Destination: Russia

Subterranean Gulag Baroque

In an excerpt from his new book, "Straphanger," Taras Grescoe explores Moscow's extraordinary Metro system

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Gary Shteyngart in Russia: ‘Not a Tourist, Not a Native’

The author is in his native Russia for a book tour, and the New York Times’ Clifford J. Levy takes a look at his reception there:

While Mr. Shteyngart is a rising literary star in New York, he is a nobody in Russia, selling fewer translations of his books here than in Belgium. It may be that Russians don’t quite get his three-ring circus narratives, or are not amused by his caricatures of post-Soviet life. But Russia has a splendid tradition of satire, and current writers like Viktor Shenderovich, whose wit has been compared to Jon Stewart’s, have followings. (As well as the disapproval of the Kremlin.)

Maybe, then, it is something deeper: Russia does not like to celebrate the achievements of its wayward sons, often eyeing them with suspicion and even envy. Mr. Shteyngart said that some of the reviews of his work by Russian critics could be summarized as “Balding traitor betrays homeland.”

World Hum contributor Rob Verger talked with Shteyngart about his dual roles as novelist and travel writer last year. (Via The Book Bench)

World Travel Watch: Deadly Heat Wave in Moscow, Underground Colosseum Tours and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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‘Crime and Punishment’ on the Moscow Subway

NPR explores the controversy surrounding one of Moscow’s famously decorated subway stations—Dostoevskaya, the station that honors Fyodor Dostoevsky. Apparently, some Russian psychologists are concerned that the darkness of the station’s artwork may inspire violence or suicide. David Greene sets the scene:

The walls are gray and bare, except for murals capturing scenes from Dostoevsky’s famous novels: Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot, and of course, Crime and Punishment, the book where Dostoevsky digs into the mind of his lead character, Raskolnikov, exploring a young man’s path to murder…

The fictional character—poor, desperate for money to help his family and mentally tortured—ends up killing two women. And it’s all depicted in a mural right on the subway platform in which Raskolnikov holds an ax over a woman’s head, while a corpse lies on the ground.

The tale itself is stirring, and the underground tunnel and echo of subway trains make it even creepier.

Dispatch From the Moscow Heat

World Hum contributor Jeffrey Tayler recently returned from Paris to his Moscow home, where soaring temperatures and wildfires have crippled the city and other parts of the country. Tayler reports from the brutal—and alcohol-soaked—scene for the Atlantic:

Another Russian saying has it that, “Heat isn’t vodka, but we feel drunk from it all the same.” Which hasn’t stopped a good number of metaphorically heat-wasted Muscovites from turning literal and tippling their way through this interminable zharishcha. I walked outside this morning to find a gang of bare-chested fellows, with shaved heads, sweaty snouts, and stretchmarked potbellies, sitting on the guardrail near our doorway, guzzling beer and smoking, and for good measure, belching and swearing about the heat. Any walk around town reveals similar scenes: men have at times dispensed with much of their clothing, and carrying a beer (plus lit cigarette) is now de rigueur. This is legal: there’s no law banning open containers of alcohol in Russia. Except that in Russia, beer hardly qualifies as alcohol. (Unless possibly it’s that 12-proof brew marked krepkoye.) Beer is more like a training beverage. But vodka is considered alcohol, and thus possesses, many would point out, curative properties for whatever ails you. So fighting noxious heat with medicinal doses of vodka makes perfect sense. And I don’t mean some dainty cocktail, like, say, a vodka collins. The idea of mixing vodka with anything except more vodka is an abomination. Why dilute the healing fun?

How Bad is the Traffic in Moscow?

It’s so bad, one traffic expert told The New Yorker, that the city is “on the brink of transportational collapse.”

The new issue has an in-depth look at Moscow’s traffic woes. The story is available only to subscribers, but here’s an accompanying video:

Tourists in Heat

Tourists in Heat iStockPhoto

Ten tips for how to stay cool while traveling in an increasingly hot planet. (#2: Choose countries with cold soup.)

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How to Make A Globe of Your Hometown

Or state. Or country. Or whatever. Apparently localized globes were popular in the countries of the former USSR post-independence. English Russia remembers the phenomenon, and explains how to make a localized globe with a map and a photoshop plugin. This might be cooler than the Map Envelope. (Via Utne Reader)

The Titanic Awards: 10 Worst National Cuisines

The Titanic Awards: 10 Worst National Cuisines Photo by onlinehero via Flickr (Creative Commons)

More than 2,000 travelers from 80 countries voted in the Titanic Awards survey. Here are the unlucky winners.

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World Travel Watch: Airplane Safety in Peru, Metro Bombings in Moscow and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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Photo You Must See: One Amazing Puddle in St. Petersburg

Photo You Must See: One Amazing Puddle in St. Petersburg REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk

St. Petersburg's Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood is reflected in a puddle on the street

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76-Second Travel Show: The Best of the Trans-Siberian Railway

Robert Reid explains why the new virtual train ride can never replace the real thing

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World Travel Watch: Air Travel Woes in Canada, Volcano Tourists in the Philippines and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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World Travel Watch: Kidnapping in Mauritania, Border Hassles in Mexico and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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World Travel Watch: Demonstrations in Venezuela, Clashes in Namibia and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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