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10 of the Best Russia Holiday Destinations – Beyond Moscow and St Petersburg

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Ruskeala, Karelia

Why go?

<figcaption>Marvel at … Marble canyon, Ruskeala, Karelia</figcaption>
Marvel at … Marble canyon, Ruskeala, Karelia

Karelia, a republic in north-west Russia, is known as one the country’s most beautiful places. The nature here is breathtaking and more Finnish than Russian, with lakes, waterfalls and trees growing on giant rocks. Ruskeala is a village close to Sortavala, one of the region’s bigger towns. The main interest here is Ruskeala mountain park, with a marble canyon that is now a lake with crystal clear water, and another underground lake. You can rent boats, go diving, or hike. In summer there are light shows on the lake.

Where to stay?

Since Ruskeala is tiny most tourists stay in Sortavala. Hostel Lämpö is a popular choice. Don’t be put off by the shabby pre-Soviet building: it is renovated inside and the location is excellent. If you’re staying for a while, there are several resorts, such as Hotel Piipun Piha, near the lake, slightly further from the town centre, which offer sauna and barbecue facilities, too.

• Doubles from £34, dorms from £6

How to get there?

Take the train from Ladozhsky railway station in St Petersburg to Sortavala; depending on the train the journey will take about 4-5 hours. From there several buses can take you to Ruskeala, or you can book a taxi – the drive will take about 20 minutes.

Stolby Nature Reserve

Why go?

On the north-western spurs of the eastern Sayan mountains, the Stolby nature reserve is one of the most popular tourism destinations in Siberia. The reserve’s main attraction are its rocks and cliffs, called stolby, “pillars” in Russian, after their shape. The smallest cliffs are 55 meters high, while the highest go up to 600 metres. Rock-climbing and hiking are popular activities, although for those interested in the local flora and fauna the reserve also offers guided tours of the Siberian fir taiga that sprawls underneath the rocks: a mix of a hike and a botanical and zoological tour.

Where to stay? 

In the wooden cabins on the reserve’s grounds, surrounded by the taiga and the rocks. There are separate small cottages for six and eight people, and a hostel. The cabins area is called ‘the village’ and is a bit of a hike from the reserve’s main reception buildings but there is a car service for when you first arrive with your luggage.
• Dorms from £5 a night, six-person cottages from £47, zapovednik-stolby.ru

How to get there?

Fly to Krasnoyarsk from Moscow or St Petersburg (about five hours) and get to Stolby on a bus or taxi; that journey will take around 11/2 hours.

Velikiy Novgorod

Why go?

Velikiy Novgorod, also known as Novgorod the Great, is one of the most important cities in the country, often called the “birthplace of Russia”. For a long time the city was a sovereign principality, founded by merchants and ruled in relative democracy, and the unification of Novgorod with Moscow in the 15th century was an essential step towards a unified Russia. The city is an historic one and the traditional wooden architecture museum of Vitoslavlitsi is a must-visit; the open-air exhibition of Russian izbas (farmhouses) has an ancient tradition of building without nails or metal to hold the wooden planks together. The Kremlin fortress in Novgorod is also one of the oldest in Russia, dating back to the 11th century.

Where to stay?

The Beresta Hostel with its traditional old-Russian interiors, or the Kozhevniki B&B, and its post-Soviet styles, are both good choices. 
• Doubles from £26, dorms from £3

How to get there?

Fly to St Petersburg and take a fast Lastochka train (about 3 hours) from Moskovskiy railway station.

Pertopavlovsk-Kamchatsky

Why go?

Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is on the Kamchatka peninsula in the far east of Russia and is the most eastern town (with more than 100,000 people) in the northern hemisphere. Ecotourism in this region is a new trend, with various activities on offer from mountain and volcano hikes, sailing and kayaking to fishing and hunting trips. The town is also a foodie destination: Kamchatka crabs and other seafood are known delicacies.

Where to stay?

In the Nachalnik Kamchatki (The Boss of Kamchatka) mini-hotel, where all the rooms are nature-themed, with names such as Winter, Forest and Bear. There are very few hostels in the town, Hostel Fiesta being one of the few, so book your rooms in advance. 
• Doubles from £32, dorms from £11

How to get there?

The only way to get to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky from the European part of Russia is to fly: a direct eight-hour flight from Moscow (book in advance as fares are high).

Kazan

Why go?

The city of Kazan, in Tatarstan, is over a thousand years old and has always been an eclectic place, balanced between the Russian Orthodox and Muslim cultures with churches and cathedrals neighbouring mosques. One of the city’s landmarks is the Söyembikä Tower in the Kremlin fortress. It’s named after the city’s last queen, Söyembikä, who, according to legend threw herself off the tower, but actually was captured by the Muscovites led by Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century, when the city was conquered. The eclectic food of the region, a mix of Russian and Tatar, is one of the city’s highlights: try the traditional tea with chuk-chuk, a sweet pastry dish.

Where to stay? 

Stereo Hostel in the city centre has a 1970s sci-fi bachelor pad vibe – and a bar onsite. If you’re looking for a quieter stay, the Stary Gorod Hotel (Old Town Hotel) is an affordable retreat in the city centre, with views of the historic Märcani Mosque.

• Doubles from £16, dorms from £4

How to get there? 

Fly from Moscow (90 minutes) or St Petersburg (2 hours), or take an overnight train from Moscow’s Kazanskiy railway station.

Lake Baikal

Why go?

Lake Baikal is the deepest in the world. Many Russians say that seeing the vast “Siberian sea” is a unique experience, and others tell stories of the Baikal monster, echoing tales of the Loch Ness monster. There are several hiking paths and in the summer you can swim in the lake, although the water is cold even in August. The shores are scattered with resorts, hotels and camping grounds, although many of them are of the Soviet times.

Where to stay? 

The Lagoon Ranch resort is on the western bank of the Baikal, in the area called the Small Sea, and offers several types of accommodation: from the most affordable two-person summer houses to double rooms and separate cabins. There are stables and a horse-riding arena, sports grounds, Russian sauna and Baikal tour guide services available.

• Two-person summer houses from £20, doubles from £28, cabins from £37

How to get there?

Direct flights to Irkutsk are available from Moscow only. Buses and shuttles to the resorts leave from various locations in Irkutsk and take about three hours – ask for details when you book your accommodation.

Yessentuki

Why go? 

Yessentuki is a name you might see on the shelves of Russian grocery stores around the world: this historical resort town, famous for its mineral and hot springs, gave its name to a brand of a salty mineral water. The town has been a destination for the health-conscious since the 19th century.

Where to stay?

The Kras Hotel Resort is near the city centre, has a spa and swimming pool, and some rooms dining and living room areas. A slightly cheaper option is to book a hotel close to the town’s famous baths and springs, for example Hotel Orange.

• Doubles from £11 in Hotel Orange or from £19 at Kras Hotel Resort

How to get there?

Direct flights to Mineralniye Vodi airport are available from Moscow (two hours) and St Petersburg (three hours). Some hotels offer airport pick-up, or take a train into Yessentuki – the journey is about 40 minutes on a shuttle bus and an hour on a train.

Kaliningrad

Why go? 

A tiny piece of Russia in Europe, Kaliningrad used to be called Königsberg, and the architecture in the city’s old town still points towards Europe and not Russia. Traces of Kaliningrad’s German heritage can be seen in the surviving Brandenburg Gate and the Fishing Village, a tourist attraction with recreated medieval-style buildings. The flea markets here are known to be the best in Russia – many collectors from all over the world come here in hope of finding relics from the second world war. The Amber museum is another popular attraction.

Where to stay?

The city centre Utro Hostel is housed in a 19th century building, with minimalist design and big windows, and the city’s lowest prices per bunk-bed.

• Doubles from £8, dorms from £11

How to get there?

Flights to Kaliningrad are available from Moscow, St Petersburg, and several European cities (including Berlin, Riga and Copenhagen). Overnight trains to Kaliningrad leave from Berlin and Warsaw. If you plan to travel between other parts of Russia and Kaliningrad, you will need a double-entry visa. There is also a special short-term Kaliningrad visa available on the border. For more information visit the Foreign Affair Ministry website.

Vladivostok

Why go? 

Far east is a dream destination for many Russians, and Vladivostok, at the head of the Golden Horn Bay, is the heart of it. The city was founded in the middle of the 19th century. The best place for views is the Eagle’s Nest Hill, the city centre’s highest point. This is also a food destination as seafood is abundant here and because of the proximity to the Russian-Chinese borders it’s almost the only place in Russia where good Chinese food is widely available.

Where to stay?

The Teplo Hotel is close to the railway station, for all those Trans-Siberian railway travellers, and has dormitories and private rooms. Slightly more expensive is A Hotel Amur Bay, which is in a white 1980s-designed building. Although a chain hotel (of the Azimut brand), it’s worth the price for the amazing sea views of the Golden Horn and Amur bays.
• Dorms at the Teplo Hotel from £6, doubles at A Hotel Amur Bay from £24

How to get there? 

Direct eight-hour flights to Vladivostok from Moscow. Vladivostok is also the eastern terminus of the Trans-Siberian railway. Trains leave from Moscow’s Yaroslavskiy railway station – the journey will take six days.

Altai mountains

Why go?

Ecotourism is booming in the region with new resorts and hotels popping up all over the Altai – known as the ‘golden mountains’. Many offer guided and themed tours of the nearby areas, such as hikes following the routes described in local legends, that are told to the visitors as they go. Sailing, kayaking and fishing are among other activities. Spa treatments are widely available with special saunas in big cedar barrels. Altai is famous for its honey and herbs, and honey treatments and herbal tea ceremonies are also offered at the local resorts.

Where to stay? 

Altika eco-hotel is one of the new developments in the region. Most rooms have panoramic views of the woods. Maryin Ostrov resort is a slightly more expensive option but also offers treatments in its spa.
• Doubles at Altika from £35 B&B, doubles at Maryin Ostrov from £39 B&B

How to get there?

Direct four-hour flights to the Gorno-Altaysk airport leave from Moscow Domodedovo. From Gorno-Altaysk there are buses and trains to the smaller villages, depending on your resort of choice. Transfer can also be organised with the resort; ask before booking.

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International Institute of Social History: Why Amsterdam is home to a trove of archives on Spanish anarchism and the anti-Franco resistance | Culture

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Spanish historian Almudena Rubio, one of the researchers at the International Institute of Social History, working last May on documents from the Spanish Civil War.
Spanish historian Almudena Rubio, one of the researchers at the International Institute of Social History, working last May on documents from the Spanish Civil War.Marc Driessen

A significant part of historical memory regarding Spain’s anarchist movement and the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) can be found at the International Institute of Social History (IISH) in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Founded in 1935, the IISH is home to the historical archive of the National Confederation of Labor (CNT), an anarchist labor union, and the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI) – documents known in Spain as the so-called “Amsterdam boxes” – along with an extensive collection on workers’ activism and social movements across the world.

Sneaked out of the country to preclude confiscation by the regime of dictator Francisco Franco, these 47 boxes take up a stretch of the institute’s 20 kilometers of shelves and include the CNT-FAI’s order to the León-born anarchist leader Buenaventura Durruti to travel to Madrid in 1936, where he would meet his end in uncertain circumstances. The IISH also houses the archives from the anti-Franco resistance and the Ruedo Ibérico publishing house founded in Paris in 1961 by five exiles from the Spanish Civil War with the aim of producing anti-fascist material to counter the dictatorship’s propaganda. Adding to the cache are archives relating to the libertarian trade unionists and feminists, original letters from writer Pío Baroja, a member of the Generation of ’98, and thousands of photos of the Civil War that were thought to have been lost, including images captured by Polish photographer, Margaret Michaelis and Hungarian photographer, Kati Horna. Altogether, it amounts to the legacy of a polarized period of history that is a mine of information for researchers.

The unsealed document containing the order to Durruti, signed by the regional committees of the CNT-FAI, was dated November 9, 1936, and stipulated that “comrade Durruti, without further delay, leave for Madrid […] to intervene decisively in the defense of the capital of Spain.” According to Almudena Rubio, responsible for recovering the document, it is proof that “the leadership of the National Confederation of Labor and the Iberian Anarchist Federation was behind that decision, while Durruti himself wanted to take Zaragoza.”

Letters from writer Pío Baroja to Ada Martí Vall.
Letters from writer Pío Baroja to Ada Martí Vall.Marc Driessen

Rubio adds that it was not uncommon for orders from the CNT-FAI to be unsealed, and that, though there was a rift between the union and its rank and file, “it seems that Durruti was considered essential to the anti-fascist struggle in the capital.” By ordering a change of plans for the anarchist, “the communists, who were already taking positions in Madrid, benefitted as did [Russian leader Joseph] Stalin, who was against the social revolution pursued by Durruti,” she says.

Those signing the document mention “the enormous possibilities of success [of our comrades] if our help reaches them,” and “the pleas of the people of Madrid, who are calling on us.” The reality, however, was quite different. Durruti was shot dead days after arriving with no conclusive explanation for his death. His driver, Clemente Cuyás, said in 1993 that he had been the victim of an accidental shot from his own rifle and that the CNT-FAI demanded any witnesses remain silent. Other versions speak of his death in combat or from a traitor’s bullet.

The arrival in the Netherlands of the CNT-FAI archive was not without its share of drama. “When it became clear in 1939 that the Republican side would not win the Civil War, union representatives took it to the Paris branch of the IISH,” says Leo Lucassen, IISH research director. “They did it as private individuals, to avoid the new fascist state being able to claim it later as belonging to a Spanish organization.”

The document from the CNT-FAI ordering Durruti to depart for Madrid.
The document from the CNT-FAI ordering Durruti to depart for Madrid.Marc Driessen

Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, the archive was transferred from Paris to the United Kingdom and was taken to Amsterdam in 1947. Closed for three decades, until Franco’s death, an inventory wasn’t taken until the 1980s. Lucassen stresses that the Spanish Civil War generated ideas on an international scale that had an indisputable impact. “Proof of this is that among the International Brigades there were hundreds of Dutch people committed to what was presented as the ultimate struggle: the fight between good and evil,” he says, adding that it was, however, difficult for them to return to the Netherlands. “Their passports were taken from them as they had fought with a foreign army. They were seen as traitors to their homeland, but also as liberating icons.” The nationality of Dutch members of the International Brigades was reinstated in 1970, and Amsterdam dedicated a monument to them in 1986 in a square called Spanje (Spain) 1936-1939.

Baroja’s letters

Among the Spanish correspondence preserved in the Archive of the Spanish Resistance, which collected documents up to 1974, are three original letters by the writer Pío Baroja. They are addressed to Concepción Martí Vall or Ada Martí, an anarchist writer and journalist who was an admirer of Baroja though she later distanced herself from him, feeling he had betrayed the social nature of his early works. Dated 1936, when Martí was 21 and Baroja 64, the letters’ tone suggests an exchange between an idealized professor and his pupil. For example, Baroja confesses his passion to “live to write, write to live;” while also telling Martí things such as, “I no longer need a compass because I am anchored in the harbor. You are the one who should be attentive to the marking needle.” The cultural center Ateneu Enciclopèdic de Barcelona has a photocopy of these missives and was unaware of the presence of the originals in Amsterdam until now.

Meanwhile, the archive of the Ruedo Ibérico publishing house contains the manuscript of Viaje al Sur (or, The Trip South) – a book the publishers commissioned Juan Marsé to write but which was assumed to have gone missing until it was realized that it has been renamed Andalucía, perdido amor (or, Andalusia, lost love) with Marsé writing under the pseudonym Manolo Reyes; it was published after the writer’s death, in 2020, by Lumen publishing house.

An archive of archives

Founded in 1935 by Dutch professor of social and economic history, Nicolaas Posthumus (1880-1960), the IISH has become an archive of archives. Its treasures include papers by Karl Marx, Freidrich Engels, Mikhail Bakunin and the anarchist Emma Goldman, which are among one million books and publications, 5,400 collections and 1.5 million audiovisuals. “Posthumus was interested in the intellectual roots of ideas from anarchists, socialists, liberals and Christian democrats,” says Lucassen. “Around 1930, when left-wing movements were threatened by fascism and National Socialism in Europe, he began to receive documents from social organizations, often taken under the radar from their countries of origin which enabled him to maintain the independence of the new center. Entire collections of left-wing publications from Latin American countries such as Argentina and Bolivia have been entrusted to us. It is a heritage that continues to be sent to the center from areas where similar conflicts persist.”

Rubio hopes to present an exhibition in 2022 with the Civil War images taken by Kati Horna, and her colleague, Margaret Michaelis, recovered from 2015. They were commissioned by the CNT-FAI to provide a graphic testimony of the social revolution it intended; the photos were in the photographic archive of the CNT-FAI’s foreign propaganda offices, included in the Amsterdam boxes.

English version by Heather Galloway.

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US Anti-Immigration Website Vdare.com Raises $40K in 1 Day in Year-End Fund Drive

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“Tuesday’s kickoff of VDARE.com’s year end fundraiser started with what I thought was a challenging goal: to bring in $5,000 in one day to meet a matching donation pledged by one of our standout donors. Little did I know what an enormous groundswell of support we would receive, ultimately breaking VDARE.com’s 20 year record for donations in 24 hours.

We promoted the initial challenge in the usual ways across all social media platforms and via email. But I’m always on pins and needles in anticipation of a fundraiser. On Tuesday morning the donations started coming in early and generous – what was encouraging quickly became astonishing, and by noon eastern time we were mere dollars from meeting our $5,000 goal. It was still mid-morning on the west coast! So I started calling around to some of our most generous friends.

My first call was to South Carolina, to the donor who gave us the initial $5k, to see if he, like me, was high on the turnout and inspired to increase his gift. He was, indeed, delighted by the money coming in but was tapped out. Too many obligations to the tax man and a nagging lawsuit.

Next call was to Washington state, to a donor who first donated last December after finding us on Twitter. He’s frequently in the wilderness, so I wasn’t surprised to have to leave a voicemail.

Then I rang Oklahoma, to one of our most engaged donors, a man who has been funding VDARE.com – and other dissident right organizations — for more than twelve years. But he’s already doubled his giving to VDARE.com this year and cheered me on to call upon someone else.

Finally, I called another Washington state donor (we have a very generous pocket of readers in the Pacific Northwest) who has been generously supporting VDARE.com for close to fifteen years. I hit voicemail with him, too.

Meanwhile the tally kept rising. As did the mood in the office, I can assure you! Noah on video support began putting together the intro and graphics for the evening’s livestream while my assistant and I called out each time a new donation came in. It was wild, and at times wacky.

“$55 from Pennsylvania!”

“OH! $200 from Idaho!”

Suddenly the phone rang. Our friend had emerged from the wilderness. “This matching grant has really inspired people today, and I think a stretch goal would keep the momentum up,” I told him, “we might even set a record for giving. What do you think about pledging $2,000?”

Without missing a beat, he said “I was thinking about $10,000.”

And just like that, we had a stretch goal twice the size of our original. Even more amazing: it was met by individual small donations within two hours.

I ordered Chinese takeout for the team – John Derbyshire, Noah the video tech, my assistant, Peter and myself – as we switched gears heading into the livestream slated for my living room. My kids were all excited to have so many guests for dinner, and it turns out John never has Chinese takeout, presumably because he has a Chinese wife, so I like to think it was exciting for him too! As we negotiated with the children about their appearance on camera to say “Merry Christmas,” the phone rang again.

As soon as I picked up the phone, almost without saying hello, my fifteen-years-loyal donor announced, “I’m pledging $5,000, how much do you have in so far?”

At this point, we had only barely met the first stretch goal and the night was closing in on the east coast. Sure, we had the livestream coming up, but I worried that maybe we had captured everything there was to capture. But why not give it a try? We’d already broken the record for one day of mass giving – but we may as well SHATTER IT! As Buzz Lightyear said, to infinite and beyond!

I shouldn’t have doubted. This community always comes through when we need you.

Two hours later, as we closed out the livestream, we were only $387 short of the super stretch goal. That amount – and more – came in within minutes of turning off the mics. By midnight we surpassed the super stretch matching by over $1,000, bringing our 24 hour total, including the fully matched pledges, to $42, 574!

That’s almost a quarter of the way to our final goal of $200,000 that we need to reach by January 1.

In one day.

Thank you. Thank youTHANK YOU!

We have a lot more in store for you during this Year End Appeal, and I’m so looking forward to amplifying different voices from our staff and supporters as they ruminate on VDARE.com’s 20 years of patriotic immigration reform. But ultimately, this is about you, our readers, America’s patriots.

VDARE.com may be the voice of the historic American nation, but we are only the voice. The community is the body. And we’re getting stronger every day.

Help us reach our final goal – let’s keep up this incredible momentum. Please, give your most generous donation now!

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Domestic air routes to be restored by mid July, says Minister

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Regional flights to Donegal and Kerry should resume by the middle of July, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has said.

The Green Party leader said the Government has been in contact with a number of different airlines about restoring routes linking the counties with Dublin after the collapse of Stobart Air.

Both routes are subsidised by the State under Public Service Obligation (PSO) contracts.

Under EU rules, the Government is allowed to make arrangements to continue axed services for seven months before renegotiating a four year PSO contract, Mr Ryan told RTÉ radio.

Airlines interested in taking over the two routes are to be approached next week before a “judgment call” is made on the most suitable operators.

Mr Ryan said he expects them to be in place by “mid-July”.

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