The New “Great Game” on the Silk Road

The 19th century “Great Game”,  the subject of Kipling’s classic book “Kim,”  referred to the geopolitical jousting between Czarist Russia,  busy expanding into Central Asia, and Great Britain, long established on the Indian subcontinent. The two great powers almost came to blows along their common border in the high Pamir Mountains.   They finally agreed… Read more »

The neatest place you have never heard of: Tajikistan

Why go to Tajikistan? In the 1990’s Fred served at the U.S. Embassy in Tajikistan, while Sharon served at the Embassy in Kyrgyzstan. Sharon’s country seemed like a happy Dr. Seuss country, while Fred’s was embroiled in a nasty civil war.   This conflict had transformed the USSR’s best mountain adventure destination into a no-go zone… Read more »

Argentina’s Clever Orcas: Part Two

Seeing the clever Orca “Killer Whales” of Peninsula Valdes has long been on our bucket list of things to do.  Our last blog talked about visiting the Southern Right Whales’ breeding grounds around Peninsula Valdes, and this second part centers on another fascinating whale-watching reason to stop here – – its unique Orca population. In addition to Southern Right Whales… Read more »

Patagonian Cowboys and their Rodeos

Argentina’s vast plains–the green pampas in the north, and drier steppes in the south–are similar in many ways to the American west.  They have spawned a historic horseman culture not unlike our own. Before we visited Patagonia, we knew a little of the Argentine gaucho culture, horsemen who herded cattle and other animals, using weighted… Read more »

Chile & Argentina

During our recent trip to Patagonia, we visited both Chile and Argentina.  We liked the flora, fauna and folks in both countries, but wondered why they have had so much trouble getting along throughout their history. Looking closely at a map–you notice that there is a section of their joint border in the southern Patagonian… Read more »

Why Patagonia?

Fred and Sharon spent November of this year in Patagonia–that windswept expanse of flat lands and high mountains of southern Argentina and Chile. Why, our friends asked, did you go to a place not known for rugs or textiles and where, uncharacteristically, you can drink the water out of the tap? Yes, Argentina is less… Read more »

By Rail in Mongolia

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… Read more »

The Far Corner of Mongolia

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… Read more »

“Gers” and “Yurts” in Mongolia

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… Read more »