South Caucasus Travel: Jewish Heritage in Azerbaijan

South Caucasus Travel: Jewish Heritage in Azerbaijan

Jewish heritage is not always easy to trace in an Islamic country; it may have been covered up, forgotten, or forcibly erased. The South Caucasus country of Azerbaijan is different. Though nominally a Shi’a Islamic country, Azerbaijan has had a historic tolerance for its Jewish communities beginning in the 5th and 6th centuries. That’s when people now called “Mountain Jews” began arriving from Persia. Read More


Star Wars: The Force is Strong in Croatia, Ukraine, Poland, Hungary and Russia

Star Wars: The Force is Strong in Croatia, Ukraine, Poland, Hungary and Russia

Recently Dubrovnik, Croatia, got some star-studded attention as one of the filming locations for Episode VIII of the Star Wars franchise. Already a TV star, Dubrovnik has appeared as King’s Landing in the popular series Game of Thrones, its winding cobbled streets and medieval stone fortresses doubling as authentic fantasy locations. This news made us curious about hidden connections between Star Wars and other countries we love... Read More


Maslenitsa in Russia: Pouring on the Pancakes

Maslenitsa in Russia: Pouring on the Pancakes

Maslenitsa, or Pancake Week, is a favorite holiday in Russia. Today it’s celebrated both as a pagan springtime rite and, similar to Carnival, a last fling before Lent prohibits all pleasurable things. In 2017, Maslenitsa is celebrated from February 20-26. Read More


From Folk Wear to Fashion Week: Ukraine’s Vyshyvanka

From Folk Wear to Fashion Week: Ukraine’s Vyshyvanka

The traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirts called vyshyvanka, once relegated to souvenir shops and folk dance performances, made a huge comeback in 2015. The shirts date back at least a hundred years, when the embroidery on the vyshyvanka’s sleeves, front, neck and cuffs was different in each small region of Ukraine; different colors and varying motifs told a detailed story about the person wearing it. Luba Rudenko, Director of MIR’s Ukraine affiliate office, was born and raised in Western Ukraine, where the Hutsul tradition of embroidering and wearing peasant shirts was particularly strong. Here’s her take on the sudden popularity of Ukrainian folk motifs. Read More


Dancing Across Uzbekistan: An Interview with Expert Helene Eriksen (video)

Dancing Across Uzbekistan: An Interview with Expert Helene Eriksen (video)

Every few years, internationally respected dance ethnologist Helene Eriksen leads a group of enthusiasts to a different region of the world to explore its traditional dances, costumes and music. A teacher, dancer and choreographer of women’s traditional dances of the Balkans, North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, Helene has teamed up with MIR for her 2016 trip, Dance Tour Through Uzbekistan. This inspired tour is open to anyone who wants to learn about – or already loves – the vivid multicolored garments, graceful dance movements and characteristic music of Uzbekistan. On this tour, participants will: • Attend a presentation of traditional Uzbek silk clothing. • Visit a small private museum to hear typical Central Asian instruments. • Learn to make Uzbekistan’s signature dish, plov, in a family home. • Learn Central Asian dances from a renowned Uzbek dancer and teacher at private master classes in Bukhara, culminating in a public performance, a centerpiece of the program. Intrigued by the itinerary of this one-of-a-kind tour, we sent these questions to her to learn more. Read More


Return from Auschwitz: MIR Travelers and Holocaust Artifacts

Return from Auschwitz: MIR Travelers and Holocaust Artifacts

In July 2015, MIR organized and operated a custom tour to Jewish heritage sites for Seattle's Holocaust Center for Humanity. The tour, led by MIR's Joanna Millick, took travelers to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, where earlier this year, 14 artifacts on loan from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum were carefully packed and shipped to Seattle to take their places among the exhibits at Seattle’s new Holocaust Museum, which opened in October 2015. The list of everyday objects includes... Read More


Third Time’s the Charm: Celebrating the Trans-Siberian Railway’s 3rd 100-year Anniversary

Third Time’s the Charm: Celebrating the Trans-Siberian Railway’s 3rd 100-year Anniversary

One of the world’s greatest train routes, Russia’s Trans-Siberian Railway covers 5,771 miles of track on its way east from Moscow to Vladivostok. Begun in 1891, it took 25 years to complete. In 1916, as the last rivet was pounded into place on the Amur River Bridge in Khabarovsk, the line reached its full length, running exclusively through Russian territory. The 100-year anniversary of the Trans-Siberian Railway will be in 2016. Yet the centennial anniversary of its construction has been celebrated twice before: in 2001 and 2005. Why? It’s explained by the fact that the Trans-Siberian was built in stages. Celebrate and Save: For a limited time, save $1,000 on our two new Trans-Siberian rail journeys by private train: • The Trans-Siberian Baikal Amur Magistral (BAM) Route • The Trans-Siberian Railway – Siberia Discovery Route Read More


UNESCO Spotlight: Old Bridge in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzogovina

UNESCO Spotlight: Old Bridge in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzogovina

Named after its Old Bridge, Stari Most, the town passed from the Ottomans to the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the late 19th century. After WWI, it became a part of newly-formed Yugoslavia. Engulfed in war after Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence in 1992, the town was shelled repeatedly. Its Old Town, including its namesake bridge, was all but destroyed. Read More


Chilly Cheer: Ice-fishing on Lake Baikal

Chilly Cheer: Ice-fishing on Lake Baikal

Not for the faint of heart, ice-fishing is a cold and sometimes lonely pursuit. But on Siberia’s Lake Baikal, it’s often a social activity – something to fill up the long dark hours of winter, as well as to fill up the larder with smoked Baikal omul. Read More


6 Favorite Arts and Handicrafts from Russia’s Golden Ring

6 Favorite Arts and Handicrafts from Russia’s Golden Ring

Russia's Golden Ring is a modern name given to the ancient towns that form an elliptical circle to the north and east of Moscow. This is where Russian art, architecture and culture began. The historic Golden Ring is celebrated for graceful old churches, famous frescoes and traditional craftsmanship. Here are some of the crafts that made these little towns famous... Read More