~ by Maria Benner
We just got back from a month-long trip around the world! We flew East from Anchorage to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia. Then we flew to Irkutsk. If you’ve ever played Risk, these places probably sound familiar. Next, we flew to Kaliningrad, then Amsterdam, and the final leg was from Frankfurt back to Anchorage. In total we spent 29.5 hours in the air. The reason we went on this epic journey was because my Mom always dreamed of seeing Lake Baikal, the largest fresh water lake in the world, and then we visited family. So here are the 15 most memorable highlights of our trip.
1. Seeing the Pacific Ocean from the other side in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy. The beach had black magnetic sand!
Black sand beach (the sand is magnetic) on the Pacific Ocean in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy.
2. Eating delicious red caviar every day in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy.
Red caviar (salmon roe) in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy.
3. Seems like each town in Russia has at least one magnificent church. They are beautiful!
Kazan Church in Irkutsk.
Kafedral’nyy Sobor Svyatoy Zhivonachal’noy Troitsy in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy.
Monastery of the Holy Martyr Grand Duchess Elisaveta.
4. The food in Russia is ridiculously delicious, and very affordable. Meat, bread, potatoes, beets, cucumbers, dumplings, and of course borsch are the main staples of the Russian diet. Look at these huge chebureki (kind of like Indian fry bread with different fillings like meat, or potatoes, jam, cheese, etc.)
5. Riding a train that was pulled by an old Soviet-era steam engine. We rode this train along Lake Baikal just like in the good ol’ days.
Soviet-era steam engine.
6. Seeing the seals that live in Lake Baikal. They are called Nerpa in Russian.
7. Learning about Shamanism, and visiting holy Shamanistic sights on Lake Baikal. People tie ribbons to these posts while making a wish, and when these ribbons blow in the wind, the wishes get sent to the gods.
8. Seeing the beautiful clear, clean blue water of Lake Baikal.
9. Riding around in Russian vans called “Uaziki” around Olkhon Island. These vans have a lot of clearance, and can do some serious off-roading.
10. Swimming in Lake Baikal. Sorry, no pictures. There was a banya (Russian sauna) on the beach, so we reserved it for an hour, and got to warm up in the banya, and then dive into the icy cold waters of the lake. We could only tolerate the cold water for 30 seconds max, before running back to the banya.
11. Russian parties, and shashliki (Shish kebab). We went on an overnight trip to a former Soviet summer camp that had been remodeled into a resort, and our new Russian friends brought enough food for a month. The pork was marinaded in mayonnaise and vinegar with onions, and it was delicious!
12. Boat tour on the canals in Amsterdam. In this photo you can see seven tunnels if you look closely.
13. Driving on the Autobahn in Germany at 180kmh (112mph). I only got to drive that fast for about ten seconds before there was a speed limit zone, and after that there was a traffic jam.
14. Riding all over Germany on the amazing trains in first class. When you buy a Eurail Pass, you automatically get first class. I wish America had trains like this.
15. Seeing the incredible painted ceiling at Asam Church Maria de Victoria in Ingolstadt, Germany.
There were many more tremendous moments on this trip, and I wrote down everything that happened every day in my journal. We’re happy to be back home, but that was a trip we will never forget. If you haven’t been to Russia, I highly recommend going.