PHOTOGRAPHER

Marcin Konkel

Balfron Tower has opened up for visitors


Balfron Tower in Poplar district in London has opened up for a day of special events on Saturday June 21st. This modern architecture build in 1960's of Ernö Goldfinger, Hungarian architect and designer of furniture, will soon be comprehensively refurbished. Thus it was the last chance to see it the way it stands with talks and walking tours with local residents and experts along with performances of dance, poetry and beat-boxing.

You can read more on Londonist.com

LONDON | Balfron Tower - modern architecture of Ernö Goldfinger.

A glimpse of Prague

I've visited Prague during the long May weekend. Did not manage to cope with the material so I'm posting few shots below.

PRAGUE / Statue of Jan Žižka on horseback by Bohumil Kafka.
PRAGUE / John Lenon Wall located at Velkopřevorské náměstí, district Malá Strana.

The lake and the mountains - Irkutsk and Olchon

One of the houses in Irkutsk. Copyright (C) by Anton Petukhov (https://www.flickr.com/photos/petukhovanton/). Photograph used without any modifications under CC BY 2.0 licence.

Not every one knows that Irkutsk (ru. Иркутск) most of it's inhabitants in the early years owns to the artists, officers, and nobles being sent into exile in Siberia for their part in the Decembrist revolt against Tsar Nicholas I. Afterwards, the city became one of the largest ones in region and most assuredly the one where cultural life sprung into existence. Our stay in Irkutsk will be at Baikaler Hostel right in the city center following good reviews on TripAdvisor.com. We will be staying there for 3 nights. A hint for anybody planning a stay in Irkutsk - if you can, try to contact the hostel directly, the prices might be lower then via hostelbookers.com or booking.com. We are to pay 600 RUB / 53 PLN / 13 EUR per person for one night in a dorm room, no down-payment necessary. The manager, Jack Sheremetoff, is very helpful and answers quickly to any queries. 

Baikal landscape. Copyright (C) by Tammisto (https://www.flickr.com/photos/tutam/). Photograph published without any changes under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 licence.

Our next stop is going to be Khuzir (ru. Хужир) on Olchon Island. It's the biggest village located there where the most hostels / hotels are placed. Baikaler partners with "U Olgi" or, as they prefer to call it, Rural Hostel.The hostel offers transportation to Irkutsk - Olchon (which takes around 6+ hours) for 800 RUB / 71 PLN / 17 EUR one way by a private transportation company. We found a cheaper, municipal bus line 507 operating on Irkutsk - Khuzhir route for 375 RUB / 33 PLN / 8 EUR. There are only three departure times in the morning. On the spot the hostel offers us all meals - some made from homegrown ingredients and the fish (Omul species) served are from the lake. All this for a price of 1000 RUB / 88 PLN / 21 EUR per person. We will be staying on the island for around two days.We are still left with getting a place to sleep in Moscow and Ulan-Bator but as the plan is to also take tents with us we might as well sleep where we want. Also soon we'll be booking the train tickets as they appear in the system around 40-50 days prior the departure on first come first served basis.

The journey

Finally, here it is. The journey plan based on our expectations and some travel dependencies (train / bus departures and availability). It probably will change to some extent as you cannot find some information on the Internet and we're open to what might happen.

We're starting in Gdansk and travelling by bus to Kaliningrad (ru. Калининград) and then to Khrabrovo Airport (KDE) from which we take an evening plane to Moscow Domodedovo Airport (DME). Afterwards we're staying in Moscow (ru. Москва) for around two days. Then taking a four day train ride to Irkutsk and making 5153 km on the way through Syberia and cities like as Perm, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk. Taking the night to sleep and refresh, in the morning we'll be travelling to Olchon Island on Baikal (bus & boat) for two days of R&R, admiring the views where the mountains meet the lake. 

Getting back to Irkutsk afterwards, we're taking the train to Ulan-Ude (ru. Улаан Үдэ). The route is thought to be one of the most impressive rides right next to the lake itself presenting abundance of picturesque vistas. We're staying the night in the city which is the capital of the Republic of Buryatia. The next day we're going to Ulaanbaatar (mon. Улаанбаатар, 657 km, bus & train) for two and a half day's stay to see the steppe, Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue and few other things. Finally, on Sunday morning, we are awaiting the train to Beijing (ch. 北京, 1356 km) where for two days we'll be vising The Great WallThe Forbidden City and more. All in all the journey will last for 2,5 weeks, with over 7900 km made by train, bus, boat and who knows what else. Starting in mid August and ending on September 3rd. Look for our official hashtag #transsib2014 on Facebook and Instagram where you can track the preparations and as well as the trip.

Genghis Khan Statue, Mongolia. Copyright (C) Enkhbold G (https://www.flickr.com/photos/nutag/). Photograph published without any changes under BY-NC-SA 2.0 licence.

Kaliningrad and Beijing

Last few weeks we were booking things for the journey. Still much is left though. For now we already have PEK - WAW flight back from Beijing to Warsaw. Recently, we also booked tickets for a flight Kaliningrad Khrabrovo Airport - Moscow Domodedovo Airport (KGD - DME) for as little as 3800 RUB / 340 PLN / 80 EUR via Russian national S7 line. Prices usually range from 180 EUR and up if you check on SkyScanner or Tripsta so it's worth taking the time to book via s7.ru  where one can also get additional 23 kg for baggage free of charge. It's also worthwhile to check flight prices via Polish esky.pl which scans prices from different operators and can help you choose the cheapest one. To get to Kaliningrad we'll be travelling from Gdansk by bus early in the morning on the day of the departure. After arriving at DME we plan to use Aeroexpress train to transfer us to the city center at the cost of around 240 RUB / 30 PLN / 7.5 EUR.

Apart from ways to travel, another thing is where to sleep and we are beginning to sort things out here. Up til now we have accommodation in Beijing in a great location - around 30 min from the Forbidden CityTiananmen SquareTemple of Heaven and Wanfujing Street with famous food stalls serving a wide variety of common and exotic street food. We'll get to China in the first days of September and I managed to find last four-person private for around 82 CNY / 40 PLN / 10 EUR per person in Lucky Family Hostel. If you want to book a room in a good location and in a recommended hostel - book well in advance. This one is quite cheap is you consider there is a breakfast included. I've used HostelBookers.com to make the reservation - you make a 12% downpayment on your reservation (no booking fees). You can also check HostelWorld.com. We will see if the reviews match our impression of the place.

Wangfujing Street Market, Beijing, China. Copyright (C) Patrick Rodwell (https://www.flickr.com/photos/patrickrodwell). Photograph used without any modifications under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 licence.

Visas for #transsib2014

We are in the process of getting the visa process up and running. When starting the journey from Poland and there are several options on how to get to Moscow where Trans-Siberian railway starts. Few most popular are: direct flights from Warsaw to Moscow, an Intercity train "Polonez" from Warsaw through Belarus and a flight from Kaliningrad (ru. Калининград) to Moscow. First and last option does not require to buy additional transit visa for Belarus which is required on "Polonez". Our choice will be taking a flight from Kaliningrad.

This sorted out we have two options - arrange visas ourselves or via travel agency. Due to lack of time to do the paperwork ourselves we've chosen the latter. For our case the cost of assistance for 12 visas (3x 4 ppl) was around 62 PLN / 15 EUR per visa per person (via EYAND TRAVEL).

Some may say that it would be cheaper to do it yourself - go from consulate to consulate and get things done. You would certainly be right. Remember though not to overestimate the process. It is fairly easy but requires lot of paperwork and visas tend to be rejected due to some minor things. Every consulate is different in this matter and this might change every few years when a new Consul takes the post. If you have the time and easy access to all embassies then go for it - in Poland Warsaw is the sweet spot.

You can start arranging your visas few months before the departure and give the dates for which they should be valid. It's advisable not to do it not later then a month before the journey - it gives you a bit of slack if something goes wrong e.g. your application gets rejected.

Each country (Russia, Mongolia, China) has it's specific visa policy:

Russia - 14, 30 days tourist viasas or transit (10 days). These can be issued as a single, double or multiple entries. Citizens of the EU countries need to provide an insurance policy for the whole period of stay in Russia while applying for a visa (at least 30 000 € in coverage). For our journey a single entry 14 day visa is enough as we won't be travelling back the same way and won't need to cross the border again. If you want to obtain visa yourself and check conditions go to visa.kdmid.ru

Mongolia - various options here from 5 day visa to a 30 day one. After setting the journey plan we decided to go with a 5 day visa as our stay won't be longer. Although it is always good to have some overlap with your plans. Guys who were sorting visas for us recommended +/- two days of safety margin. Edit: Beginning July 1st 2014, Polish and other EU citizens can enter Mongolia for touristic and business purposes without a visa for up to 30 days. If you are not an EU national and / or want to obtain a longer visa go to consuls.net

China - 90 day visa is provided as a standard option so we've went with this one. You have to have a proof (a ticket / reservation) for entry and departure from China either via train / plane / bus or other. To obtain the visa yourself and check the conditions that apply to your country go to china-embassy.org 

Of course there are also other types of visas and the above is not a comprehensive list but for purpose of our travel I've chosen the most relevant options. Prices vary from agency to agency. We've found possibly the best option for all three visas at a price of 719 PLN / 174 EUR per person (if travelling in a group of four) from the above mentioned EYAND TRAVEL with main office in Berlin. Their website is available in Polish and German. Probably they also support customers with English.

Studying the route for #transsib2014 in the spirit of summer

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Around the world in 360°

Alex Chacón had an idea of travelling the world which has took him 600 days during which he visited 36+ countries. I was over three years for the GoPro movie to happen. As the author states himself about the production: "an amazing summary of some of the most epic sights, places and people on planet earth in a new and creative way never captured before.". Alex on his website dedicated to his journeys states he is an adventure rider, public speaker, professional photographer, videographer and presenter. His most famous expedition to date has been a 500 day solo round trip from Alaska to Argentina in 500 days raising money for the orphanage, Los Ojos de Dios in Cd. Juarez Mexico and the Children of Uganda in Africa. 

Towards Beresnik

That was a foggy day and we were both tired and exhilarated after trekking from Pieniny, snowboarding in Szczawnica and were looking to settle down with a pint or two. Still, there was one more mountain to conquer and we were on route towards "Pod Beresnikiem" shelter in the mountain range of Beskid Sadecki. We were mostly walking in a kind of nothingness as we could see very little due to the weather conditions. It was all back in April 2013.

SZCZAWNICA | On the way to 'Schronisko pod Beresnikiem' shelter.

Beijing tickets are here !

We've bought our first set of tickets for our trip to Beijing - actually the last part of it. Those of you why fly on the budget know that often booking early = booking cheap. That's what we did and reserved our seats for flight Beijing - Warsaw carried out by LOT Polish Airlines aboard Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. It's going to be probably the longest flight we've taken, lasting for 9,5 hours across 7 times-zones and making 6941 km on the way to Poland. Jet lag seems to be inevitable. Next stop - visas and transport to Moscow.

LOT 787 DreamlinerPhoto taken Air to Air during the aircraft’s first flight. Copyright (C) Boeing.

Container terminal

There are few container terminals in Gdynia. This one is based on Bulgarian Embankement and is led by GCT - Gdynia Container Terminal S.A. company. On the opposite embankment is where the Stena Line stations servicing the route Gdynia - Karlskrona. The photo was taken from underneath the Kwiatkowskiego street which goes above the port level.

GDYNIA | View on containers waiting for shipping at GCT.