Russia πŸ‡·πŸ‡Ί

We spent six weeks traveling in eastern Russia, where more than a few locals seemed a bit puzzled as to why we were there. Ours was, one tourism worker joked, “not the normal route.”

Most visitors start in Moscow, nine time zones away from where we started in Kamchatka, a wilderness-rich peninsula on Russia’s eastern edge. We slowly worked our way west thanks to the Trans-Siberian Railway, a couple ferries, too many buses, and a Soviet-era military van.

The journey was tough at times, but it offered unexpectedly beautiful scenery and the first major detour of our year-long trip. Russia also surprised us with two charming yet stunningly different cities on opposite sides of the world’s deepest lake.

View of volcano hike in Kamchatka

But first, the frustrating beauty that is Kamchatka. The peninsula is a vast wilderness peppered with active volcanoes, billowing hot springs and mountain rivers. Read about our hikes and our troubles here.

We also took a nine-hour bus ride along Kamchatka’s only long-distance road to Esso, a small mountain town known for great hiking. The trip didn’t exactly go as planned: we befriended the local hospital staff but also got a thrilling trip in frigid rapids.

Russian ballet

Want to read a review of a Russian ballet by a guy who can’t do a box step? Here’s your chance! Complete with phrases like “that tippy toe thing.”

Vladivostok is off the beaten track, likely because it’s thousands of miles east of Moscow with a history more focused on military than culture. But that’s changing. Read our full report from the city here.

Tea and chocolate on the Trans-Siberian Railway

We took the Trans-Siberian Railway the opposite way of most tourists by starting at its eastern-most station. Some tourists skip this section entirely, taking the world’s longest railway from Moscow to central Russia.

But the views of eastern Russia — and the surprisingly lush and mountainous Siberia — do not disappoint. Nor does the borscht soup, chocolate and complimentary slippers. Read about our trip here.

Hiking along Lake Baikal

Hiking along cliffs overlooking Lake Baikal on the Great Baikal Trail. It was an unexpected stop after realizing the lake — the deepest in the world — offers stunning views and great hikes in the middle of Siberia.

So we got off the train early in the first official detour in our year-long journey. Read more here about our hiking and local efforts, inspired in part by the Appalachian Trail in the U.S., to build a path around the massive lake.

Government dissidents banished from Moscow in the early 1800s after a failed coup. High-society wives and families following the condemned men thousands of miles to Siberia, their European customs in tow.

The result is the history-rich city of Irkutsk, nicknamed the “Paris of Siberia.” It’s a charming city and a not-to-be-missed stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Prompted by recommendations from several people we met in Russia, we visited Olkhon Island, the largest island in Lake Baikal. Unfortunately, the trip was disappointing.

The scenery was stunning, but tourism demands seem to be quickly outpacing eco-friendly development. Read about our trip and the information we found later here.

A childhood dream was realized in the unique city of Ulan-Ude, which immediately felt different from other Russian cities. Read about it here!

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