Friday, 14 August 2015

The Border Between Europe and Asia: Just an Imaginary Line

There are different concepts in the world on how many continents exist. Some of these concepts have a rather geographical or geological background, others go back to views that are based on politics. Whether we speak of Europe and Asia, or only of one super-continent depends highly on what we were taught in school. When the Travelling Monkeys visited Ekaterinburg they wanted to check out if they could really tell the border between Europe and Asia. What they found was nothing else than a big joke.

Where are the Mountains?
When Bimbino and Bambina were on the night train from Kazan to Ekaterinburg they got up early in the morning to see the Ural moutains, the natural border between Europe and Asia. After hours of waiting the monkeys arrived in Ekaterinburg. Surprisingly they had not seen any mountains on the way.
Something seemed to be wrong again. According to their guide book Ekaterinburg is located only some 40 kilometers East of the European-Asian border. That border is defined by the Ural mountains. How could it be that they had not even seen a single hill?

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Ekaterinburg: More Motley Than Expected

If you consider Siberian cities to be grey and boring you haven't been to Ekaterinburg yet. Ekaterinburg is a city with a colorful culture and an interesting mix of architecture. Follow the Travelling Monkeys on a sightseeing tour past an over-sized keyboard, a monument to 'The Beatles', and an unfinished TV tower.

After another 900 km from Kazan the Travelling Monkeys finally reached Asia.

Window on Asia
If you cross the Ural mountains from West to East, Ekaterinburg is the first city you can find on Asian soil. Only 40 kilometers away from the border to Europe, Ekaterinburg has been called 'The Window on Asia". With more than 1.3 million inhabitants itis the fourth biggest city in Russia. Like all cities in Siberia Ekaterinburg is relatively young. Founded in 1723 as a settlement for miners, the city became quickly a center for metallurgy and later also for the arms industry.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

100 Photos of Kazan

Despite being among the 25 biggest cities in Europe, Kazan is relatively unknown to most travellers. This has to change! Kazan is an amazing city and it definitely deserves bigger attention. In 100 photos The Travelling Monkeys will show you what they found beautiful, amazing, surprising, interesting, touching, but also disappointing about Kazan.

The Travelling Monkeys took a train from Moscow to Kazan. They covered first 800 km of 5500 on their way to Baikal. They travelled for more than 11 hours, but when they woke up they were still in Europe.

Where Orient Meets Occident
Kazan is a city with a rich history which reaches back more than 1.000 years. Once it was the capital oft the Khanate of Kazan and well known as a trade center, for its mosques, and its palaces. After the conquest by Ivan The Terrible in 1552, Kazan became the first non-Russian city in the Russian Empire. Today, Kazan is a European city with an Asian soul....

Monday, 10 August 2015

5 hours in Moscow

What To Do In Moscow? (if you have just a 5 hours stopover)

Moscow is huge! So is it even worth it to leave the train station (or the airport) just for few hours? It definitely is. The best thing to do is visiting the very centre of the city: the Red Square. It is the best place to take pictures of other people walking around and taking pictures of each other and themselves...

The Travelling Monkeys had a short stopover in Moscow before getting on their first train on the railway direction Siberia. They had around five hours to kill. As they couldn't leave their luggage in the cloakroom on the train station due to the backpacker unfriendliness of the cloakrooms in Moscow, Bimbino and Bambina headed to the very center of the city: the Red Square. Their mobility was restricted due to the weight of their backpacks, so they put their luggage in the middle of the Red Square and started hunting people with a camera...

Cloakrooms in Moscow

Moscow Luggage Storage Facilities Are Backpacker Unfriendly

The Travelling Monkeys found out a peculiar fact about the luggage storage during their short stopover in Moscow. There is the most stupid rule concerning the luggage they accept for storage. All the backpackers are encouraged to write complaints to the management of the train stations in Moscow. What's the most stupid rule for a luggage storage?

First, let's define a cloakroom on a train station in Russia. It is not a cloakroom most of the foreigners are used to see. It is a huge room with shelves, where only the guardian has access. You hand your luggage to him, he places your luggage on a free shelf and gives you a ticket. To store one piece on luggage costs 170 Rubles. The price is not being counted by hours, but by days. Midnight is a starting point: if you get your luggage back after midnight the next day, you have to pay the fee for the new day. This is, however, not the most stupid rule which was mentioned before...

Sunday, 9 August 2015

A Few Days in Rural Russia

The Travelling Monkeys had an opportunity to experience the real rural Russia. They stayed in an old house with Babushka Olga, who had her own garden and honey bees. They tried fresh honey, ate pies baked in a Russian stone oven, drank fresh milk from the neighbour’s cow, berries from the garden and mushrooms from the nearby forest. The food was simple, but full of flavour. That you will not get in a supermarket nowadays.

The Travelling Monkeys went 200 km North of Vologda city to a village called Okulovskaya. The last 50 km of the road were not paved. It was dusty and full of holes and bumps. On the way there was a well. In that well the locals like to get their drinking water, as it is extraordinary clean and full of minerals. The Travelling Monkeys took a few bottles for Babushka Olga...

Find the full story on our new homepage.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Mushroom Soup from Rural Russia

Today Bimbino and Bambina got something special for those who love to cook different things from all over the world. They have been to a rural area in the Vologda region, where aunt Olga showed them how to cook a simple, but very tasty mushroom soup.

he most important part of this recipe are the mushrooms, of course. Depending on the mushrooms the soup gets its taste and flavour. The best is to get chantarelles. Those have the best aroma for this soup. Other kinds of mushrooms can be used as well, you can even just mix all kinds of different wild mushrooms. Wild mushrooms have the best taste and aroma. You can use marinated mushrooms, or fresh ones. You might also use champions, however, those would be the worst case scenario...

Find the full story and the recipe on our new hoepage.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Where Father Frost is Living

The Travelling Monkeys travel to northern Russia to visit Father Frost. They saw a lot of interesting things on the way and had a lot of fun in a fairy-tale world.

August 2015 was the time for the Travelling Monkeys to hit the road again. They had decided on making another of their dreams come true: taking the Transsiberian Railroad.
Instead of following the classic route Bimbino and Bambina decided to take a detour via Kazan, the capital of Tatarsatan. As the ending point of their trip they choose Lake Baikal. Like this the monkeys had some time left to visit Father Frost at the beginning of their trip.
Father Frost lives in the North of Russia in Vologda Oblast close by Veliky Ustyug. He has a huge residence, where everybody can visit his fairy-tale world.
Veliky Ustyug is located more than 900 km by car North-East from Moscow...

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Cheap Way to Machu Picchu


Ever since the first glimpse of idea to travel to South America appeared in the heads of Bambina and Bimbino, the dream to visit Machu Picchu sorely stuck in their heads. They started looking up the information about this legendary Inca ruins including the ways to get there. They found out that the entrance to the ruins is quite expensive, but the way to Machu-Picchu itself was even more overpriced.

The town of Aguas Calientes (also known as Machupicchu Pueblo), the starting point of ascending to Machu Picchu, is not reachable by car. The only road connecting Cusco directly to Aguas Calientes is a railway. The cheapest one-way train ticket costs 70 USD in a low season. It takes around 3,5 hours for 110 km. If you add the return train ticket (140 USD) to the price of the entrance ticket (62 USD) to Machu Picchu, the trip becomes unaffordable for the most backpackers. But, every backpackers has to know the other way.

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Friday, 24 April 2015

A Brief Guide to Couchsurfing Camps

Mainly in Europe, dedicated members of the hospitality networks have been organising events. These are not simple meet ups for one evening in a bar like those happening all over the world every day. No, what we are talking about here are multiple day events with a festival-like character. Some of these meetings take place in big cities, others are organized as real camps in the countryside. Sometimes the participants stay in the same place, other times they are hosted by local members of hospitality networks. The programmes usually feature cultural activities in the daytime and parties in the evenings. The difference from normal hospitality meetings is not only the multiple day character but also the target group. Couchsurfing Camps are not organised only for the local community and the few travellers in town; these events are meant to attract people from abroad.

...and so it happens. By now there are around 50 annual events throughout the year, so nearly every weekend members of the hospitality networks go travelling to get to the next big event. At every major event, you can always find a large number of well known faces. People get to know each other and many of them attend these events above all to meet each other again. As mentioned before, the frequent participants of Couchsurfing Camps have developed to become a community within a community. And with every new event this community grows bigger and gets stronger. Some people say it is the only place where you can find the spirit of the early days, which got lost when websites got sold to investors, but that is a different story...

We have just moved to our own homepage. There you can find the basic data about all City Gatherings and Outdoor Camps in a simple overview, along with a short description by the organizers.