Russia and Central Asia: what do you think?
Readers give the lowdown on their favourite places in Russia & Central Asia.
Ashgabat in Turkmenistan consists of street after street of white marble government buildings, monuments and fountains. The locals are friendly enough and so are the police, but their constant presence was slightly unnerving as we were aware of language barrier and the tendency for arbitrary bribing.
We headed for Hell’s Gate in the middle of the desert, north of Ashgabat. We got as close as possible by road and walked for two hours across the dunes at around midnight. After the first clamber up one dune I could recognise the glow in the distance and it felt like we were on the home stretch for a good hour and a half.
The walk was worth it. The crater really is a spectacle and its comparison to the gates of hell now seems accurate. Among the general burning there is a halo of 10ft ‘side flames’ surrounding two giant flames in the centre of the crater. In the dark desert with nothing and no-one about it is a quite frightening sight. The heat given off is unbearable near the edge, despite being at least 20m from any flames.
When I visited Moscow my first sight of the city centre was Red Square. As I walked into the middle, the Kremlin held a dominating presence and the elegance of the architecture and colours made it very impressive.
The Kremlin is in sharp contrast to the blood red Soviet Resurrection Gate, which is striking but has a more brutal and rough look to it. You immediately notice Lenin’s Mausoleum, which not only takes centre stage of the Square but also central Moscow.
St. Petersburg is a perfect blend of western influence and Russian splendour. From amazing white nights where it never goes dark to playing football on a frozen sea, there really is nothing you cannot do in Russia.
This place is sumptuous and delightful. You can understand why people flock to this place in their thousands. This former capital of Russia remains the cultural hub of the country.