Client Spotlight: Have Yourself a Merry Polish Christmas

Client Spotlight: Have Yourself a Merry Polish Christmas

Christmas in Poland is very different from Christmas on Puget Sound, near Seattle Washington, where Kathy Jones and Diane Gale live. For one thing, it’s cold in Poland. On Puget Sound, the weather, while often rainy and gloomy, rarely gets below freezing. Poland has a real winter, with cold, snow, sleigh bells and bundled-up children. For another thing, the Poles can claim more than a thousand years of venerable Christmas traditions. Recently we chatted with Kathy and Diane about their experiences during the Polish holidays. Read More


The Ultimate Travel Guide to Ulan Ude: Why This Siberian City Will Surprise You

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Ulan Ude: Why This Siberian City Will Surprise You

In the middle of Russia just east of Lake Baikal is one of Siberia’s coolest cities, Ulan Ude. A smallish city of some 400,000, Ulan Ude is the capital of the Buryat Republic, a federal subject of Russia with a decidedly Mongolian flavor. Ulan Ude is a surprising destination with lots of unexpected things to do and see – and it’s under the radar for most travelers. Now is the time to explore it, while the old traditions are still practiced and the crowds are small. Here are five of our favorites found in this captivating Siberian city… Read More


Poland’s Mona Lisa: Lady with an Ermine

Poland’s Mona Lisa: Lady with an Ermine

Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine has a checkered past, having kept company with artists, noblemen, gentlewomen, thieves, and Nazis. But from now on, her heart belongs to Poland. The famous Czartoryski Collection, her cohort since 1798, has been purchased by the state, with the hope that she will never roam again. Read More


Veliko Tarnovo: Bulgaria’s Royally Remarkable Town

Veliko Tarnovo: Bulgaria’s Royally Remarkable Town

Bulgaria might not be a country you typically associate with empire, but that’s only if you don’t know your swashbuckling, bloody, battle-hardened Bulgarian history. It’s as packed with glory and tragedy as Game of Thrones, but without the dragons. And Veliko Tarnovo is its epicenter. Dig into the history of this picturesque town and find out why you should visit Veliko Tarnovo. Read More


Tuva: Explore Siberia’s Remote and Undiscovered Treasure

Tuva: Explore Siberia’s Remote and Undiscovered Treasure

Travelers find that Tuva has more to offer than simply its remoteness and its peoples’ mysterious musical traditions. Ancient Scythian burial mounds filled with golden treasure, the hospitality of nomads on the steppe, animistic shamans, and Buddhist lamas all contribute to Tuva’s peculiar appeal. Add to those a salt lake teeming with such diverse wildlife that it’s been designated a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you have a worthy destination indeed. Read More



On Location at the Home of The Zookeeper’s Wife in Warsaw, Poland

On Location at the Home of The Zookeeper’s Wife in Warsaw, Poland

The Warsaw Zoo was opened in 1928, just 11 years before the Nazis invaded Poland. During the occupation, the Nazis closed the zoo, and sent the “best” animals to Germany, killing those they deemed less worthy. The zookeeper and his wife stayed on and risked their lives to help some 300 Jews escape the Warsaw ghetto, and continue to safety through the nearly 100-acre zoo grounds. This is the true story of The Zookeeper’s Wife, a film based on the book by Diane Ackerman, itself based on the memoirs of Antonina Zabinska, the zookeeper's wife. It’s a story about the hazardous choices that ordinary Poles had to make during the Nazi occupation. Read More


Undiscovered Siberia: A Riverboat Trip on the Yenesei

Undiscovered Siberia: A Riverboat Trip on the Yenesei

In the summer of 2001, my travel companions and I were on a one-time custom-made tour that MIR had put together, partnering with people from a USDA program affiliate called Project Aid Siberia (PAS), now defunct. We were to ride along as PAS workers motored down the Yenesei, delivering cartons of food aid to the remote Siberian villages along the shores – not an easy job. Read More


Ancient Autographs: Graffiti of Kiev’s St. Sophia Cathedral

Ancient Autographs: Graffiti of Kiev’s St. Sophia Cathedral

Built in the early 11th century by Kiev’s first Grand Princes, Volodymr the Great and Yaroslav the Wise, St. Sophia’s imposing asymmetrical green domes, rising over white plastered walls, are tipped with gold, and golden scales cover its 94-foot central dome. Apparently, though, some early Kievans weren’t as impressed as they should have been with this magnificence. Researchers with magnifying glasses have over time discovered some 300 graffiti scratched into the walls of the cathedral; most of them are at eye-level, but a few of the graffiti artists needed ladders or scaffolds to make their marks. Read More