Friday, 28 December 2007
The end is near! 2007 has been a very busy year. A lot of work and much more travel kept me active. The best that happened to me was to meet very special people over the world and some became very good friends. For me that is much more important then materialistic things. Looking back gets really difficult so, as usual, I look forward to the next year. Definitely I have to visit my friends and I hope some will be able to visit me as well.
Now at the last weekend of 2007 I will travel to Budapest via train and celebrate new year. My last travel in Budapest is incredible 23 years ago and a lot has changed. Communism is history and since a week also the borders between Hungary and Austria. Hungary is now a Shengen member and has to protect the outer EU-border well. It was very difficult to get a hotel room but now everything is arranged. Later I will give a short update of Hungary in 2008.
Monday, 17 December 2007
I'm now sitting in the office and thinking about the wonderful days in the mountains in Salzburg. Hinterglemm was my destination of choice. The pension was just a few meters away from the race track and the owners very nice. Thursday was reserved for snowboarding only. The snow condition was great - powder snow and cold temperatures. Unfortunately the sky was heavily over cased and the sight distance was more than poor. On Friday I've decided to go on the mountains with a professional snowboarder to learn some new tricks. We had great weather with sunshine and we went snowboarding off the slope in the deep snow - it was great and exhausting!
On Friday the snow mobile event started and also "Rave On Snow". I’ve tried to combine these two events with snowboarding in-between and it worked out fine. A very cool location was the summit of the Schattberg with a very nice minimal house set. That was really a nice chill out in the sun with good music. Saturday was the same as Sunday – getting around and trying to get at least a glimpse of all actions.
On Sunday I had again a nice snowboarding session starting from Hinterglemm to Saalbach and back. It was a nice ride on a cold day and very relaxing. After fun in the mountains I’ve chilled a bit in my room before I took the long ride home in bus and train. I also have bought new snowboarding shoes and I want to try them out a couple of times this winter. I look forward for the next session in the snow.
Sunday, 9 December 2007
From the 13th to 16th of December 2007 in Saalbach Hinterglemm (Salzburg/Austria) there will be a snow mobile race through the center of a Hinterglemm. 20.000 people are expected to watch this race over two days. Beside this event there will be also another interesting event in Saalbach: Rave On Snow
I will attend both events and report from them. Besides reporting I will do some snowboarding. It will be the third time I’ve been in Saalbach Hinterglemm and I always had a great time there. Also this time I’m thinking about taking snowboard lesions to fine tune my skills. There is a nice snowboard school and attached to it a great bar in the cellar. I will go there when I get too much of the celebrities of the snow mobile event.
On Thursday the 14th I will get the opportunity to race in the press race. I did this already in 2005 and it was great fun.
Sunday, 2 December 2007
Novosibirsk is the largest city of Siberia, the vast region of northern Asia east of the Ural Mountains. The journey started in Novosibirsk where I got on the Transsib to Irkutsk. I've heard a lot of this train and I also was looking forward to get a ride. The daily passenger train running the whole Moscow-Vladivostok distance takes about seven days and 9300km. The distance between Novosibirsk and Irkutsk is 36 hours and two time zones. Being in the train for so many hours made me understood the name of Siberia: The name Siberia comes from the Tatar term Sibir, meaning 'sleeping land.' It was fun watching villages and cities passing by and then hours of big forests of birch trees. The temperature was between -10°C and -20°C.
Irkutsk is the capital of Irkutsk Oblast, at the confluence of the Irkut and Angara rivers. It is a major industrial and commercial center. A large hydroelectric facility is here. A regional cultural center, the city has history and art museums, theaters, a symphony orchestra, and several institutions of higher learning, including a university. Irkutsk was founded in 1652 as a Cossack outpost and developed as a fur- and gold-trading center on the route to Mongolia and China; it was also used by the Russian government as a place of exile. Irkutsk is also the hub for a trip to lake Baikal where I intended to stay for one day.
Lake Baikal (Байкал)
Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world with a maximum depth of 1,637 m. It is estimated to contain approximately one-fifth of all the earth's fresh surface water. The lake has an area of 31,500 km² and about 1,963 km of shoreline, making it the third largest lake in Asia, as well as the continent’s largest freshwater lake in terms of surface area. Baikal is known for the remarkable clarity of its waters and for the great diversity of its plant and animal life; the majority of species found in the lake are endemic. The sturgeon, salmon, and freshwater-seal fisheries of the lake are valuable, and large quantities of other fish are also caught. I've spent a wonderful time in a little village at the sea. This region is very famous and touristic - of course just for Russian tourists ;) I found a nice hotel made of wood - a bit log house. Beside the hotel is a dog sledging center where I took lesions in steering a dog sledge - that was a lot of fun and a very quick form of transport. At the evening and after a great dinner Banya was scheduled - the great hot Russian sauna. It's incredible hot and much over 100°C - makes a nice difference when you then go out to -20°C. The next I have bought a lot of fresh smoked fish at the local market. Now I have to persuade the check-in agent to allow me 5kg more weight. I'm curious how this will work out.
After all Russia was a great experience for me. It's a pity that the visa regulations are so strict and the Russian authorities make it difficult to get in the country. Once in you can expect a lot of adventures and friendly people. I look forward to come back soon again. As I have now an original Russian fur hat I'm now winter proof for -30°C.