MIR’s 30 Years: Why I’m Sold on Siberia (VIDEO)
(Douglas Grimes is co-founder and president of MIR Corporation.)
I’m sold on Siberia. For nearly 30 years I’ve witnessed a world of wonder in this land best known for crime, punishment and exile. That past is tightly woven into the legends and legendary land that is Siberia.
Here are some of the reasons I love Siberia, in all its remote and pristine wonder:
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Since those early days in the 1980s, towns and cities in Siberia have changed. The ever-expanding reach of connectivity has enveloped much of Siberia, yet one can still feel “off the grid” in this vast wilderness where so few people live. Rocky roads have improved from large potholes to smaller potholes – progress by Soviet standards. From a traveler’s point of view, there’s greater comfort as more hotels shift from Soviet-era basic Intourist style to ones offering more modern luxury and amenities, what we’re used to in the West. Yet, this region remains off the radar for most travelers. They don’t know what they’re missing.
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More than anything, what I love about Siberia are my unplanned encounters with locals: an invitation to tea, a conversation about the then-and-now of Soviet times compared to today, singing songs as a Siberian national park ranger strums his guitar, or sitting around a campfire with a “За здоровье!” Baikal vodka toast to health, or perhaps to peace or long life. Such hospitality, friendship and warmth have been with me in my travels to Siberia since my very first visit, back when I felt like an explorer discovering new lands and new peoples. I still feel that way today.
That makes Siberia ripe for clean, green economic development: travel and tourism. Being among the first foreigners to see Siberia’s Kamchatka Peninsula – “the soul of Siberia” – had a profound effect on me in 1991. Yes, I love western Russia and all that I’ve seen and explored there since MIR Corporation started in the mid-1980s. Yet, there’s “the rest of Russia” – Siberia and the Far East – so raw, natural and untamed that still strongly resonates with me today. It’s not unlike our pioneer ancestors traveling westward in the United States, but in Siberia they made their way to the “Wild, Wild East.”
MIR offers scheduled group tours in Siberia, ranging from in-depth cultural village encounters to traveling along the Trans-Siberian Railway on local as well as private trains that range from comfortable to luxurious. There’s bountiful onboard food, drink, and entertainment as well as immersive city tours along the way – all making it so much easier to see Siberia.
To help translate the secrets of Siberia to foreign visitors, many years ago I opened MIR-affiliated offices on each side of Lake Baikal, in Ulan Ude and Irkutsk, offering MIR travelers superb on-the-ground local support and expertise. Siberia is far more than a stereotyped harsh place of exile and punishment. It is a place to cherish, learn and explore before the rest of the world discovers its hidden travel treasures.
More on “MIR’s 30 Years”
Learn more about “MIR’s 30 Years” in the stories below, all embedded with videos. They include MIR’s beginnings and the mindset and mission of MIR’s president and co-founder, Douglas Grimes; MIR’s utterly unique travel offerings at the crossroads of Europe and Asia; and Siberia, one of MIR’s favorites specialties.
- “Imagine Your Journey with MIR” (story); view video – MIR’s 30-year expertise in making dream trips come true.
- “198os Volleyball Diplomacy, and MIR’s Beginning” (story); view video – Volleyball is the game changer: a young Douglas Grimes dreams big, and his (MIR) world changes forever.
- “Back in the U.S.S.R.” (story); view video – Traveling back in time to MIR’s mid-1980s beginning, and a watershed decision.
MIR’s One-of-a-Kind Journeys
- “Handcrafted Journeys: Making MIR Movies” (story); view video – MIR’s memorable custom, private journeys are akin to making movies, including tracing family history “back in the old country.”
- “Epic Journeys: Ultimate Dream Trips” (story); view video – MIR’s adventurous overland expeditions include one Canadian couple’s extensive yearly travels, from driving along the Silk Road to motoring through China, Siberia, and the Balkans.
- “Beyond the Stars, Inside the Russian Space Program” (story); view video – MIR President Douglas Grimes’ favorite tour harkens back to the U.S.-Soviet space race, from exploring Star City’s once-classified cosmonaut training facility to witnessing the manned launch of a Soyuz spacecraft.
- “Overland Expeditions: Roving the World in Land Rovers” (story); view Land Rovers video – Land-roving at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, MIR creates an ambitious itinerary for 54 participants and 18 vehicles, from Kazakhstan to Turkey.
Siberia, A MIR Specialty
- “Why I’m Sold on Siberia” (story); view video – Countless reasons why MIR President Douglas Grimes loves this vast, pristine place.
- “Siberia’s Beauty of Lake Baikal” (story); view video – MIR President Douglas Grimes’ lasting memories of this legendary lake in Siberia.
- “Overland Expeditions: Channeling Siberia and Beyond” (story); view video – One of MIR President Douglas Grimes’ early (ad)ventures into Siberia with one channeler, her five dozen followers, and their six sacred crystals.
- “Overland Expeditions: Driving Siberia and Beyond” (story); view video – MIR helps intrepid motorists re-create the 1908 automotive Great Race in their 1928 vintage car, down to gas station locations in Siberia and tricky border crossings.
- “Overland Expeditions: Running Through Russia and Beyond” (story); view video – MIR’s extraordinary logistics for 79 runners and support personnel, running 5,500 miles from Eastern Europe to China via Russia and Siberia, all to promote safer drinking water.
- “Overland Expeditions: Total Solar Eclipse in Siberia” (story); view video – MIR prepares three years in advance to bring more than 300 travelers – “sun chasers” – to the heart of Siberia for a rare total solar eclipse.
MIR, in a Nutshell
- “MIR in a Nutshell” (story) – Compact and concise, here’s everything you need to know about MIR on one page.
(Top photo: Siberia’s impressive river network includes the Selenga River, dominating the landscape near Ulan Ude. Photo credit: Helen Holter)
PUBLISHED: November 9, 2016