Aeroflot to offer wireless Internet

As reported this week in the Moscow Times, Russian air carrier Aeroflot will begin to install wireless Internet in its jets this year as part of its wide-ranging program to improve service, the state-controlled carrier said Thursday.

The company will provide Wi-Fi on 26 of its long-range aircraft by the end of 2013, including 22 Airbus 330 jets and four Boeing 777s, it said in a statement. Wireless Internet will appear on 15 of those aircraft in the first quarter of this year.

“Our goal is to make Wi-Fi available on all long-range aircraft,” Aeroflot chief executive Vitaly Savelyev said. “The program to be implemented corresponds with two key elements in our strategy: introducing state-of-the-art technologies in all areas of the company’s activities and joining the elite of the world’s airlines in terms of the quality of services.”

Other new offerings by Aeroflot include additional entertainment options on flights and upgraded VIP lounges abroad, a company source told The Moscow Times late last year. This will require tens of millions of dollars in investment in 2013, the source said.

The carrier will continue to install Wi-Fi on Boeing 777 jets beyond 2013, the statement said. Aeroflot said it would introduce Internet service on 12 Boeing 777s between 2014 and 2016.

Aeroflot is expecting deliveries in the near future of new Boeing 777s that “will significantly increase the company’s opportunities on long-range routes.”
Read more at the Moscow Times.


When Moscow sleeps…

Europe’s largest city. 14 million some souls living and breathing in a region sure can cause a city to stay awake at all hours. But there is one, and only one, short period when Moscow seems abandoned. It is the few short hours on the morning of 1 January before the city again stirs to life with throngs of people walking the city plazas.

Although the song proclaims that “Moscow never sleeps” in truth there is a time when the fireworks have fizzled, drunks are passed out, every party person finally slipped into bed sometime between 4 and 6am there is a time when perhaps Moscow does sleep. Public transport is on a reduced schedule and the city on a reduced police schedule after the events of New Year’s Eve. If there is ever one time, just a single space of a few hours when Moscow is asleep, this is it.

Москва, 1 января в 9:00 (Moscow, 1 January at 9am). The beginning of the new year.

27 January 1944, Siege of Leningrad broken!

(Leningrad/Saint Petersburg, Russia) From the start, the Siege of Leningrad was a war waged with food. Hitler’s intent was not to occupy the city previously and now again known as Saint Petersburg, he wanted to destroy it completely virtually, wiping it from the face of the earth. In cabled orders to Army Group North, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler made it clear that no surrender was to be accepted.  Leningrad was to be starved because accepting a surrender would place responsibility for feeding the population on the shoulders of the German Army.

Seige of Leningrad c

At the height of the siege the death toll was reported to be between 700 and 1,000 civilians daily. It is estimated that between 1.5 to 1.75 million civilians died during the 900 day siege making it the deadliest blockade in history. Over three quarters of a million of those deaths were from starvation.

Seige of Leningrad d

Almost 900 long days, from 8 September 1941 until 27 January 1944, residents of Leningrad were starved, cut off from the outside world except for valiant acts by the Red Army and their British and American allies. Over 800 allied ships attempted the journey across the lake, the largest in Europe. Lake Ladoga was the lifeline and used as a highway when frozen over in winter. Thousands were killed while attempted to break thru the blockades on Lake Ladoga.

During the siege no one could leave the city and the only food delivered was by air or across Lake Ladoga. As many of the former Romanov palaces were outside the main defended part of the city, Hitler ordered the palaces to be sacked and priceless works of art were transported to Germany.

Siege of Leningrad

Many had given up on Leningrad, including Josef Stalin who declared the situation hopeless and wrote the city off as a lost cause. However on this day in history Operation Iskra finally succeeded breaking the lines and a land connection to Leningrad was opened. The siege had been defeated although air bombardments by the Germans continued into March 1944.

Seige of Leningrad b

After the war was over, Stalin had many of Leningrad’s military and political leaders arrested and shot, an event kept secret from the Soviet people for years until after Stalin’s death. This final chapter of Stalin’s brutality to his own military leaders became known as the “Leningrad Affair.”

Learn more about the heroic defense of Leningrad:

Movie recommendation: Attack on Leningrad

Crocodiles in southern Ukraine?

We’re guessing that when you hear the phrase “crocodiles in Ukraine” the first thing that comes to mind is the terrifying drug sweeping Russia and Ukraine known as the “crocodile drug.” That is scary enough, but imagine yourself in southern Ukraine, along the Black Sea and you run into a region seemingly fascinated with crocodiles.

From Odessa to Sevastopol to Yalta, it doesn’t take long on a beach boardwalk to encounter a statue to the deadliest reptile on earth, the mighty crocodile. Most of the older statues are more elegant and from the Soviet period, but today a more casual or shall we say “folksy” legacy has come to represent the Crocodile.

Apparently another Nile crocodile is emerging from it's shell along the Black Sea in southern Ukraine.
Apparently another Nile crocodile is emerging from it’s shell along the Black Sea in southern Ukraine.

Most of our readers will wonder what caused all this interest in crocodiles along the beach cities of southern Ukraine? The crocodile is native to Africa and Australia while it’s cousin the Alligator is native to the American continent and China, certainly not native to the Black Sea.

While we generally see large reptiles like the crocodile in a Zoo setting, in the years immediately after the breakup of the Soviet Union it was common for exotic animals to mysteriously find their way into the collections of wealthy individuals as city and regional zoos were plundered or sold off in many cases.

In 2008 in the sea port city of Mariupol an ocean exhibit went awry when a crocodile escaped his handlers and headed out to sea. It took 3 months to capture the elusive crocodile, during which time local authorities posted signs but allowed beaches to remain open. The crocodile, named Godzik, apparently died from injuries sustained while being captured and today a small bronze statue of the crocodile stands in front of a local cafe bearing the inscription: “To Godzik of Mariupol.”

Then in 2009 local fishermen in Odessa discovered two crocodile in a pond near Odessa’s Lukoil oil refinery plant. Odessa Emergency Situation Department divers confirmed that two crocodiles, one at 3 metres and the other about half that size, had been released in the pond. Although crocs are not native to this part of the world, they can adapt and live in just about any kind of water.

In January of 2011 a tourist at the Zoo in Dnipropetrovsk dropped her cell phone into a tank while attempting to take a photo of a crocodile. The Croc, named Gena, ate the phone. Zoo officials didn’t believe the young tourist at first until the phone started ringing in the reptiles stomach. Zoo officials injected Gena with laxatives but that didn’t work.

Meanwhile the tourist, a young lady in her 20’s by the name of Rimma Golovko, was demanding the return of Sim card as it contained her photographs and contacts. To make matters worse, when it became clear that surgery would be necessary to save both the crocodile and the phone, zoo veterinarians admitted that they didn’t know how to treat such non-native animals at their zoo.

In December 2010 a crocodile aquarium opened in Yalta, Ukraine. Usually we associate Yalta with those stunning mountains which plunge into the Black Sea, the out-of -place yet beautiful Swallow’s Nest, and of course who could forget the Yalta Conference between the “Big Three” powers; the Soviet Union, the United States and the United Kingdom was held at Yalta’s Livadia Palace, the former Romanov vacation home, where leaders met to divide up Eastern Europe between the victors of World War II.

(photo: Anna Panchenko)
Current admission prices: 50 UAH adults and 30 UAH children. (photo: Anna Panchenko)

This time however Yalta gained a крокодиляриум (Crockodilyarium). Possible translation: another zoo where vets may or may not know how to treat such large animals. The facility was built to fit numerous sea creatures from sea turtles to crocodiles and 77 baby Nile crocodiles, almost one for every thousand citizens according to the 2012 Ukrainian census, were imported and are housed inside the facility.

If it makes you feel any safer, the “Krokodilyarium” is near Yalta’s waterfront boardwalk and close, and by that we mean really close, to Yalta’s McDonald’s–just 50 metres away.

Yalta Crockodilum birthday party b

Oh, and if the management at McDonald’s thought they had a lock on birthday parties for children, the new Crocodile aquarium has gone after the kid birthday party market with offers of all sorts of cool prizes, including new Olympus cameras!

Not to be outdone by Yalta, Sevastopol officials announced in May 2012 that a crocodile farm was ready to open. The Sevastopol crocodile farm is commercial of course, open to the public. Just what Ukraine needs, or maybe not.

(Aквариум = Aquarium, in Ukrainian)
(Aквариум = Aquarium, in Ukrainian)

The Epiphany – Крещение

19 January was the day that millions of Eastern Orthodox believers jumped into an icy pond, river, lake or pool. Depending on time zone, most have already done so as it is done at night. It is the Epiphany, the commemoration of Christ’s baptism by the Apostle and Saint, John the Baptist. First a priest blesses a section of frozen water and then believers, old and young, male and female, plunge three times while making the sign of the cross. From Asia to Eastern Europe this is a more common event. It just doesn’t happen often in America, yet, but there is nothing wrong in hoping that someday it will.

Epiphany a

To those who observe, С Крещением Господним!

Russian Salmon seafood salad

There are a variety of tasty seafood salads which can be found on a Russian table. We like this salad as it can be mixed and served in a bowl or poured into a form and then served to have that perfect presentation.

Seafood salad with Salmon


Ingredients for 4 servings:
– 1 cup of rice
– 1 can of pink salmon
– 2 cucumbers
– A bunch of green onions
– Mayonnaise
– Salt, pepper

Boil the rice and leave to cool.
Cucumber cut into small cubes, chop the green onions
Add mayonnaise, then add the cucumber and onion and mix together.
Next, prepare the fish by removing any bones and mash the fish with a fork, then add to salad.
Salad season with salt and pepper, add additional mayonnaise if needed and mix well. Refrigerate for an hour before serving.

For more tasty Russian salad recipes visit our salad page here.

Traveling the Trans Siberian Railway – Ulan-Ude in Eastern Siberia

Today we’re going to travel 3500 miles away from Moscow and to a very fascinating part of Siberian Russia!

Approaching Ulan-Ude on the Trans Siberian Railway. (foto: varandej.livejournal)
Approaching Ulan-Ude on the Trans Siberian Railway. (foto: varandej.livejournal)

Many of our readers have heard about Lake Baikal because but often don’t associate the east Asian city of Ulan-Ude (Улан-Удэ) with the world’s largest lake. For most Western tourists, Irkutsk is the more recognizable city along Baikal but it is just an 8 hour train ride further to reach Ulan-Ude on the eastern side of Baikal.

If travelers on the Trans Siberian have some time to spare we recommend a couple of days in Irkutsk to see the local sights, one day being a trip on the Circum-Baikal railway which is a train that makes a daily run along the lower reaches of that area of the lake. It provides access to Irkutsk for the locals and gives tourists some of the most dramatic views along the lake. The other day spent in Irkutsk could be used to see the sights and to visit the village of Listvyanka which is a must-see for foreign visitors.

Way To Russia has some helpful info also for travelers to Ulan-Ude:

The 2010 All-Russia census shows that  404,426 people live in Ulan-Ude. (foto: http://varandej.livejournal)
The 2010 All-Russia census registered 404,426 people in Ulan-Ude. (foto: http://varandej.livejournal)

Ulan-Ude is very interesting culturally. It is part of Asian Russia (51% of Asia lies within Russia’s borders), the capital of the Buryatia Republic, a centre of practicing Buddhism in Russia and home to the largest Tibetan school for monks outside Mongolia. Buryats are traced to the Mongols and in addition to Russian speak Buryat, a Mongol language. Buryatia is also a centre for oriental medicine.

At Ulan-Ude one can connect to the Trans-Mongolian railway to several China via Mongolia. It is also possible to enter China much further east before Vladivostok on the Trans Manchurian railway.