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Archive for July, 2010

The European Commission has issued a final document according to which Estonia will switch to Euro from 1st January 2011, becoming the 17th country of the eurozone. The exchange rate is 15,6466 Estonian Kroon for 1 Euro. This rate hasn’t changed since 1992.

Since July 1st 2010 all trade and catering enterprises are obliged to duplicate their price in Euros in order to help the citizens and tourists to adapt to the change.

From 1st to 14th January 2011 cash payment will be made in both currencies on the territory of Estonia, but the change will be given in Euros only. ATMs will start issuing Euro at midnight on January 1, 2011.

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The Government of the Crimea made a proposal to duplicate road signs in foreign languages to make journey of foreign travellers more comfortable.

According to the Minister of resorts and tourism of Crimea Sergey Kirilenko the number of foreign travellers has increased for the last few years. Lot of them are travelling by their own cars.

The Minister also mentioned that the signs will be translated into English and possibly French.

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IX International festival of sand sculpture started in St. Petersburg. It located on the territory of Peter and Paul fortress.

The theme of this year is “The World Cinema”. Artists will create well-known film characters like Fantomas, Cleopatra, King Kong as well as famous heroes of Russian cinema.

The best artists from all over the world (24 teams) are participating in the festival. The jury includes sculptors, directors of museums, experts from the Academy of Fine Arts, consuls of the participating countries and well-known artists.

The winner will be announced on July 16th.

The sand sculptures will be on the territory of Peter and Paul fortress until 31 August 2010.

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In Kiev there was an opening of a lift that will take people to a height of 92 meters of the Motherland Monument. Tourists can go straight to a shield where an observation platform is.

There is a restricted access to this lift: elderly people, pregnant women, women on high hills and children under 12 years old won’t be allowed to go on the lift. This is due to a very steep stairs between the lifts which tourist will need to change.

For security reasons the lift will raise only two people at the time. On the way to the top guide tells the history of the memorial.

To get to the shield of the monument tourists will need to make two stops. The first stop is on a viewing platform which is 36 meters high (comparable with the height of 12-storey building), there are binoculars to view a panorama of the city. At the second stop the tourists will have to move from traditional vertical lift to an inclined lift, which goes along the statue’s hand straight to the shield.

The entire trip from the bottom to the top will take at least half an hour. The time allowed to spend at the platform is about 10-15 minutes.

Previously existed offer to go on the observation platform of the monument which is 36 meters high, is still on. It costs 50 hryvnia (about £4-5). The 92 meter height trip costs four times more – 200 hryvnia (about £16).

The Motherland Monument is a part of Great Patriotic War Museum. It was opened in 1981 in commemoration of a Victory in the 2nd World War. The total height of the steel monument and a concrete base is102 meters.

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From the beginning of July Latvians and tourists can rent bicycles to ride around Riga and Jurmala. There will be 70 bikes available in Riga and 30 in Jurmala.

The project became possible due to cooperation of AirBaltic and administrations of the cities.

In order to rent a bicycle a person must register online and then pay by phone or credit card. After payment the person will receive a code which will help him/her to open the lock and take the bike. The rental cost is about £1 per hour.

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Walking down the street, I came face to face with a bus heading for
downtown Seoul. Normal you might think – except that we were in
Vladivostok, not Seoul, and at the start of the Trans-Siberian train
route ! Vladivostok’s proximity to Korea and Japan mean that most of
its vehicles are imported from these countries (in the latter case it leads
to right-hand drive cars driving on the right-hand side of the road …).
After three days exploring the city (which was forbidden to foreigners
until 1991) Vincent and I went to the station to discover the train in
which we were going to spend the next 70 hours non-stop as far as
Irkutsk, our first stop (non-stop the train journey would last 146 hours
end to end). We had two months holiday to look forward to, and the
first two weeks would be spent travelling the Trans-Siberian across
Russia, the world’s largest country, back to Europe.

By the way, there’s no regular train called ‘The Trans-Siberian’ (which is
the common term for the train route), rather a series of working trains
that run east- or west-bound all or part of the way between Moscow
and Vladivostok. The railway runs 9289 km from Vladivostok to Moscow,
making it both the world’s longest train route and the longest domestic
train route.

We soon settled into life on the train. Trans-Siberian trains are
comfortable rather than luxurious. Average speed is just 69 kph. Time
passed reading, watching the view, eating, watching the view, listening to
music, watching the view, and learning to decipher the Cyrillic alphabet
in order to read station names. (As we don’t speak Russian we’d used the
services of a specialised agency to book the train tickets and hotels, but
once in Russia we were totally independent). We also spent a lot of time
adjusting our watches as the train travels through seven time zones –
but all the timetables run on Moscow time. This often led to some
complicated mental arithmetic!

We travelled through mile upon mile of steppe and taiga (more than 30%
of the world’s trees grow in Siberia), past villages whose average
January temperature is -33°C. Contrary to popular belief, however,
summer in Siberia is scorching. In these conditions it was difficult to
believe that the tipsy-looking telegraph poles we saw were caused by
year-round permafrost.

Washing (shared ‘bathroom’; no shower, no hot water, no sink plug !) was
both gymnastic and perfunctory. Feet braced against the train’s rocking,
you had to avoid your personal belongings falling down the toilet hole, all
the while holding the hand basin’s tap down with one hand to get a
trickle of cold water. And beware of needing the toilet at the wrong
time – they were closed for thirty minutes before and after all stops …
I enjoyed descending from the train whenever our provodnitsa (carriage
attendant) allowed us to, getting some exercise by walking up and down
the platform during short stops. I think I gave Vincent a few grey hairs
as I was invariably the last person back on the train before it moved off
again with no warning!

Thanks to the samovar in every carriage and its unlimited supply of hot
water, our diet was very varied in the train … it varied between instant
noodles, instant pasta, instant mashed potato … . Although there is a
restaurant wagon on every train our initial trips there didn’t make us
want to return. At our stop-off points (Irkutsk, Novosibirsk,
Yekaterinburg) food was delicious : omul (a fish only found in Lake
Baikal), pelmeni and vareniki (types of filled dumplings), blinis, borscht
all washed down with kvas (a beer-like brew made from fermented
bread, yeast, malt sugar and water), and the occasional vodka. On train
platforms we bought cucumbers, boiled eggs, tomatoes, and even cooked
pine cones from babushkas.

Irkutsk, a former Siberian exile point, is now a gateway to Lake Baikal,
64 km away, where we went scuba-diving in water at 4°C. Lake Baikal is
the world’s deepest, biggest lake, with 20% of the world’s fresh water.
In Irkutsk we also came across the first Western tourists we’d heard
since we’d left Seoul six days previously. Back in the train for ‘only’
thirty hours, our next port of call was Novosibirsk, Russia’s geographical
centre and the sprawling capital of Western Siberia. Later, a trip of
only 21 hours brought us to Yekaterinburg for a day, infamous as the
place where the Romanovs were murdered, where we stood with one foot
either side of the Europe-Asia boundary marker. Twenty-six hours later,
after travelling through the Urals we arrived in our final Russian
destination of Moscow, where we spent several days visiting in the
company of a Russian friend from Seoul – including the Bolshoi Theatre !
All too soon it was time to move on to the rest of our journey in the UK
and France – unfortunately by plane !

content submitted by Catharine Smart (a Go Russia customer)

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Visit the Baikal Lake in Siberia in August and enjoy traditional festivals and rituals by Buryat people

View details on Go Russia website

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