The Arktika Train: Moscow to Murmansk

Today I want to present you the Artika train (Artic train), that takes you from Moscow to Murmansk, above the Artic Circle, and/or back. Murmansk is by far the largest city north of the Arctic Circle (with a population of around 300.000 people) and is a major port on the Arctic Ocean. It is located in the extreme northwest part of Russia, on the Kola Bay, an inlet of the Barents Sea on the northern shore of the Kola Peninsula, close to Russia's borders with Norway.

Sixty: the highest restaurant in Europe

Sixty operates both as a restaurant and as a cafè. That is one of the greatest features of the place and a truly fantastic opportunity not to miss if you want to enjoy one of Moscow's most spectacular views on a budget! You can actually go to this establishment pretty much at any time during opening hours and, provided it is not already full, you can then just enjoy a cup of coffee (or tea, if you are feeling very Russian or very British) and no one will even raise an eyebrow because you are not raking up a substancial bill.

A heavy cloud lifts, again, from the Russian White House

the 26th anniversary of the end of the 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt, also known as the August Putsch. 1991 was the dawn of historical changes that would affect Russia and the whole geopolitical system of the world. Although the coup collapsed in only two days and Gorbachev returned to government, the event destabilised the Soviet Union and is widely considered to have contributed to both the demise of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Gagarin’s glory

If you can read Cyrillic, you will already have noticed that the town's name is Gagarin, in honour of the first human to journey into outer space: Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin or simply Yuri Gagarin. The Soviet cosmonaut was born on March 9th, 1934, in the nearby village of Klushino and after his death in 1968 (when the MiG-15 training jet he was piloting crashed) the city was renamed in his honour (and I suspect, but that's just my speculation, also because the former name of Gzhatsk - Гжатск - was all but unpronounceable!).

De-icing at Domodedovo

When temperatures plummet below zero Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) a very time consuming (but absolutely critical) operation that planes have to go through before departure is that of de-icing.

A brief history of Russian America

Did you know that less than a century before being admitted to the USA as the 49th State Alaska was part of Russia and it was called Russian America? Alaska was actually discovered by Russia and it was part of the Russian empire until the emperor Alexander II sold 586,412 square miles (1,518,800 km2) of land to the United States on March 30, 1867 for $7.2 million.

The entrance to Paveletskaya

Paveletskaya was built to a design by Alexey Dushkin as a temporary deep (33.5 meters underground) pylon station of London type - with two side platforms, but without a central hall. Work on converting Paveletskaya to a fully functional station commenced in 1950; the station was reopened February 21, 1953, only 12 days before Stalin's death. We can, therefore, say that this station is one of the very last examples of Soviet architecture built under Stalin.

Low flying Tupolev in Smolensk

The monument is actually not a replica, but a real retired Tu-16 from the the 46 VA VGK (SN) heavy bomber unit that was based in Smolensk. If you are a bit of an airplane fanatic (like me) and you visit Smolensk, then you just have to go and see the Tupolev Tu-16 monument just a few hundred meters (about a quarter mile) due West from the center of town, at the southern "vertex" of a small triangular shaped park.

Where Berlioz lost his head – The Bulgakov museum in Moscow

The Bulgakov House is situated on the ground floor of Bolshaya Sadovaya ulitsa no. 10 in Moscow, in the building where the Soviet writer used to live, and in which some major scenes of his masterpiece are set. In the novel, though, Bulgakov didn't situate the building at number 10, using instead the number 302-bis, to denounce the complexity of the Soviet administration in his time.

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