Sunday, October 17, 2010

Europe-Asia Continental Divide

Border crossing is an integral part of travel when you move from country to country. And on many land border crossing, it is an adventure itself eg. Kunjerab Pass between Pakistan and China (check out my article here)! However, along the Trans-Siberian Rail, you will not cross countries, but cross continents instead!

This is one of the attractions of Yekaterinburg (or Ekaterinburg), the city close to the Ural mountains in Russia where Europe meets Asia. A monument is placed to mark the site, and visitors often come here to have one foot in Europe and one foot in Asia! Some years ago, the authorities in Yekaterinburg decided that a new marker to be built and placed at a site nearer the city, more convenient for travelers to visit! According to the Lonely Planet guide, scientists have agreed that the new site is a more geographical accurate location for the continental rendezvous! An obelisk was unveiled in 2004, and it is constructed from stones from both continents - one stone was taken from the furthest point of the European part, Cape Rock; another was taken from the furthest point of the Asian part, Cape of Deghnev.

New border marker

Gimmick or not, the pull of being standing between 2 continents is strong. There are many "package tours" from hotels and travel agencies in the city that covers the Europe-Asia border site as well as various attractions in the city. You can also hire a taxi to go to the site, which is what I did. The driver also brought me to the old site where the old monument still stands. From my geotagged photos, you will see where Europe supposedly meets Asia (in Russia at least!)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day 2010 - Water

Last year, I participated in Blog Action Day 2009 and blogged about glaciers.
This year, I am in a middle of a long trip and so, will not be blogging about the themed topic. However, I hope this entry serves to remind my readers that the event is still going on and that you can support it too!

Check it out! Thanks!|Start Petition

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tomsk, Siberia

Tomsk may not ring a bell for quite a few Trans-Siberian travellers, and it is a pity. While not on the main Trans-Siberian line, it is a simple "detour" well worth doing, esp in autumn when the city is graced by the autumn foliage.

Billed as a university city, it hosts quite a few of these academic institutions. But interestingly, its main attraction is its 'wooden-lace' architecture - old timber houses that decorate various parts of the city. Some of these have been restored, but a number of them seems to be rooted in the past and amazingly, a couple of them seems to be inhabited as well. However, the city exude a young and vibrant feel (thanks to the universities?), and the streets are lined with cafes with Wifi etc.

What I like about Tomsk though, is how the city is planned out. Aside from monuments and statues found in almost any other Russian city, many parts of the streets are tree-lined, and even part of the tram line goes through a canopy of trees! Strolling seems to be the city's main pasttime, and I think Tomsk is the city I've seen with the most number of couples and families pushing baby strollers!! Furthermore, the Tom river is just besides the main street, and provides another venue for a wonderful stroll! To top it off, in end September, the autumn foliage makes the whole experience even sweeter!

And really, after hours and/or days of eating and sleeping on a train, a brief stay in Tomsk does wonders to your soul...