Russia part 3: Karelia: Petrozavodsk, Taiga, Kizhi, Valaam

Petrozavodsk
Onego Lake Embankment, Petrozavodsk

“For this I weep all my days
and throughout my lifetime grieve
that I swam from my own lands
and came from familiar lands
towards these strange doors
to these foreign gates.”

The Kalevala by Elias Lönnrot

The train stopped. The announcer spoke first in Russian then in English. Five minutes, she said. 10:37. I looked out the window. Travellers poured out onto the platform and lit up. Venders met them with trays of smoked fish and wild berries. I watched smokers cough into their berry breakfasts and then rush back onto the train. It jerked back into action, leaving the sleepy hollow of Svir. 10:42. Five minutes exactly. Continue reading Russia part 3: Karelia: Petrozavodsk, Taiga, Kizhi, Valaam

Russia part 2: Saint Petersburg

“Red wine with fish. Well that should have told me something.

From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming

Our first view of Saint Petersburg (pronounced Sankt Pyterborrg or just Pyterborrg by Russians) was from the window of the Meteor (hydrofoil vessel) from Peterhof. A cheerful, high pitched woman’s voice shrieked and crackled over the loudspeaker in Russian – no doubt telling us the mysteries and wonders of Saint Petersburg. However, the Meteor was packed full of Chinese tourists and we three auspicious caucasians squished like sardines in among them.

Nobody had any idea what she was saying. Continue reading Russia part 2: Saint Petersburg

Russia Part 1: Pavlovsk, Pushkin and Peterhof

“If so, better let him be named after his father. His father was Akaky, so let the son also be Akaky. Thus it was that Akaky Akakievich came about. As the child was being baptised, he cried and made such a face as if he anticipated that he would be a titular councillor.”

The Overcoat by Nicholai Gogol

A South African in RussiaIt seems that Putin and Zuma have formed an unholy alliance. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. I hear your groans. I see your rolled eyes.

But there is a silver lining.

As of 31st March 2017, South Africans have visa-free travel to Russia and Belorussia.  If you itch to travel the world and experience different cultures, now is your chance. Go! Go to Mother Russia! Continue reading Russia Part 1: Pavlovsk, Pushkin and Peterhof

En Train de

“Q: Where shall we go? A: To the railway.”

The Railway Children by E Nesbit

In French grammar we learn a present progressive form of the verb to be, describing an action you are doing, an action on-going: en train de.

I’m sitting on a Virgin Train rushing headlong in a northerly direction, bound for Kingston upon Hull – UK City of Culture 2017. I’m going to see my little East Yorkshire family. Continue reading En Train de

Our short interlude into the lives of 12 walkers

“It is always hard to see the purpose in wilderness wanderings until after they are over.”

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

wild coastBy popular demand, I give you our 12 fellow travellers on our South African #roadtrip:

‘Petrol Man’: outside Bloemfontein:
We took a country road towards the Lesotho mountains. TomTom was not pleased. Petrol Man explained that his car had run out of petrol. In parts of the Free State you get the feeling that you’re driving from the middle of nowhere to the middle of nowhere. So we drove on. Eventually we came to a juncture. There was’t even a tiny pin-prick of a suggestion of a village, but with nothing else to suggest we turned down the dust track. What materialised eventually was a twilight-zone-like-derelict-one-stop-hamlet consisting of a road, 6 dwellings, a couple of people and a petrol station! Continue reading Our short interlude into the lives of 12 walkers

The Journey, not the Destination: Goats, Wine, Mountains and Mafia #SAroadtrip

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone,” said Gandalf. 
“I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them,” said our Mr. Baggins.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien 

road trip south africa

We were about 60km outside Port Edward when we realised that we might actually be in real danger. Continue reading The Journey, not the Destination: Goats, Wine, Mountains and Mafia #SAroadtrip

Paris when it sizzles at 38 deg C

“Along the Paris streets, the death-carts rumble, hollow and harsh. Six tumbrels carry the day’s wine to La Guillotine. All the devouring and insatiate Monsters imagined since imagination could record itself, are fused in one realisation, Guillotine.”

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

pantheon parisWe walked slowly, our eyes fixed on the domed roof. The headphone-thingy talked about symmetry, symbolism, liberté, égalité, fraternity. Léon Foucault’s pendulum swung back and forth beside us where it has almost always been since 1851. Christ looked on from his mosaic-ed position on the eastern wall, down at La Convention Nationale sculpture, as if blessing French nationalism … Continue reading Paris when it sizzles at 38 deg C