Meet the Masters: 4 Ways to Learn from the Best as You Travel

Meet the Masters: 4 Ways to Learn from the Best as You Travel

A memorable tour is one that widens your horizons, tickles your fancy and gives you something to think about. In each MIR trip you’ll experience at least one moment when you realize you’re learning something you’ve never known before. It might be about the history or habits of a place, or it might be how to make or do something grand.

These moments are precious, and they can happen at any time or place. They will surely happen when you travel with MIR.

Over the 30 years that we’ve been traveling to our slice of the globe, we’ve gotten to know talented artists and artisans who have dedicated their lives to perfecting their skills. Here are just a few ways you can learn from the masters on a MIR journey.

  1. Travel to Romania: Learn about the traditions of national dress as an expert garment-maker demonstrates the fine needlework required to splash color onto the white background of Romanian folkwear (more info). 
  2. Travel to Kyrgyzstan: Observe the age-old method of creating the brilliant felt rugs that have warmed and brightened the yurts of nomads over the centuries (more info).
  3. Travel to Russia: Discover how and why Russian ballet became the wellspring of classical dance across the world (more info).
  4. Travel to Uzbekistan: Find out how ceramics masters transform dull lumps of local clay into satiny multicolored vessels that combine beauty with practicality (more info).

A Romanian garment maker posing beside her creations Photo: Michel Behar

A Romanian garment maker posing with her creations
Photo: Michel Behar

1. Romanian Folk Costumes

Stop in at the village of Salva, Romania, home to an expert garment-maker who will tell you about regional differences in national dress, and give a demonstration of the fine needlework required to decorate traditional Romanian clothing

These decorative motifs are different for each part of the country, but on the whole, women’s garments begin with a white linen or hemp chemise underdress adorned with elaborate embroidery. This is covered with a vivid woven wool apron, fringed and sometimes striped, and another apron tied on behind. Sometimes an embroidered wool vest tops off the ensemble.

Men’s costumes also begin with a loose white embroidered blouse, to which is added a woven belt, white trousers and black boots.

High quality traditional costumes are all hand-made and hand-embroidered, and the needlework is a matter of pride to their makers.

MIR travelers experience this teachable moment during the small group tour, Bulgaria & Romania: Frescoes & Fortresses.

Making felt Photo credit: Paul Schwartz

Laying out the felt pattern
Photo: Paul Schwartz

2. Kyrgyz Felt Rugs

In Tamchy Village, Kyrgyzstan, located on the northern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, tour a felt-making workshop, observing the traditional craft of felt making, a craft that has survived the centuries.

The Kyrgyz have always used felted wool to cover their yurts, and to make rugs, bags, slippers and hats. To make an ala-kiyiz rug, a second layer of felt of one or more colors is pressed into the original piece, creating a rug with a fuzzy pattern. A shyrdak is made with the appliqué method, and results in a crisper design.

In 2012, the art of making these felt rugs was included on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. The people who know how to make them are mostly older women and the knowledge is not being passed down to new generations. Nomads have used felt rugs to warm and brighten their portable homes for millennia, and it takes the effort of many people working together to produce them. As the nomadic lifestyle is lost, and synthetic rugs become cheaper and more available, the demand for the shyrdak and ala-kiyiz is waning.

MIR travelers experience this teachable moment during the small group tour, Chinese Turkestan & Central Asia.

Russian ballet performance

Clients will get a backstage look at the hard work that goes into creating ballet performances like these
Photo: Meaghan Samuels

3. Ballet in Russia

Attend a ballet master class in St. Petersburg, Russia where a dance master runs the dancers through their warm-up routines and on to practice fragments of ballets, accompanied by a pianist. After the preliminary exercises, they perform several complete numbers in costume for the group, who are sitting close enough to really get a feel for the performance. With luck, participants may get a chance to converse with the dancers after the class. 

MIR travelers experience this teachable moment during the small group tour, Insider’s Russia: Moscow & St. Petersburg Rediscovered.

The ceramics workshop of the Narzulaev family, some of the most renowned ceramicists in Uzbekistan Photo credit: Lindsay Fincher

The ceramics workshop of the Narzulaev family, some of the most renowned ceramicists in Uzbekistan
Photo: Lindsay Fincher

4. Uzbek Ceramics 

Visit the old village of Rishtan in the Fergana Valley of Uzbekistan, famous for its ceramics. Enjoy lunch at the home of a master ceramicist, and tour his private studio where he teaches you about the process of making these ceramics.


There is evidence of earthenware in the foothills of this region dating back a thousand years. Pottery became prominent here due to the unusual amount and excellent quality of locally accessible raw materials – red clay and pigments made of minerals and mountain grasses.

Modern Rishtan ceramics are characterized by elaborate floral and geometric designs in bright blue and green hues painted on a creamy white background. The skills used to produce Uzbek ceramics have been passed down father to son for countless generations.

MIR travelers experience this teachable moment during the small group tours, Journey Through Central Asia: The Five ‘Stans, and Silk Route Odyssey: Caravan Across Uzbekistan.


Learn from the Experts – Travel with MIR

MIR is celebrating 30 years of connecting travelers with experts and fascinating learning opportunities at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. We’re known for handcrafting itineraries in all our destinations that highlight experiences to educate, inform, and inspire our intrepid and open-minded travelers.

MIR’s full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”

30 years of travel expertise means that the specialists at MIR know how to get there, what to do while you’re there, and how to enhance your trip in each of our destinations.

Top Photo: A silk master explains his craft in Fergana, Uzbekistan; Photo: Martin Klimenta

PUBLISHED: September 7, 2016

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