yekaterinburg. During our stop at a monument to fallen soldiers from this city in various wars there is a tablet saying that in 1968 in Czechoslovakia 8 soldiers from Yekaterinburg lost their lives.
In the afternoon, our train continues its journey east. In the evening, there is a short stop in Tyumen which is a gate to Siberia. Some 24 hours later, late in the afternoon, our train stops in Novosibirsk. There is a sightseeing tour visiting a cathedral, market, Lenin square with his gigantic statue and a stop at Ob River. Novosibirsk is a typical grey Soviet city. With 1.45 mil. inhabitants it is after Moscow and St. Petersburg the third largest city of Russia. The Ob River is the third largest river in Russia. After 9 PM our train gets moving again.
After a day on the train on May 23 we reach the capital of Siberia, Irkutsk. The city lies on the bank of Angara River. We stop at Church of Savior (now museum), then Kirov Square with government buildings and through several streets with old wooden houses. It is followed by a Church of the Holy Sign built 1762. There is a mass at this moment. As in other Russian Orthodox Churches, they are full of believers including young people. Then we drive on the Lenin Street with a Lenin statue. A stop at Central Market. After lunch, a visit to Volkonsky House Museum. There is a concert for us there.
May 24 is devoted to Lake Baikal. Some of us can take a ride on the outside of the locomotive, something which would not be allowed in other countries. At noon is a picnic with BBQ on the shore of the lake. There is a boat ride on Lake Baikal in the afternoon. Then we board buses and visit “Taltsy Museum of Wooden Architecture,” showing the Siberian buildings set in a riverside forest. That is followed by a museum and an orthodox church from 1864 in another place.
At night, our train makes the distance from Irkutsk to Ulan Ude, the capital of the Buryat Republic (part of Russian Federation). There we board buses and drive to Soviet Square with a gigantic black head of Lenin. Outside Ulan Ude we visit a Buddhist monastery which is the center of Siberian Buddhism. Then we see a Buryat show with dances and music with the cast in their national costumes. The Buryats are Mongols. Our lunch is in a village of “Old Believers.” Old Believers are Russians who split from the Russian Orthodox Church in mid-17th century.
Next 3 days (May 26 – May 28) we spend on the train. There are some interesting lectures. The Siberian countryside is often grassy and among the higher vegetation we see birches and larches. The rails are laid on a bank above the landscape. The train makes short stops in some stations. There is a statue of Lenin in every station.
In the evening on May 28 after almost 10,000 km from St. Petersburg our train reaches Vladivostok. It is still light when we board buses for a 1-hour sightseeing tour of the city. There is a large statue of Lenin near the railway station, then a Monument to Red Army followed by Memorial WWII with a submarine from that war. We see “Golden Horn Bay” named after the one in Istanbul. The channel between it and the Amursky Gulf is called Bospor Strait. The “Triumphal Arch” commemorates the visit of Nicolas II to this city in 1902. Vladivostok looks like an European city. Last stop is a lookout with view of the city. From here to Hotel Versailles for dinner. In our “Hyundai Hotel” before midnight.
In the morning on May 29 I take a walk with one tourist from our group through the city. We go from our hotel down to the Golden Horn Bay and visit the WWII submarine which is a museum. It is completely out of water. We return past the Triumphal Arch to our hotel. In reception, they can’t find my passport. It looks like a big problem. Even without the passport I still go to the airport. Along the way another tourist finds my passport in his passport. Later in the afternoon I leave on a Korean Airlines for Seoul, South Korea. The flight takes 2 hrs. There I switch the plane for another Korean plane to Los Angeles. After 10.5 hrs. flight, our plane lands on LAX in midafternoon still on May 29 thanks to the Date Line. I pick up a car at Budget and drive home to Vista where in the evening.
Travel office: MIR Corporation (Seattle, Washington)
Who took part: 57 passengers from North America and Europe, British Tour Director and Russian train crew, local guides
NC-18 RUSSIAN FEDERATION (North Caucasus: Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Abkhazia)
Date of trip: May 6 – May 23, 2018
In the morning May 6 I take a Turkish plane from Prague, Czech Republic to Istanbul, Turkey. There I switch to another Turkish plane to Moscow, RUSSIAN FEDERATION. It lands in Moscow in the evening. A Russian guide Dmitry takes me by car to my hotel for overnight stay.
On May 7, I, my 2 companions (Thea and Al) and our guide board a Russian plane from Moscow to city of Makhachkala, a capital of Dagestan (part of Russian Federation) on western edge of Caspian Sea. With a new Russian guide Vladimir we spend afternoon sightseeing the city on foot and by car. Overnight in a hotel.
Next day, after seeing a market in Makhachkala, we drive south along the coast of the Caspian Sea to city of Derbent. It was built on an incline above the sea with a fortress on its top end. Starting with the fortress we do sightseeing of Derbent with its Russian oldest mosque, an Armenian Church, a synagogue and a Russian Orthodox Church. Our accommodation is in a nice hotel. The following morning, May 9, we see a celebration of the end of WWII a Russian style. There is even a large poster of Stalin carried through the streets. It ends with speeches on the main square.
At midmorning we drive our SUV into the Caucasus Mountains to a village Kubachi. We explore the village built several hundred years ago. Presently about half of the houses are empty and in ruins. We get food and accommodation at one family house. In the morning we see a local market and an old watch tower. Soon after we leave Kubachi and drive on unpaved roads among grassy mountains. People use dung as fuel here. After some stops at villages we have lunch at one family house, a visit with a sculptress and a local seamstress. At night in a hotel in Gunib.
On May 11, we see local monuments and then do some walking in the town of Gunib. After stops at a shop of a gun manufacturer and at burka factory we cross border from Dagestan to Chechnya and soon get in a hotel. Next day we come to Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. It is newly built, because in recent two wars it was leveled. We see a beautiful mosque, Kadyrov Museum and the Putin Ave.
On May 13 we drive to mountains of Ingushetia. Though both Chechnya and Ingushetia are part of Russian Federation, each of this republic has a border police stopping the border traffic. We see towers local people built for protection on the top of cliffs. Hotel in the village Armkhi has all the shortcomings of buildings built during the communist era.
On May 14 we enter Republic of Northern Ossetia and its capital Vladikavkaz. It is a nice city built by Russians for Russians in 19. century. While Chechens and Ingushetians are Muslims, Ossetians are mostly Christians. We spend the following day exploring it. We also visit a town of Beslan outside Vladikavkaz where in 2004 over 300 people, mostly school kids, were killed by Chechen terrorists. The following day we take 4WDs to mountains of Ossetia in the Central Caucasus. We see a mining town and, in the afternoon, we visit an old necropolis with many above the ground tombs with human bones scattered around. By night we are back in Vladikavkaz.
On May 17 we leave Vladikavkaz. From here we have again Dmitry as our guide. Originally, he took us from Moscow to Dagestan. Vladimir returned to Makhachkala. Soon entering Kabardino-Balkaria Republic and after lunch its capital Nalchik. Here we get a lecture about local historical weapons and taste wine in a winery resembling old castle. Next day we do some sightseeing in the mountains in 4WDs. More than once snow stops us, and we had to look for different road at elevation 3,000 m. Overnight in hotel in city of Pyatigorsk. The following morning, we sightsee this spa city and take a cable car to a mountain above it. In the afternoon by train 180 km to a town Armavir and then by car 3-hour ride to a village Mezmai. Not too much there. After night in a hotel and food at one family house we drive many hours to Khadyzhenskaya. From there by train along the coast of Black Sea to Sochi.
On May 21 we drive to border between Russia and Abkhazia. Abkhazia was part of Georgia, but from the war in 2008 it has become de facto part of Russia. After crossing to Abkhazia, we stop to see Gagra, so called Russian Riviera. Later we visit Pitsunda Peninsula and have lunch at a family farm in the mountains. By evening we reach our hotel in Sukhumi the capital of Abkhazia. Next morning, we have sightseeing of the city on foot. Then we leave Sukhumi. In the afternoon we visit Stalin’s house in Gagra. After that we cross border back to Russia. Al and Thea go directly to the airport to fly home this evening while I and Dmitry head for a nearby hotel.
Very early on May 23 I take a plane from Sochi to Istanbul and from there another one to Prague.
Travel office: Spiekermann Travel Service
Who took part: There were 3 tourists (Thea, Al and I), guides Dmitry and Vladimir, and drivers.
RKU-19 RUSSIA, KAZAKHSTAN, UKRAINE
Date od travel: July 3 – July 21, 2019
In the morning on July 3, 2019 I take a plane from Prague, Czech Republic to St. Petersburg, RUSSIA. Though I paid to Vantage for transportation from the airport to my hotel, nobody expected me at the airport. I took a taxi, who charged me quite a lot of money. In the hotel I have joined the 22 people strong Vantage group of tourists from USA.
Next four days we have been sightseeing St. Petersburg including the famous Hermitage, the Peter and Pall s Fortress, the Katherine Palace and the Petershof Palace.
In the evening on July 7 our ship MS Rostropovich leaves St. Petersburg to sail east on Neva River and Lake Lagoda (the larges European lake). The following day we sail on Svir River connecting Lake Lagoda and Lake Onega and accounted several locks. After noon we land at a village Mandrogi still on the Svir River with its wooden houses. Over night our ship entered Lake Onega and early in the morning it landed on its larges island Kizhi. In rainy weather we admire local churches. From here our ship turns south and the next day after going on Kovzha River and crossing Lake White we land at town of Goritsi and have a sightseeing tour. On July 11 we are sailing across Rybinsk Reservoir, get on the River Volga and make a stop at the town of Uglich. We visit a house of some local people and have a tour of Uglich Kremlin (fort).
On July 12 MS Rostropovich sailing the Moskovskiy Canal to reach the capital of Russia. Still that day we visit Moscow Kremlin with its museum in Armory. After a last night on the ship, we do a sightseeing tour of Moscow starting with the rebuilt Cathedral Crist the Redeemer following by the Red Square. On July 14 we visit the Trajkovski Galleria. There is a farewell dinner in the evening.
On July 15 I take a morning flight to Nur-Sultan (Astana), the capital of KAZAKHSTAN. My private part of the trip begins. Next day there is a sightseeing tour of the city for me with a local guide and a car with a driver. There are interesting buildings in Nur-Sultan built in the last 2 decades.
On July 17 I fly to Almaty the previous capital of Kazakhstan and still the biggest city of the country. Part of the sightseeing tour with the local guide starts already the same day, but most of Almaty I see the following day.
On July 19 I fly to Kiev, UKRAINE. Again, I explore the city with a local guide the next day. On July 21 early in the morning I board a plane from Kiev to Prague.
Travel office: I took the Russian part of the trip with Vantage and the extension to Kazakhstan and Ukraine was arranged by Spiekermann Travel Service.
Who took part: There were 22 American tourists in Russia and in Kazakhstan and Ukraine I traveled alone.