Exploring Russia’s Ice Trains with Zay Harding

Exploring Russia's Ice Trains with Zay Harding

It’s the second leg of our Tough Trains series – we’ve tackled Bolivia with Zay Harding, travelling from Brazil’s Pantanal to the Pacific coast of Chile bringing you snapshots from some of the most beautiful terrain in South America taking in the local Llamas, the majesty of the Andes and more.

Our next stop is Russia’s Ice Trains!

Russia’s trains travel along 85,500km of track, crossing 11 time zones.  In the cold and often brutal Russian winters, these trains persist against the freezing weather, travelling into Siberia and beyond.  We travel from the capital city of Moscow and head north to Stalin’s cruellest and most ambitious project – the Rail-Road of Death – before ending on the world’s most northern railway.  With average temperatures around -20/-30 degrees and ice at every turn, there’s nothing easy about Russian trains.

Check out Zay’s Globe Trekker photo diary taken on the road while filming Russia’s Ice Trains:

@globetrekker A quick stopover in #Moscow and I'm off to #Siberia. Should be there in 3 hours.

@globetrekker A quick stopover in #Moscow and I’m off to #Siberia. Should be there in 3 hours.

 

Looking over Russia's famous Trans-Siberian Railway, the longest train line in the world! #globetrekker #TSR #tyumen #siberia #russia #prettyamazing

Looking over Russia’s famous Trans-Siberian Railway, the longest train line in the world! #globetrekker #TSR #tyumen #siberia #russia #prettyamazing

 

Simple shot from out my window. I feel like I'm in an #AnselAdams picture. #GloriousDay #tyumen #siberia #russia #globetrekker

Simple shot from out my window. I feel like I’m in an #AnselAdams picture. #GloriousDay #tyumen #siberia #russia #globetrekker

 

Walkway up to the beautiful #TobolskKremlin and #StSophiaAssumptionCathedral #tobolsk #siberia #globetrekker #russia #friggincold

Walkway up to the beautiful #TobolskKremlin and #StSophiaAssumptionCathedral #tobolsk #siberia #globetrekker #russia #friggincold

 

 

@globetrekker #Tobolsk is the historical capital of #Siberia, built at the confluence of 2 rivers that stay frozen NINE months of the year! I saw MAC-TRUCKS driving across the ice today! #crazycold

@globetrekker #Tobolsk is the historical capital of #Siberia, built at the confluence of 2 rivers that stay frozen NINE months of the year! I saw MAC-TRUCKS driving across the ice today! #crazycold

 

 

Saw these cute homemade Siberian Cat dolls sitting in a cafe window. Almost thought they were real! #catsofinstagram #siberia #russia #craftycats

Saw these cute homemade Siberian Cat dolls sitting in a cafe window. Almost thought they were real! #catsofinstagram #siberia #russia #craftycats

 

It just started snowing! I swear I feel like I'm in a winter wonderland dream here!

It just started snowing! I swear I feel like I’m in a winter wonderland dream here!

 

@globetrekker With special permission, after a 26 hour train ride north into the Arctic, I have arrived at one of Russia's biggest gas fields. It is WAY colder than it looks here! #toughtrains #russia #crazycold

@globetrekker With special permission, after a 26 hour train ride north into the Arctic, I have arrived at one of Russia’s biggest gas fields. It is WAY colder than it looks here! #toughtrains #russia #crazycold

 

Back in the 1960's this was the very site that the first exploratory drilling hole struck an OCEAN of GAS!!! Still today, 90% of Russia's gas supply comes from this finding. #globetrekker #toughtrains #gasfields #russia

Back in the 1960′s this was the very site that the first exploratory drilling hole struck an OCEAN of GAS!!! Still today, 90% of Russia’s gas supply comes from this finding. #globetrekker #toughtrains #gasfields #russia

 

Snow plow trains run 24/7 so passenger trains such as this one can run regardless the extreme weather. BTW, it's -20 C (-4 F). No problem! #globetrekker #toughtrains #russia #crazycold

Snow plow trains run 24/7 so passenger trains such as this one can run regardless the extreme weather. BTW, it’s -20 C (-4 F). No problem! #globetrekker #toughtrains #russia #crazycold

 

The Venice Carnival: Ten Experiences Not to Be Missed

The Venice Carnival: Ten Experiences Not to Be Missed

To one side of you stands a cloaked man, cheering jovially, to the other a woman resplendent in sequins and satins and feathers, dancing to the beat of the music; and beyond – thousands of similarly masked revellers. Where are you? Venice, of course, at its most vibrant and theatrical and romantic of world carnivals.  Author and seasoned reveller – Hannah Fielding shares her top ten Carnival experiences to add to your ‘must do’ list.

Top Tips for Venice Carnival

  1. Book tickets for one of the many Carnival balls – with themes from burlesque to masquerade to enchantment, there’s a party to suit all tastes.
  2. Visit Ca’ Macana, the shop of the best mask maker in Venice. All masks are handmade, and the artistry is exquisite. Buy for yourself one of the classic Carnival masks, such as the Colombina or the Bauta.
  3. Sample a Carnival speciality from one of the street vendors whose wares perfume the air such to make your stomach rumble. The cakes are divine, especially the warm and sweet frittelle Veneziane filled with zabaione cream.
  4. Watch a local beauty pageant winner zip-wire from the Campanile bell tower in the traditional Volo dell’Angelo (Flight of the Angel).
  5. Visit the Arsenale to take in a historical show, live music concerts, street artist performances and, it’s promised, ‘dancing fountains’!
  6. Head to St Mark’s Square to see the parade for the daily Best Masked Costume Competition (enter yourself, if you’re so inclined; the theme is ‘La Natura Fantastica’).
  7. Drink in the romantic atmosphere in St Mark’s Square as you watch sultry tango dancers perform on the Gran Teatro stage.
  8. Brush up on your art history with a free guided tour and talk at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection art museum. This year’s Carnival exhibition is ‘The Empire of Light’.
  9. Embrace the last vestiges of winter with ice-skating in the Campo San Polo. Costume optional!
  10. Join the throngs alongside the Grand Canal for the closing event of the Carnival: a water-borne procession of costumed Venetians on decorated boats and classic gondolas. Be sure to take a camera – this is one spectacle you’ll want to record. (more…)

Ukraine: A Martyrs Shrine in London

Ukraine: A Martyrs Shrine in London

statue-of-st-volodymyr---Ukraine---SmallWest London has a sizeable Ukrainian expatriate community . The statue of St. Volodomyr, who founded the country in the 10th century, has long been a focus for expressions of Ukrainian nationalism for expats in the British Capital. Now, with the recent and tragic killings in Kiev, it has become a ‘martyrs shrine’ with floral  tributes to those that lost  their lives growing by the day.

Ukraine, straddling Europe to the west and Russia to the east has long had a confused identity to outsiders. Witness the conflicting allegiances now being played out on the Crimean Peninsula.

One hundred and fifty years ago the peninsula was the centre of another conflict, the Crimean War, a baffling conflict, this time between Russia and Turkey, then the Ottoman Empire. The war eventually drew in outsiders, Britain and France.

The Crimea is no stranger to East West Tensions. For several centuries it was part of the Ottoman Empire.  But by the mid 19th century The Ottoman empire was in decline.  Under the pretext of exercising its right to protect all Orthodox Christians under Ottoman rule, Russia occupied the Ottoman provinces of Wallachia and Moldavia in 1853.  The Turks, counting on the support of Great Britain and France, rejected the Tsar’s offer and declared war on Russia in October, 1853.

To find out more about the Ottomans, read our study guide by notable historian Julian Davidson.
Watch our  Globe Trekker Ukraine episode below:

Globe Trekker Goes to Switzerland!

Globe Trekker Goes to Switzerland!

Chocolates, watches, cheese, famous physicists and beautiful Alpine scenery.  It can only mean one thing!  We are back on the road again and this time we are filming another brand new Globe Trekker episode with Brianna Barnes in…Switzerland!

We’ve got heaps of stories for you fans, from the Alpine Beard festival, the crazy Reideralp cow-pat festival, St Bernard dogs, all-year skiing in Zermatt, Alpine hikes, underground mountain vaults, rare timepieces and the theory of relativity – all packed into one exciting episode.  Not forgetting those quirky things that make the Swiss so memorable.  For instance, did you know owning a gnome is illegal in Zurich and if you try to mow your lawn after 10pm you could face jail time?

So keep you’re eyes peeled for more updates from the Globe Trekker team on the road!

Filming-a-Mountain-Rescue-in-the-Swiss-Alps

Going up in the cable car over the Swiss Alps with Brianna Barnes Photo: Simon Buck

The View from the Cable Car.

The View from the Cable Car Photo: Simon Buck

 

The Winners of this year's Alpine Beard Festival

The winners of this year’s Alpine Beard Festival 2013

The competition was pretty fierce this year!

The competition was pretty fierce this year!

Brianna-&-Charlie-Chaplin-statue

Hanging out with Charlie Chaplin

Interlaken

On top of the world at Interlaeken

The pretty town of Gruyere - home to the famous cheese.

The pretty town of Gruyère – home to the famous cheese.

flower-clock

The Swiss are crazy about timepieces. They even made a floral one!

Cern, Switzerland.  Being a physicist for the day

Cern, Switzerland. Being a physicist for the day

Reideralp-Cow-Festival

Daisy…Daisy…how does your garden grow…?

...By throwing shit all over the mountain.  Quite literally at the Reideralp Cow Pat Festival!

…By throwing shit all over the mountain. Quite literally at the Reideralp Cow Pat Festival! Photo: Simon Buck

You can still ski in the Swiss Alps in summertime - lucky Mountain rescue are still on hand to offer assistance!

You can still ski in the Swiss Alps in summertime – luckily, the Swiss Mountain Rescue team are still on hand to offer assistance!

The Mighty Matterhorn

The Mighty Matterhorn

On the Thomas Cook hiking trail

On the Thomas Cook hiking trail

Found a few Mountain Goats

Found a few Mountain Goats…

Found a couple more!

…Found a couple more!

hiking must have been pretty uncomfortable in the Victorian Days.  This si how Thomas Cook would have looked taking his group around the Alps!

Hiking must have been pretty uncomfortable in the Victorian Days. This is how Thomas Cook would have looked taking his group around the Alps!

filming inside a Swiss Bank in Zurich

Filming inside a Swiss Bank vault in Zurich

He who holds the keys to the bank vault....

He who holds the keys to the bank vault….

Globe Trekker is in Japan!

Globe Trekker is in Japan!

We have just finished filming another brand new Globe Trekker episode and this time we are in Central Japan with Megan McCormick.

We have explored Kyoto, Osaka, Iga-Ueno, followed Samurai Warriors in battle, trained with Ninjas at a famous fighting school, learned how to play traditional Japanese drums, transformed into a Geisha and have been transported into the future with sci-fi cars and robots!

Here are some snaps from our trip!

In Nagoya, home of Toyota, which has teams of engineers dreaming up new inventions.  Company planners believe that one-person vehicles are the wave of the future.  This is the i-Unit, one of Toyota’s latest inventions.

In-Nagoya,-home-of-Toyota,-which-has-teams-of-engineers-dreaming-up-new-inventions

 

In Osaka, one of Japan’s many very crowded cities, in a Cat Café.  There are quite a lot of these in the city (and elsewhere in Japan) designed to satisfy the ‘pet needs’ of the many Japanese people who live in apartment blocks where it is forbidden for residents to keep pets (so that they don’t annoy or disturb the neighbours – Japan being a society where people are always worrying about what other people think, putting society before self).

In-Osaka,-one-of-Japan’s-many-very-crowded-cities,-in-a-Cat-Café

 

In Kyoto, at the Toei Movie Studio Theme Park, is the cheapest place in Kyoto where you can get dressed up as a Geisha

In-Kyoto,-at-the-Toei-Movie-Studio-Theme-Park-Japan-blog

In-Kyoto,-at-the-Toei-Movie-Studio-Theme-Park,-which-is-the-cheapest-place-in-Kyoto-where-you-can-get-dressed-up-as-a-Geisha

 

Megan enters a Ninja contest near Iga-Ueno (in Koga) in which people can indulge the popular Japanese fantasy of being a Ninja for the day.  Around 100 contestants took part.  Some take it seriously, but most are in it just for a bit of Sunday afternoon fun!

Megan-enters-a-Ninja-contest-near-Iga-Ueno-in-Koga-in-which-people-can-indulge-the-popular-Japanese-fantasy-of-being-a-Ninja-for-the-day

 

Sado island is the home of the world-famous traditional Japanese drumming group Kodo.  The former schoolhouse in Iwakubi houses 20 or so apprentices who spend two years living and practising in the hope of being accepted into the group at the end of two years training.

Sado-island-is-the-home-of-the-world-famous-traditional-Japanese-drumming-group-Kodo

Holly Morris: Why stay in Chernobyl? Because it’s home.

Holly Morris: Why stay in Chernobyl? Because it's home.

Chernobyl was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident and, for the past 27 years, the area around the plant has been known as the Exclusion Zone. And yet, a community of about 200 people live there – almost all of them elderly women. These proud grandmas defied orders to relocate because their connection to their homeland and to their community are “forces that rival even radiation.”

Globe Trekker presenter Holly Morris tells the stories of these women, called the Babushkas of Chernobyl who live in  the radioactive Dead Zone surrounding Chernobyl’s Reactor No. 4. This is a community of elderly women, defiantly clinging to their ancestral homeland. While most of their neighbours have long since fled and their husbands have gradually died off, this stubborn sisterhood is hanging on — even, oddly, thriving — while trying to cultivate an existence on some of the most toxic acres on Earth. Holly first came across these resilient women while filming Globe Trekker Ukraine

Why they chose to live here after the disaster, defying the authorities and endangering their health, is a remarkable tale—about the pull of home, the healing power of shaping one’s destiny and the subjective nature of risk.

Inspired by the people they met in Chernobyl, especially those who have chosen to stay in the ‘Dead Zone’ despite the health warnings, Holly Morris and Director of the Ukraine show Anne Bogart have launched their campaign and brand new film venture www.thebabushkasofchernobyl.com and watch Holly explain more about the film in this fascinating Ted Talk:

 

National Geographic Celebrates 125 Years of Awe-Inspiring Photo-Journalism

National Geographic Celebrates 125 Years of Awe-Inspiring Photo-Journalism

Jaw-dropping, arresting, breathtaking.  Just some of the adjectives associated with National Geographic and to celebrate 125 years in the business of visual story-telling, National Geographic has delved deep into their archives and pulled out some truly stunning photographs - some of which are instantly recognisable and other which have had a profound impact on our history.

The National Geographic Society and was launched in October 1888 as a non-profit dedicated to funding science and exploration across the planet and in 125 years the iconic brand synonymous with dramatic, impactful imagery and outstanding journalism has grown to over 60 million readers worldwide, a popular TV channel, and a website which receives a monthly footfall of 27 million visitors!

National Geographic has always been a place for firsts.  Creating the first ever photo of the night sky in the Northern Hemisphere, creating the first underwater colour photographs, and now for the first time as part of their newly designed photo-sharing platform, the magazine is inviting  all photo enthusiasts to submit photos and participate in a digital assignment for the magazine. So what are you waiting for? Get over to Your Shot for your chance to be featured!

And for those armchair enthusiasts out there, visit the Magazine’s brand new photo-blog, “Proof,” which promises to be a provocative and eclectic look at the world of National Geographic photography.

Photography is a powerful tool and form of self-expression,” said Chris Johns, editor in chief of National Geographic magazine. “Sharing what you see and experience through the camera allows you to connect, move and inspire people around the world.

We at Globe Trekker HQ couldn’t agree more and wish 125 more years of brilliant photography from one of our favourite photographic trailblazers!

Happy Birthday Madiba!

Happy Birthday Madiba!

July 18th Marks the UN’s Nelson Mandela Day but it is also the birthday of one of the greatest men in living history and Globe Trekker wishes a speedy recovery to one of the World’s most courageous public figures.

In his home country of South Africa, office workers, students, soldiers and ordinary citizens marked Mandela Day by sprucing up orphanages, painting walls at schools and delivering food to the poor (Reuters).

The Mandela Day campaign message is simple: Mr Mandela gave 67 years of his life fighting for the rights of humanity. The message of this day is that everyone donates 67 minutes of their time, whether it’s supporting your chosen charity or serving your local community.

Mandela Day is a call to action for individuals – for people everywhere – to take responsibility for changing the world into a better place, one small step at a time, just as Mr Mandela did.

For more information and to place your pledge visit http://www.mandeladay.com/static/how-do-i-get-involved

To find out more about Mr Mandela’s fight to freedom why not check out our Globe Trekker Guide to South Africa with Justine Shapiro and if you are working on a school project or college essay about Nelson Mandela or his years at Robbin Island, then check out our mini-guide The Apartheid Prison of Robben Island as well as an insight into living in a Soweto township.

How to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Around the Globe

How to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day Around the Globe

Copious amounts of green clothing, beer, leprechauns, dyed green food, overcrowded pubs and Irish bars can only mean one thing, St. Patrick’s Day is in the air and although this holiday feast originated in Ireland to celebrate the Patron Saint, St. Patrick,  it is now celebrated throughout the world by the Irish and non-Irish alike, leading to the widely heard phrase, “Everybody wants to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.”

From Ireland, Italy, Norway, Germany, South Korea and Japan to Canada and the United States, people typically adorn themselves in at least one green clothing item and take part in this worldwide celebration each year on or around March 17th.

Join Globe Trekker Ian Wright as he attempts a gruelling hike up Croagh Patrick, where Ireland’s patron saint, St Patrick,spent 40 days of lent on this mountain, fighting demons and banishing serpents from the land.   This vigil made the 2513-foot quartz peak a sacred pilgrimage site for Catholics.  Full episode: http://bit.ly/1gyVmSn

St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland: photo credit: Amy Swearingen

St. Patrick’s Day in NYC: photo credit: Damien Derouene

St. Patrick’s Day B Boy performance Seoul, South Korea: Photo Credit: Anton Petrov

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Globe Trekker Ireland

The Gardens by the Bay – Singapore

Singaporeans are an industrious lot.  Just look at what they have achieved in their city over the past 50 years.  Impressive and quite simply spectacular buildings line their cityscape and their architects show no signs of slowing down.   I first visited in the mid 1970s and have been coming here at least twice a year since 2000. On every visit, another dizzying landmark arises, from the remarkable arts complex with its unique porcupine inspired roof or most recently, the Marina Bay shopping and casino complex, constructed on reclaimed land and home to every major design label on the planet, and along with Las Vegas and London’s Westfield projects, claims to be among the world’s most “epic indoor shopping malls!”

The Singaporeans are expert at taming this hot, tropical island that was malaria infested when Sir Stamford Raffles of the British East India Company founded a trading post here some  200 years ago. But with their latest monumental development, The Gardens by the Bay, just a short pedestrian bridge walk across the motorway from the Marina Bay complex, they may have slipped up.

Singapore is fond of borrowing ideas from the West, particularly its former colonial master, Britain. They have erected a giant carousel wheel, a spitting image of the British Airways Millennium Wheel in London, a few years back and now The Gardens by the Bay looks very much like Singapore’s take on Britain’s Eden Project in Cornwall.

On a recent tour, it all looks a little too man made, particularly given its ecological and environmental themes. It reminded me of another British project, the ill-fated Millennium Dome. Like The Dome, The Gardens have a strong educative back story. However honourable the intentions, for The Dome it smacked of ”searching for a purpose”. I hope the same fate doesn’t befall The Gardens.

The Cloud Forest exhibit, constructed inside a gigantic sphere that has won several international architectural awards, seemed pointless – a triumph of man over nature. Give me Singapore’s excellent Botanic Gardens, at a fraction of the price, any time. The Flower Garden was more inspiring, a showcase of plants from around the word inside a giant greenhouse – a 21st Century version of the wonderful 19th century greenhouses doing the same job at Kew Gardens in London.

I couldn’t help thinking on leaving this giant complex with its hideous pink and purple railings and twee bunting, that this was man taming nature, not celebrating it. And Singapore is pretty good at that.

Posted by Ian Cross

Want to know more about Singapore? Check out these pages on Pilot: