Tell Us Where to Go!

We've been on the road for just over three weeks, and have already visited four of our 11 cities. At this rate, we could whip on through the rest of them and be home just after Halloween.

But there's a reason we've been in a hurry: We've made arrangements to join a scientific expedition on Lake Baikal that launches on October 1. We'll go out on a small boat with a group of scientists to spend a couple of days on Baikal, the world's largest freshwater lake, just as Gary and I did in 1995. Though the October 1 launch date meant we had to rush a bit through our first few cities, we felt like it was worth it.

Once we finish with the expedition, though, we'll have an extra week to fill. David and I were talking about this the other day, and we decided to throw it open to you, the readers: Where should we go? Any place between Novosibirsk and St. Petersburg is fair game, as long as it's not too far from the path we've already planned (see above map).



Put Lisa and David on a train to a new destination. (David Hillegas)

Is there an amazing town, wacky sight or fabulously interesting person we really should visit? Is there someone in Russia you haven't seen in a long while, and would like us to post a photo of? In 1995, a Russian citizen living in Canada asked us to visit his family in Irkutsk -- he hadn't seen his young sons in five years -- and it was one of the most moving days of our trip. (We'll be updating that story, too, when we get to Irkutsk!)

We welcome any suggestions -- just post them in the comments section below before Friday, October 7. We'll consider them all, then make our decision that weekend. Tell us where to go!

---

In other news, when I went to buy our train tickets for Ulan Ude yesterday, the cashier looked at me through her little window and asked, "So, have you seen everything in Chita?"

I wasn't sure what she meant, and as it's incredibly unusual for people -- especially those in customer service positions -- to make small talk, I just looked at her stupidly.

"I saw you on TV," she said with a little smile as she tapped at her computer. "They showed you a couple of nights ago." I laughed and asked her how it looked, since I hadn't seen it myself. "It looked good," she said, then added, "Just make sure you get home before the real winter sets in. It gets really cold here."

---

Tonight, we're off to Ulan-Ude, to see the world's largest Lenin head, and to check back in on Buyanto Tsydypov, the Buryat farmer in the nearby village of Galtai.

By Lisa Dickey |  September 22, 2005; 7:30 AM ET
Previous: Chita: Scenes from Lenin Street, 10 Years Later | Next: Ulan Ude: Buryatia and the Giant Lenin Head

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I suggest you consider going to both Novgorod Veliki and Kaluga with your spare week. Novgorod Veliki is one of the more historic/ancient cities, with a wonderful Kremlin--and a nice duality between old & new. And it is easily right on your route, south of St. Pete. Kaluga is not far SW of Moscow, and is a great example of a semi-prosperous river city of medium size. What sets it apart is its link to the Soviet/Russian space program--the equivalent of the Smithsonian's Air & Space museum is in Kaluga, and is fabulous. The reason for this is the father of soviet space science was from Kaluga. Also, there is a wonderful, old orthodox monastery near Kaluga you can take a day trip to--it is restored and has several hundred monks and priests in training--well worth the trip. On balance, I'd add Kaluga to your trip first, and then stop in Novgorod Veliki on your way up to St. Pete (or as an added day trip out from there). Happy travels!

Posted by: N. Meyer | September 23, 2005 11:02 AM

Magnitogorsk! See how the residents live with (or at least tolerate) one of the largest steel mills--and one of the most polluted towns--in the world!

Posted by: Steve | September 23, 2005 01:04 PM

I'd like to suggest Ekaterinburg. It's a city with a past: the last Tsar was killed there and buried nearby, it was an industrial powerhouse (Uralmash!) and a closed city in Soviet days, and it's Boris Yeltsin's home town.

Posted by: Anne | September 23, 2005 01:09 PM

Lisa!
It's Carole from High School! Robin just sent this to me and...WOW! What fun you must be having! My husband's nephew is in Poland (which I know is not on your path) serving a mission. I've never been anywhere overseas, but I live vicariously through others' adventures. Just visit every place along your way, take a lot of pictures and enjoy every minute. My own personal travel goals are to see: The Grand Canyon, The Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore and Disney World (why not?)someday. Take care and I'll bookmark this page and check back on your travels.
Sincerely, Carole

Posted by: Carole (Paradis) Gentry | September 23, 2005 01:56 PM

I can suggest to visit the town of Berdsk. It is located a few miles from Academtown (Akademgorodok)in Novosibirsk that you most likely will visit. In 1980's I lived in Akademgorodok, but worked for a couple of years at a large plant in Berdsk that specilized in consumer electronics (radios, acoustic systems, etc. ) It would be interesting to learn how things are there. To you and your readers such a visit would give an insight into a very different life than that you will find in Novosibirsk and Akademgorodok.

Posted by: George | September 23, 2005 01:57 PM

Magnotogorks is certainly an idea. Though the level of hardship you put yourself through should also be considered.

Incidentally, if you do end up going to Magnitogorsk, or want to know more about it, there's a great book out by professor Stephen Kotkin of Princeton called "Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism As a Civilization" (amazon.com link below).

Though the there are outstanding questions as to the scope and usefulness of his methodology and analysis, as well as micro-history in general, Kotkin's book makes for some fascinating reading.

Cheers,
Artem

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0520208234/ref=ase_pubook-20/103-5826347-4210241?v=glance&s=books

Posted by: Artem K. Khamzin | September 23, 2005 02:01 PM

If you do go to Ekaterinburg (in addition to what is mentioned above Gary Powers was shot down near the city), I would suggest a side trip to Verkheturiia. We were there in 1997 when the third largest church is Russia, which is located there, was being restored. It used to be the place where the caravans from the east stopped to pay taxes before crossing the Ural Mountains and had over a dozen wealthy monasteries and churches. In Soviet times, the church housed a reform school and there was an ice skate factory in the town.

Posted by: linda | September 23, 2005 06:25 PM

I'd suggest Tver and Veliki Novgorod. Both were rivals of Moscow in medieval times, and some would say, probably convey the sense of Russia's ancient heartland better than any other city/town in your itenarary.
Omsk may be interesting too.

Posted by: oleg | September 23, 2005 11:46 PM

I suggest that you visit Ulyanovsk. It is special to me because it is the city of my daughter's birth. We adopted her in 2001, she was in what is called the cottage orphanage. I'd love to see how it has changed in 4 years. On a more "educational" note, it is also the birthplace of Lenin. It was originally named Simbirsk, but was changed to Ulyanovsk in honor of Vladimir Ulyanov who changed his name to Lenin. There is much of historical interest to see. Thanks for giving this consideration!

Posted by: susie | September 24, 2005 09:35 AM

I spent time in 1988 and 1989 in Yaroslavl in the summer. It was quite safe then and had a lot of charm and some very dear people. It is north of Moscow. I have heard now that it has changed a great deal, much more crime. What is your sense on crime rates or gang violence in your travels now 10 years later? I am enjoying your blogs greatly!!! Thanks so much.
Sincerely, Marianne

Posted by: Marianne | September 24, 2005 01:07 PM

Saratov is a bustling and thriving "college town" along the Volga. I have friends who worked with university students there and I visited 2 years ago. It is full of historical interest but also growing into a lively city that boasts young people with new hope for the future of Russia. Wherever you go, I am enjoying following along!

Posted by: Mandy | September 24, 2005 02:01 PM

I've always wanted to read a piece on Murom (ancient Russian city not as well known as the others).

Posted by: Varya | September 24, 2005 09:46 PM

The choice is easy! Go to Yekaterinburg where you can see Yeltsin's hometown, the site where the Tsar was killed and then if you have time and want to see a polluted city a little closer than Magnit. you can go to Nizhny Tagil where every day the city sky is a different color based on what the factory in town is spewing out that day. Also check out the Europe-Asia border marker outside of Yekat. If you do go, look up the Boris Gotlib in the International Department of Ural State University of Railway Transport (my old boss when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer there).

Posted by: Ben | September 25, 2005 03:51 AM

I suggest you go to Odintsovo to see the "future" of Russia. It's a Moscow suburb with a lot of construction going on. You see an emerging middle class. There is a new commuter train which goes to the center of Moscow in 25 minutes.
It is just south of where the super-rich live in Rublovskaya. My family and I live in a townhouse there, but it's 98% Russian.

Posted by: Derek | September 26, 2005 06:33 AM

If you have time, go to Samara. Reasons:
1. Site of Stalin's WW II bunker (where he planned to run the war); 2. Home of the Soviet Space Program, and once a city so closed to travelers that the Volga cruises only passed the town at night; 3. Home of one of the best orphanage systems in Russia. They are so successful at getting their children adopted that they are known throughout adoption circles and among doctors who handle international adoptions.

It was also a fascinating city of real beauty and real poverty -- a model of post Soviet life, with a brand new Marriott Rennisance Hotel!

Bill

Posted by: Bill | September 26, 2005 07:26 AM

How about going down south from Omsk to the New capital city of Kazakhstan - Astana? A contrast of old part of the city and new is amazing. It is also a good indication of how oil money from the former Soviet Republic can transformed a small regional city to a ultramodern capital of a country. Too modern in fact!

Posted by: Roka | September 26, 2005 08:28 AM

We have a personal bias for nominating Tyumen, which is along the Trans-Siberian railroad. Five and a half years ago, we traveled to Tyumen to adopt our two sons. In fact, a number of Americans have adopted children from the children's home there. Given the current debate in Russia about the merits of international adoption, it might be interesting to see how it plays out in that region, where officials have traditionally looked favorably at international adoption as one way for their children to have a fresh start at life. From an historical perspective, Tyumen is supposedly the city where the Soviets moved Lenin's body during WW2 to keep it from being captured by the Nazis.

Posted by: Nelson | September 26, 2005 08:45 AM

I second to Saratov - the city where i was born but have not seen in many years...

Posted by: Lina | September 26, 2005 09:24 AM

Although I realize it may be a while out of your journey, I would like to see a more country/village side of Russia. I am not sure if you have much to compare it to from you '95 visit, but if you had a day to get out into the country, it would be interesting to see how things have changed in the past 10 years outside of a larger city.

Posted by: Ryan | September 26, 2005 12:11 PM

Hi! I've loved reading about your travels this time (and catching up on last time). I, too, was in Russia in 1995/96, as part of a study abroad program. During the "spring" semester of 1996 I lived in Kazan with a Tatar family who were wonderful to me. I know you're already going to Kazan, so it's not a suggestion about a new city to visit, but new people in a city already on your list. I stayed with Glus and Ilkem Mustafin and their son Idgei, who lived in an apartment near the city center, at 7 Ul. Tatarstan, kv. 44. Ten years ago, Glus was a physics professor and Ilkem a piano teacher. They lived a fairly comfortable middle-class life, working and hosting American exchange students. I wonder if they're retired now, and, if so, how that has changed their lives. Also, they both have very strong opinions about the interplay of Russian and Tatar rule in their city and how Russian rule has affected the peoples of the former Soviet republics. Also, Glus makes a mean cup of mint tea!

Posted by: Karen | September 26, 2005 02:14 PM

You should definitely stop in Velikiy Novgorod, which is on the path between Moscow and St. Petersburg. The sister city of Rochester, NY, from which I'm writing, Novgorod is a fantastic ancient Russian town with wonderful sights (the Kremlin has the famous monument to the 1,000 years of Russia and wonderful cathedrals) and people. I was just there the week of September 12, and it was, as always, fantastic. You shouldn't miss it! If you would like names of guides or places to see, please ask and I will post again.

Posted by: Mark Bennett | September 26, 2005 03:10 PM

Once you get to St. Petersburg, why not keep going north to Murmansk? It's the largest city in the world above the arctic circle, but due to the Gulf Stream, it remains one of Russia's only year-round port. That's why allied convoys sailed there in WWII. It's my wife's hometown and we were there in May for the annual navy reunion of more than 100 British, American and Canadian veterans who sailed there during the war. It's also near the main Russian nuclear sub base for Atlantic subs, and where many are being safely retired with help from Norwegian and German authorities.
I'd understand your hesitation to go above the arctic circle in November, but because of coastal waters it's still much warmer than Siberia in winter (but still very cold by my standards).
Good luck wherever you decide to go!

Posted by: James VanLandingham | September 26, 2005 03:31 PM

I've got a totally different idea for you. Go south from Novosibirsk to Tashtagol, and then you can do 2 antipoded stories. A) The ski town of Sheregesh. Which, despite all odds is apprently being built up and developed. Go figure. It's really in the middle of absolute nowhereland. B) From the top of the mountain you can see one of those overcrowed, TB infested prisons. Take a risk. Get off the beaten path and get some dicotomied stories. I'd love to know how these two little towns are faring in the years since I've been there.

For directions. ask Chad in Novosibirsk.

Sandy

Posted by: sandy | September 26, 2005 03:50 PM

If not too far how about Volgograd (Stalingrad)? Site of largest battle in the history of the world-during WW II. I was there in 1978 and 2003 with my son. Hasn't changed too much. The Volga River marks the eastern edge of the city. Many monuments and the world's tallest free standing statue of "Mother Russia."

Posted by: Bill | September 26, 2005 09:38 PM

I've just returned to the USA from a month-long visit to Astrakhan. This beautiful and historic city located where the mighty Volga River enters the Caspian Sea would be an interesting destination. Perhaps you could enjoy the dinner cruise on the river? The "unimproved" beautiful delta area south of the city provides an interesting contrast our semi-ruined gulf coast.

Posted by: Terry | September 27, 2005 09:59 AM

If you can get a quickie 3-day transit visa, visit Kazakhstan. It's a seven hour marshutka ride to Kostanai from Chelyabinsk. You could briefly see Russian culture coincide in Kazakhstan. Just the ride to and through the border via Troitsk will offer you a contrast of city, industry, steppe, and agriculture. And if you like being the *only* American people see, this would be the place. It's an unlikely post you'll see an American use to get to Kazakhstan. Fun to see the border guards do a double take on seeing an American passport.

Posted by: pectopah | September 27, 2005 03:40 PM

I travel to various places in Russia for work on a quasi-monthly basis and am enjoying your stories very much! Magnitogorsk is indeed one of the worst, most polluted places I have ever been. However, just out of town I stayed at a worker sanitorium that the mountains shielded from the smog, situated on a frozen mountain lake. It was absolutely beautiful. If you are able to stay at one of these types of places (sanitoriums designed for workers and their families), you will get a rare view of Russian culture. I second Murmansk, especially if you can take in any of the Sami culture. The sight of those giant nuclear-powered icebreakers is also amazing. In Siberia, a few hours by car outside Barnaul is the village of the great Russian writer and filmmaker Shukshin (aside from learning more about Shukshin, one can wander through a typical Russian village and see how many people still live). Highly recommended.

Some of the Siberian cities (Omsk, Novosibirsk, etc) have fine arts museums that serve as repositories for the Hermitage. In Omsk, I also met a man who creates carvings from the wooly mammoth tusks he digs up nearby!

Outside Moscow, Ryazan and Kolumna have interesting Kremlins. It seems that just about every town claims that Pushkin slept there. Some of the autonomous republics, like Bashkortistan, have tried to preserve their unique cultural heritage. There's a fantastic statue of writer/hero Salavat in the capital of Ufa that you should see. If you get to a former Soviet republic, my favorite is Kyrgyzstan.

Russia--and especially the wonderful Russian people--really get under your skin. Enjoy!

Posted by: Elizabeth | September 27, 2005 04:51 PM

We recently adopted our son from Novosibirsk. It's great city and I'm sure has changed many times over since you're last trip. I would strongly urge you to reach out to those who care for the children in one of the many baby homes in the area if possible. These are wonderful people providing care to children in need. I hope you have the chance to meet with them and enjoy the city.

Posted by: Paul | September 27, 2005 08:41 PM

Dear Lisa and David:

I would like you to visit St. Petersburg since it is a major Russina City that has historically been the heart and soul of Russian for many centuries. It is also quite culturally significant with the ballet as well as the former home of many great Russian writers. And I think the people of St. Petersburg are very representatve of the current Russian nation, whatever that maybe!

Posted by: Emil Hunter | September 27, 2005 09:41 PM

I recommend you visit the Altai Republic. The Village of Manjerok is 450 km, a 5 hour drive in a good car, from Novsibirsk. The more sourthern parts of Altai, on the China/Mongol border, are called the "Switzerland of Russia" and artists Nicolas Roerich called it "Shambala". Altai was recognized in Murray Fesxhbach book "EcoSide" as one of the birtheplaces of the perestroika environmental movement when people stood in front of bulldozers to keep the state from building a hydro-elrctric dam on the Katyn River. The abandoned dam has become a tourist attarction but the fight is back on with new plans for a dam that will be 97% privately owned. There is an incredible Altai leader, Danil in Ongydai, who was able to successfully organize and create a national park to celebrate and preserve native culture. He hosted me last summer during the first Kok Bury tournament in the Republic. Two teams on horseback battle for the body of a dead goat that must be thrown onto a pile of rocks for a point. Bottom line, a fascinating place, one of the poorest regions economically in Russia and one of the richest (so far) in beauty. A place well worth visiting and fighting for.

Posted by: Sarah | September 28, 2005 12:41 AM

Well, I had lots of thoughts, but everyone seems to have shared my ideas already! I've been enjoying your posts very much and sharing them with my Russian language class at here in Maryland. I was wondering if this was the summer of the Trans-Siberian Railroad: a couple of journalists from ABC (Australian Broadcast Corporation) were doing a road story from the train starting back in July. You might enjoy reading about their adventures. They also talk a little about being on the train itself.

But to throw in my two cents worth on destinations, I'd second (or was it third or fourth now) Saratov. In addition to the points made, it has a beautiful waterfront along the Volga, a strong history with science institutions, it's the birthplace of Yuri Gagarin (I think: my Russian is imperfect and hence the language classes!), and there's a Lenin statute in the middle of the town square (dolled up for the 60th anniversary of the Victory) that, at least to my mind, has a hand gesture that brought to mind Bill Cosby from "Those of you with and without children, you'll understand": "Come here. Here... HERE!" I couldn't explain why Lenin was making my laugh to my Russian host...

I'd also suggest a visit to Balakovo on the Volga on your way to or from Saratov. It's somewhat literally the powerhouse of the Saratov Oblast and middle Volga region with a major hydroelectric dam and nuclear power station both. There's a nice beach in the old part of the city (built on an island in the river) for an obligatory getting-the-feet-wet in the Volga. There's also a big plastic industry there that makes parts for Lada (the car company), Yakolev (aircraft manufacture), and others. The Hotel Bluebird across the river in Volsk is actually a large complex with swimming pool, sauna, "kinder camp", and a wonderful pine forest on the eastern side of the river and a good starting place for a walk across the dam to the old part of the city. And, unlike most places in Russia including Balakovo itself, running hot water all year long.

You won't go wrong on any of the other suggestions.

I can add another good book on the founding of Magnitogorsk, written by an American who worked on the initial steel mill construction under the New Economic Program in the 1920s and then got chucked out of the country during Stalin's purges of the intelligentsia: Behind the Urals by John Scott.

Posted by: Jesse Allen | September 28, 2005 01:19 PM

I would like to add my vote for visiting an orphanage. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences!

Posted by: Beth | September 29, 2005 12:34 PM

Like me, it appears many are interested in Russia as a result of an adoption. How about Tula, a rundown town 3 hours south of Moscow with many crumbling gray concrete buildings, rusted trams and a quarter inch of gray dust over everything. Home of the Samovar (out-of-date tea making appliance); huge, hard, awful brown cookies that are sold on the roadsides by hundreds of downtrodden mothers (apparently a renowned local delicacy); sight of Peter the Great's Armory (of which no historical artifacts are visible); and, ah, ah.....
Maybe the other ideas are better, but if you want another story on non-Muscovites who pine for the day of Stalin, when all was good, this is your town.

Posted by: Larry | September 29, 2005 12:54 PM

I have no place specific to recommend but I am interested in military history and I have tremendous respect and gratitude for the sacrifices made by the Russians in defeating Germany during WWII. I'd like to hear firsthand how the veterans are doing. I fear that they aren't doing well. If you should see one tell him or her thank you for me.

Posted by: Fred | September 29, 2005 01:28 PM

Saratov would be a great choice...I lived there and in other Volga cities from '94-'96 while as a missionary for the Mormon church. I have yet to return, but loved the academic vibe of the place...many students...also has an interesting influence from 18th century German settlers, who were welcomed by Catherine the Great...the city of Engels (a la Frederick Engels) is across the Volga...

I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but if you're looking for an impact story, go to Chelyabinsk...a little known radiation disaster occurred there during the early Cold War...I know many Americans who spent time there who got very ill...thyroid problems, digestive problems, hair falling out...Bad stuff...see what you can dig up...

If you want adventure, go to Ufa to see the statue of Salavat Yulayev along the banks of the Ufa River. He was a Bashkirian version of Robin Hood, a folk hero of the 18th century peasant war...

I have friends in any of these cities who could be helpful...Enjoy your trip...SiH

Posted by: Steve | September 29, 2005 08:19 PM

I also vote for either Novgorod or somewhere in the Golden Ring. There aren't many of the smaller ancient towns on your trip itinerary.

Posted by: aprilushka | September 30, 2005 09:55 AM

The comment fields stripped the HTML from my earlier comments which made them less useful than intended

ABC (Australia) on the Trans-Siberian Railroad
http://www.abc.net.au/news/specials/transsiberia/

Local newspaper in Balakovo (in Russian)
http://www.balakovo.ru/
You can go to http://webtranslation.paralink.com/ and provide the URL to the online translator to get Russian web pages into approximate English.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0253205360/qid=1128095211/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/104-5054397-3787125?v=glance&s=books&n=507846
John Scott's account of working as a foreigner on steel mill construction in Magnitogorsk in the late 1920s and early 30s during the NEP and handover to Stalin.

I have points of contact in Ufa and Balakovo should you take to either of those suggestions and want people to meet and talk to about life there.

Posted by: Jesse Allen | September 30, 2005 11:49 AM

If you visit Chelyabinsk, you should go and see school N31. Many of its graduates are now in the most prestigious US colleges such as Stanford, Yale, MIT. I am a graduate of this school myself, now in Palo Alto, CA. The director of the school is an extremely interesting, deep, and a driven person.

Posted by: Alexei | October 2, 2005 11:54 PM

Hi,
We're enjoying your trip immensley.
Should you have the time and inclination, I would be interested in seeing how education - the requirements for curriculum as well as funding and teacher salary - have changed. Maybe talking with someone who has been in teaching for the past 10 or 15 years.
Also, how has the funding for museums changed, if at all.

Posted by: SJ | October 3, 2005 07:46 AM

I hope I'm not too late, but I'd second the suggestion of Astrakhan. It's a great city, with deep historic roots, including its 16th-century White Kremlin. It developed as a startlingly multi-ethnic city, with various groups even having their own distinct neighborhoods: Poles, Germans, Jews, Tatars, and even Kalmyks, an intriguing Buddist people from nearby. Astrakhan is also the caviar capital of Russia, which ties in with news of the past few days since Beluga caviar imports will be banned from the United States (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/29/politics/29cnd-caviar.html?8br). Finally, I have a personal connection that might (or might not) be interesting to explore, the "Scharlau and Sons" café. The founder seems to be German, and a friend of mine, Mike Scharlau, says the surname is rare enough to where he figures he might be related.

Lots of choices, none of them bad! Enjoy the journey, regardless, and keep up the great writing!

Posted by: Mark | October 4, 2005 05:35 AM

I would really like to see you go to Nizhniy Novgorod. It sits on the crossing of the Volga and Oka rivers, and offers a very pretty view. Also, this city was named after Maxim Gorky during the Soviet Period, and it houses the car factory where volgas and gazelles are built. Sakharov, the physicist was held here during the Soviet period, and the city has a museum in his honor. I believe that this was also the place from which Lenin wrote his last "testament". It sits on the Kazan to Moscow line and would be very easy for you to get to.

I'm enjoying your work, thanks for doing something like this. Please consider Nizhniy!

Posted by: Will | October 5, 2005 02:56 PM

I missed your travel near Ulan-Ude, but the Buddhist temple in Ivolginsk is amazing.

Also, in Ulan-Ude are the good staff from a local eco-tourism company called FIRN.

I wish you luck in Irkutsk!

Posted by: Ivolginsk | October 6, 2005 08:47 AM

I second the suggestion for Tula. I visited there two years ago while studying in Moscow. The honey cakes are truely wonderful and the experience buying them is just as memorable. It is realatively close to Tolstoy and Chekov's estates/summer homes, for added benefits.

I also had a failed attempt at getting to Volgagrad; I'd be interested even though I have no recommendations to offer.

Posted by: elliott | October 7, 2005 03:13 AM

Last spring my friends and I visited Murmansk and I must admit that there isn't a whole lot to do. However, if you decide to go I would suggest you see Alyosha, the huge Soviet war monument that is located on a hill just north of the city center. I believe there are also some tours that will take you snowmobiling through the hills on the Kola peninsula, but we didn't have enough time to take advantage of this. There is also a good chance you'll see the northern lights, which were and amazing sight.

Posted by: Greg | October 14, 2005 02:02 PM

Saratov is a great city with great people. Hotel Slovokia on the Volga River is surprisingly decent with shockingly good breakfast buffet (much better than the Hotel Volga downtown on the pedestrian street). Interesting war memorial on hill overlooking city. Monument where Yuri Gagarin landed on the other side of the Volga near Engels is famous. Nice little opera house and circus. Lots of old architecture with buildings in desperate need of repair -- see them now before they fall down.

Posted by: mike | October 14, 2005 04:13 PM

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