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Fred loves train travel. You meet an interesting cross-section of a population and get to peer into a country’s backyards as the train passes. Wherever we go, we take train trips, and Mongolia was no exception. The vast country has relatively few kilometers of rail–all built for them by the Soviet Union. Besides a few spur lines to mining towns, the only rail line in the country is the one that connects Beijing with Moscow. The fancy Chinese spur to the Russian Trans-Siberian zips people straight through Mongolia, but Fred...read more
People who have been visiting our shop since our trip to Mongolia this June have been happily shopping for our unusual felt slippers, as well as colorful purses and bags decorated with elaborate hand-embroidery. Where are they from? They are all made by Kazakh-ethnic women who live in the mountainous far-western corner of Mongolia. Fred and his friend Jeff visited this Mongolian corner and spent almost a week in the Kazakh-majority far-western province of Bayan Olgii. They went trekking in Tavan Bogd (the “five saints”)...read more
Mongolia is a wonderful country whose vast landscapes are scattered with round portable nomad tents. The majority of the Mongolian population call theirs “gers”, but the minority Kazakh people in far western Mongolia call theirs “yurts”. Kazakh yurts, however, should not be mistaken for Mongolian gers. There are a number of differences. The two nomadic dwellings rang from the same sources, but have developed differences over the centuries. In contemporary Mongolia, you often see a mix of gers and yurts in tourist...read more
Mongolia is a vast country–13th largest in the world–with a small population–3 million. Of interest to the driver, is that it has fewer kilometers of road per person than any country in the world, and some of the worst urban traffic. Until the 1990’s virtually all vehicles, and there weren’t many, were of Russian manufacture. Now those old and patched-up Russian vehicles have migrated to the far corners of the country. They have been replaced in most places by foreign, mainly Japanese-made,...read more
Fred and Sharon, former diplomats, have never lived in Mongolia. As a long-time repressive client state of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. didn’t even formally recognize the country until the late 1980’s. As a result, there was no U.S. Embassy in Ulaan Baatar (Red Hero) at which they could serve until too late in their careers. Fast forward into the 21st century, and the country had turned into a multi-party democratic country more quickly AND more peaceably than any other former communist state. Fast becoming a major...read more
Mid-May was a great time to visit Novia Scotia. We were there one week before a 24-hour relay race with 70 teams of 17 runners each…and the commencement of the tourist season. We were also a couple of weeks before the onslaught of black flies, which takes place in June before the heat of the summer. (While visiting Fred’s parents nearby in the state of Maine, we learned that the bites of black flies are something you want to avoid.) Although we still saw banks of leftover snow from a hard winter, the weather was nice every day...read more
We traveled recently to Quebec City to visit friends who teach there at the University of Laval. We also planned a road-trip with them to parts of Atlantic Canada, the ocean-bound northeastern corner of North America, which is comprised of four provinces with their own personalities. Our trip explored two of those provinces–New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. New Brunswick is mostly forested with beautiful beaches and the three cities of Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton. Nova Scotia has the big seaport of Halifax; the postcard-perfect...read more
Pilots don’t miss this visit to Middle European aviation museums!read more