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.
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.