Marcin Konkel

Tickets for Trans-Siberian railway ! Finally !

The time has come. All things arranged, not yet packed. We were waiting for the day when the tickets for transsib train would finally be on sale. It's usually between 50-60 days prior the date of travel that you can buy them in Russian Railways system at (ru. Российские железные дороги (РЖД)). There is also an English version of their website but it does not seem to have the booking module. The tickets are pre-sold a bit earlier, to the above mentioned time constraints, to all travel offices interested in purchasing. Buying from a travel office obviously comes with an additional fee so we passed on this and purchased ourselves.

If you'd like to buy a ticket from remember that not all cards will work. Most of the credit cards with 3D-secure type of verification (transaction confirmed with a token or sms) should work. We used Citibank MasterCard World. The total commission, due to the spread and the process of exchanging the currency from RUB to EUR to PLN, has been around 4% of the total cost.

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Ulan Bator and Moscow

Ulaan Baatar from above. Copyright (C) Ben Beiske ( Photograph used without modifications under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 licence.Nauschki 05 -

Ulan Bator is, by some, thought as the most ugly capital in the world. Photographs often resemble the capital of Mongolia being similar to Poland during the communist regime. Lot's of, almost adjacent, high blocks of flats without a sheer area development plan. We will see for ourselves if this is true or not. What is interesting, as far as I know, many Polish companies supply Mongolia with products on the FMCG market.

In Ulan Bator, for our stay, we went for LG Guesthouse which, again, had good ratings on TripAdvisor and is close to the city center and the main railway station. We've booked it for 35 PLN / 8.45 EUR / 20980.84 MNT per person (four beds / room) and this includes breakfast. It also has an all accessible kitchen for cooking and a restaurant. It's also listed in Lonely Planet's Trans-Siberian Railway Guide (2012 edtion, p.278) which, by the way, I highly recommend buying.

Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU) in Moscow. Copyright (C) Alexey Kljatov ( Photograph used without modifications under CC BY-NC 2.0 licence.

Moscow has many faces and contrasts around and is a huge city with over 11 million inhabitants. Lot's of sights to see and places to check out. As for the capital of Russia, we'll stay in Apple Hostel for 62 PLN / 14,92 EUR / 697 RUB for a room with four beds. It's based in Moscow's Kitay-gorod (ru. Китай-город) which in literal meaning of the word is "China town" but in this case it's not. Wikipedia states that it is a cultural and historical area within the central part of Moscow, Russia, defined by the markings of now almost entirely razed fortifications, narrow streets and very densely built cityscape. It is within a short (around 10 min) walking distance from the Red Square (ru. Красная Площадь).

Open'er Festival

Another (13th to precise) edition of Open'er Festival has ended. There were few noticeable changes but were there for better or for worse let the crowd vote with their feet in the next edition. Below is a glimpse from my Instagram account on the event (photos taken with my mobile). 


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In your face

Hommage à William Klein. Copyright (C) Franck Vervial ( Photograph used without modifications under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 licence.

William Klein was born 1928 in New York although he names Paris to be his home. After being discharged from US Army he enrolled to Sorbonne University. He studied under Fernand Léger and started exhibiting his works soon after. Embarked on a broader career in New York. Having photographed NYC in the 50's and growing up close to Harlem has made him more accustomed with breaking the ice and talking to strangers. The ability to quickly connect with somebody, get to know his life and problems has since been his strong asset.

In the early years William took his pictures using a camera he bought from Henri-Cartier Bresson. It's interesting how a different set of eyes can produce quite different shots using same camera. Bresson being described as a ghost following his subjects whereas Klein having a direct "in your face" contact with people he captured on film. Additionally, Klein was known for his straightforward language and brilliant satire of the fashion world - especially by the making of "Who Are You Polly Magoo?" film in 1966 (fr. Qui êtes vous, Polly Maggoo?). William has done shots for Vogue and directed few films - two of which are most renown were Broadway by Light (1958) and Cassius the Great (1964, on Muhammad Ali).

His experience, marked on his photographs, could be described as a melting pot. Harshly-framed and often blurred and distorted pictures gave his work a specific kind of a personal signature. He still shoots, still on a roll of film and carries his camera wherever he goes. Faithful to his methods of work, documenting the moment. Below you can see a full, close to an hour, documentary from 2012 by the BBC going by the title of "The Many Lives of William Klein".

Everybody Street

New York streets are so diverse in people, alleys, streets.. Or are they ? The streets of NYC are accessible to everyone - no matter the race, age or beliefs. This is the formal side of things. The other one is hidden in moments that go by and the eye that captures the detail. In the document "Everybody Street" we view the city through the lens of Mary Ellen Mark, Clayton PattersonBruce GildenJeff MermelsteinBoogieJoel MeyerowitzRebecca Lepkoff and Bruce Davidson. Everyone having their own style and history could probably end up with at least a couple of books. Check out the trailer - you can rent the full picture at a price of 5$ or buy for 13$.

Waiting for postcards

A remarkable journey from Australia to various locations in India in search of new inspirations. Watch a music producer embark on a travel of self discovery surrounded picturesque vistas and various sounds of Indian culture. A short movie by Danny McShane (filmmaker and photographer) about Daniel Newstead, owner of Omegachild Productions. You can hear the music that Daniel has been releasing lately at SoundCloud.

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.

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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 ( 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 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 or 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 ( 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 ( Photograph published without any changes under BY-NC-SA 2.0 licence.