If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you might have seen that I spent a lot of this summer travelling through Russia.
Five weeks of travel brought me north from St. Petersburg to the remote Solovetsky Islands, back south through Moscow and on to Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Lake Baikal and Olkhon Island, Ulan-Ude, Khabarovsk and Vladivostok.
I survived a death-defying boat trip to a former gulag and monastery in the White Sea, hiked to Takmak Rock and beyond in Stolby National Park, visited the burial site of the Romanovs at Ganina Yama, had my future told by a palm-reader and astrologist on a train, stood on the border between Europe and Asia, wandered through too many Lenin Squares to count, drank water straight from Lake Baikal, visited the Shaman Rock on Olkhon Island, took a tour of the Buddhist Temples at Ivolginsky Datsan in Buryatia, wandered along the Amur River mere miles from China and visited a Tiger Rehabilitation Center outside Vladivostok.
I still find it difficult to grasp the incomprehensible vastness of Russia; beautiful, troubled and fascinating country that it is. Its contradictions baffle, infuriate and amuse me in equal measure. One minute I find myself wishing that something, anything at all would just make sense, and the next I am again completely in love and awe, ready to forgive it all its flaws and failings.
It seems an impossible task to condense five weeks of travel -- 11,444 kilometers and 190 hours on trains -- into something even remotely readable, but over the next while I will devote a lot of time to trying!