Monthly Archives: August 2017

A New Perspective on St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg: Picture of Natalya and Dan.

After a free walking tour of St. Petersburg.

Natalya works for a company called United Tours Russia, giving free walking tours of St. Petersburg. We talked about life in Russia, her time living in Egypt, and travel in Cuba.

Bonus: I also tell the story of my attempt to visit Vladimir Lenin's mausoleum in Moscow.

Note: Since recording this podcast, I've been paying more attention to the way strangers in Russia interact with me. In fact, many of them do smile, but not in a bright “Hi, how are you!” way like you would see in the United States. This subdued, slightly cautious attitude is growing on me. It seems much more authentic than the over-the-top greetings I'm used to getting from people I've never met.

Maybe I'll talk more about this subject more as I travel through the world's largest country. But for now, please enjoy this week's podcast:

Download this Episode (right-click and choose “save as”)

Show notes:

Manzhouli, China is home to the world's largest matryoshka doll. You can read more about my time visiting this unique part of the world here.

Photos from Finland (and Estonia)

Finland: Picture of Fei, Tapani, Katie on ferry.

Fei, Tapani, Katie and I leaving Finland by boat.

After leaving Iceland, Katie and I went to Finland for about a week. We spent most of our time visiting our friends Fei and Tapani, as well their daughter and Fei's parents. We managed to pack in many small adventures in Helsinki, including taking a ferry to an island that was once a fortress, sampling some of the country's best micro-brews, and making several trips to the sauna. We also spent three days bicycling around Turku (Finland's old capital), and we even squeezed in a day trip to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia.

We had a great time on this introduction to our yearlong journey. Finland is a lovely country in northern Europe, with landscapes full of rolling hills, tall pines, and long summer days. And of course, there was also plenty of great company.

Here are some photos from our trip to Finland and Tallinn:

Finland: Picture of ferry to Suomenlinna.

Riding the ferry to Suomenlinna, a small island off of the coast of Helsinki.

Finland: Picture of dry dock.

This was once the largest dry dock in the world.

Finland: Picture of fort.

The fort on Suomenlinna.

Finland: Picture of wheat field.

A wheat field near Turku.

Finland: Picture of Dan eating a strawberry.

We ate farm fresh strawberries during our bike ride.

Finland: Picture of farmland.

Red barns and rolling hills – are we in Wisconsin?

Finland: Picture of Hanka shelter.

We slept in Hanka's shelter while waiting for the ferry.

Finland: Picture of Baltic Sea.

It looks like a lake, but this is actually the Baltic Sea.

Finland: Picture of big ferry.

Here's the big ferry we had to wait overnight for.

Finland: Picture of small ferry.

We also got to take a few of these smaller ferries.

Finland: Picture of dragonfly.

This dragonfly landed on Katie's backpack strap. It must be good luck, right?

Finland: Picture of village.

Lenin hid somewhere in this village.

Finland: Picture of St. Olaf's in Tallinn.

The view from the top deck of St. Olaf's church.

Finland: Picture of short doorway.

People sure were shorter back then.

Finland: Picture of Katie with map.

Where to next?

Finland: Picture of square in Tallinn.

The town square in Tallinn.

Finland: Picture of suit of armor.

There were a lot of cool suits of armor in Tallinn.

Finland: Picture of Tallinn Ferry.

Here's the ferry we rode to Tallinn and back.

For more of my photos from Finland and Estonia, click:

Trans-Siberian Tips

Trans-Siberian: Picture of Jari and Nadezhda.

Jari and Nadezhda talk about the Trans-Siberian Railway.

While staying in Helsinki, Finland, Katie and I met Jari and Nadezhda. They used to live in Beijing, so we had a lot in common. We swapped many China stories, and I found out that they had taken the Trans-Siberian train from Vladivostok to Helsinki.

Katie and I are at the beginning of our own Trans-Siberian experience. Currently we are in St. Petersburg and plan to head east to Lake Baikal, then south to Mongolia. On this podcast, Jari and Nadezhda gave me some great tips on riding this famous train across Russia. Let's take a listen:

Download this Episode (right-click and choose “save as”)

Show notes:

  • Jari and Nadezhda met at a Crossfit gym in Beijing. I was just in Madison, WI, where the 2017 Crossfit Games were happening.
  • We also talked about Heyrobics in Beijing.
  • Yak is an airline that serves much of Russia. Despite the name, the food on it is supposed to be pretty good.
  • I mentioned a great memoir by Jon Turk called The Raven's Gift, which mostly takes place in Kamchatka.
  • The Kamchatka brown bear is a subspecies of brown bear. So apparently, grizzlies and browns are the same species, even though there are notable differences between the two.

Iceland on a Budget

Iceland: Picture of Iceland.

Iceland is a beautiful country.

Iceland was nearly a bust. Katie and I had a miserable first day, losing our shirts to the ridiculously pricey public transportation and spending the afternoon shivering and soaking wet from pouring rain. But then the sky cleared and we had an amazing two-day hike, from Skógar to Þórsmörk, between the fantastically-named Tindfjallajökull and Eyjafjallajökull volcanoes. The scenery was beautiful, the company friendly, the weather perfect. On our last day in the country, we returned to the airport, elated to have visited.

Iceland: Picture of Skógafoss.


Iceland: Picture of Eyjafjallajökull.

The area around Eyjafjallajökull, which famously erupted in 2010.

Iceland: Picture of sunset at Þórsmörk.

Sunset at Þórsmörk.

The rumors that Iceland is expensive and touristy proved true, but for good reason. This place is rugged and beautiful. Next time Katie and I have to fly from Europe to the US (or vice-versa), we'll definitely look into doing another stopover deal.

On our last day, I recorded a podcast, talking about our trip and giving some advice for first-time travelers to Iceland. Katie also joined me on the show and talked about how to save a ton of money by dehydrating food.

Click the Play button to listen to the podcast:

Download this Episode (right-click and choose “save as”)

Here's a breakdown of our spending for four days and three nights in Iceland:

Luggage storage: 3,000 króna
Gasoline for our stove: 167 kr
Water and coffee at Selfoss: 790 kr
Postcard and chocolate: 1060 kr
2 bus tickets from KEF to Mjodd: 3500 kr
2 bus tickets from Mjodd to Selfoss: 2640 kr
2 bus tickets from Selfoss to Skógar: 7920 kr
2 bus tickets from Þórsmörk to Reykjavik: 17,400 kr
2 bus tickets from Reykjavik to KEF: 5000 kr
Camping night 1 (2 people): 3000 kr
Camping night 2 (2 people): 4000 kr
Camping night 3 (2 people): 2400 kr
Dehydrated food: $60 USD

Food: $60 USD
Transportation: 36460 kr ($339.53)
Lodging: 9400 kr ($87.54)
Misc: 5017 kr ($46.72)

Grand total: $533.79 ($66.72 per person, per day)

And here's the game Katie played during the podcast:

Iceland vs Katie and Dan
Food: Iceland 0, K&D 1
Transportation: Iceland 1, K&D 0
Lodging: Iceland 0, K&D 0
Coffee: Iceland 0, K&D 1

So Katie and Dan win, 2-1!

Here are some photos I took of our short trip to Iceland:

Iceland: Picture of Skógafoss.

A rainbow at Skógafoss.

Iceland: Picture of waterfall.

Another waterfall on this very green river.

Iceland: Picture of Skógá river.

The Skógá river has carved a canyon, full of waterfalls, from the mountains to the ocean.

Iceland: Picture of Katie hiking on a glacier.

Day 2: hiking across the glacier.

Iceland: Picture of Katie hiking across the Eyjafjallajökull region.

Hiking across the volcano.

Iceland: Picture of Katie in Iceland.

Looking north, toward the valley.

Iceland: Picture of green landscape.

After we headed down for a bit, the landscape turned green again.

Iceland: Picture of wildflowers.

Wildflowers in the riverbed of Þórsmörk.

Iceland: Picture of Valahnúkur.

On our last day, we hiked to the top of Valahnúkur for a panoramic view of the region.

Iceland: Picture of Katie and dan on top of Valahnúkur.

Katie and Dan.

Here are some more of my photos from Iceland.

Here's a short video I shot of one of the buses fording the river at Þórsmörk:

And this is why you shouldn't attempt to take a regular 4WD vehicle across the river. The car toward the back of the video is stuck.

Show Notes: