It’s still freezing in the north of Iceland – in Melrakkaslétta – the only part of Iceland that actually touches the polar circle,but in a few weeks time we are hoping that the eider will have started to lay eggs and produce this greyish and visually unimpressive material – the eiderdown. It’s because of […]

Watch television

When in Russia: Watch television. The program I watched on Russia 24 yesterday evening displayed true mastery at disinformation. It is always interesting when you actually cannot believe a single word in either narrative or analysis and there seems to be no interest in any kind of thinking that may in some way go against […]

Perm 36 and VS 389/36

The former camp for political prisoners 120 km east of Perm, Russia is well preserved. But this fact becomes less astonishing when you realize that it was in use until 1987. Between 1972 and 1987 it was a place of confinement for political prisoners under „strogii rezhim“. It was attached to another camp 500 meters […]

The Urals

I had always thought that the Urals were mountains. But that’s not quite the impression one gets by driving through the Urals. The map shows some peaks close to 2000 meters but apart from a few such mountains the visible change is just that the steppe has ended. There are hills and slopes and there […]

Night bus in the Urals

When I entered the bus with many other passengers (it was quite full) the impression that taking the night bus from Ufa to Perm was a ridiculous idea. To be stuck for 8-10 hours maybe not getting any sleep at all suddenly did not seem attractive. It was even less attractive after I had got […]

The green sea

The impression that Ufa is an island in a sea of forest comes easily on the bus from the railway station through the center and on to Sipailovo at the northeastern edge of the city. One often seems to be looking down at endless waves of green – just starting to get yellow in late […]


I realize once the Petropavlovsk bound train has departed that the provodnik is indifferent rather than nice. He looks at me emptily when I ask him for tea and pours me some hot water from the samovar. Smell it he says. I can see that the glass is dirty but I smell nothing. There is […]


I take first class on the Karaganda-Astana electrichka. The price difference was minimal so it does not surprise me that the wagon is quite full. Judging from the look and behavior of the passengers most of them could be people returning to work in Astana after having spent the weekend in Karaganda. Maybe they have […]


The city is vast but unlike Astana it somehow hangs together. Its origins and development is visible as one enters it by car, even the outer districts, ugly and raw, make sense. In Astana only Tselinograd makes sense and Tselinograd is an old Soviet town rather than a capital of „six-times-France“. The train station and […]


Karabas honors memory by continuing a tradition it has been collecting since the days of the Gulag. Here was the place through which all Karlag prisoners were supposed to enter. The current prison camp is well visible from the bridge over the railway tracks. At least half of the buildings inside the „zone“ seem in […]