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Old Apr 26, 17, 9:01 pm   #16
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Do you work for them? As much as I love Finland, Finnair has disappointed me so many times I'm to the point they're good for awards only, but I'd absolutely never pay for them.
No, but good to know. I was just saying that it's too bad you had a poor experience, as it does look like the food is quite lacking for a International J class flight.
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Old Apr 27, 17, 10:45 pm   #17
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Jason, have you ever given thought to visiting some of the really obscure British overseas territories (St. Helena, Ascesion, etc.)? My last visit to London found even the Falklands have a tourism office...
While it would be fun, honestly, it's not too high on my list. That said, if someone wants to pay me to go to Tristan da Cunha....I'm in!

I'm less interested in geographically distinct/isolated places than I am in places that are distinct due to political geography. Yes, some will judge this because "people suffer" because of political geography, but I also find it fascinating how politics can take two places that are otherwise very close and make them very, very different.
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Old Apr 28, 17, 12:53 am   #18
  
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Originally Posted by ironmanjt View Post
I'm less interested in geographically distinct/isolated places than I am in places that are distinct due to political geography. Yes, some will judge this because "people suffer" because of political geography, but I also find it fascinating how politics can take two places that are otherwise very close and make them very, very different.
Then I would recommend to visit DNR soon. Have been there last summer for some days, very interesting indeed. But you should enter from Russia (nearest airport: Rostov on Don), not from Ukraine.
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Old Apr 28, 17, 6:45 am   #19
  
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While it would be fun, honestly, it's not too high on my list. That said, if someone wants to pay me to go to Tristan da Cunha....I'm in!

I'm less interested in geographically distinct/isolated places than I am in places that are distinct due to political geography. Yes, some will judge this because "people suffer" because of political geography, but I also find it fascinating how politics can take two places that are otherwise very close and make them very, very different.
Ok, I get the basis or your travel. I'm just throwing out ideas to someone who might need a new bucket list

And it looks like the brand new airport on St. Helena is useless, making a visit to that "country" a multi week affair.
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Old Apr 29, 17, 12:02 am   #20
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Then I would recommend to visit DNR soon. Have been there last summer for some days, very interesting indeed. But you should enter from Russia (nearest airport: Rostov on Don), not from Ukraine.
DNR? Donetsk? Is it safe?
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Old Apr 29, 17, 4:44 am   #21
  
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DNR? Donetsk? Is it safe?
'Donezkaja Narodnaja Rezpublika'. I have been there for a few days, it's not as bad as the news want to sell. One just has to stay away from the front line, even I came pretty close.

There're good hotel (5* standard), restaurants, clubs. Live (and business) goes on. You pay in Russian Rubles, no problem at all. I've been surprised how many Westerners I met in the hotel.
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Old Apr 29, 17, 7:45 am   #22
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Great to see that they've named a beer after a world-beating fake Fiat.

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Old Apr 29, 17, 9:58 am   #23
  
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I hope the OP is not planning to travel to Georgia any time soon because he might very well end up a persona non grata there. Travelling to "unrecognized" or "occupied" territories can be a lot of fun, but there might be consequences as well.
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Old Apr 29, 17, 11:24 am   #24
  
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Great to see that they've named a beer after a world-beating fake Fiat.
It's not a 'fake' Fiat, it was built in cooperation with Fiat. It's basically a Fiat 124 which was adopted for the market of the SSSR, e.g. had thicker steel, a raised suspension and drum brakes on the rear axis. In addition, for very cold temperatures they had crank to start the engine in case the battery was too weak. Also the engine was more modern (at the time) compared to Fiat.
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Old Apr 29, 17, 11:28 am   #25
  
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I hope the OP is not planning to travel to Georgia any time soon because he might very well end up a persona non grata there. Travelling to "unrecognized" or "occupied" territories can be a lot of fun, but there might be consequences as well.
Normally they don't stamp the passport when entering - but the Russians stamp when one's leaving. Due to this stamp Georgia sees that he left Russia for the 'occupied territories' (same with Ukraine when going to DNR and LNR, which creates the same problems).

Therefore the OP simply has to use another passport when he travels to Georgia, where there's no exit stamp of the Russian boarder post to the 'occupied territory'.

Easy!
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Old Apr 29, 17, 1:26 pm   #26
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II. Overnight in Sochi and Sochi to Sukhumi, Abkhazia

Airport in Sochi was relatively modern, no doubt a beneficiary of the recent Winter Olympics. Since it was already nearing sunset and we were exhausted from a long day of travel, we decided to go with the taxi desk in the arrivals area as opposed to negotiating with the taxi mafia to potentially save a couple dollars each. Nice quick ride with a polite driver who coincidentally enough had Abkhazia plates on his car.

10 minute ride to our hotel, the Radisson Blu Resort and Conference Centre, where check-in was a polite but disorganized affair. First they sent us to our rooms...which we realized when we got there we'd both been given the same room number. Back to the front desk, and apparently they had screwed up, and oh btw, we charged you the wrong amount. Your room requires you to pay this much more. Was somewhat odd that they expected the room to be paid upon check-in, but eventually everything was sorted, and the view of the Olympic venues from the room was fantastic:





With the sun having set, and the stories of stray dogs around the area (which we never actually saw) there was really no point in trying to see the Olympics sites in the evening, so we decided to head into Sochi for some dinner. See, the airport and the Olympics venues are in a suburb called Adler, which actually sits right on the Abkhazia border. We called an Uber, which was really quick and reliable in Sochi, and made the 30 minute drive to the Morye Mall located in Sochi.

What was the first thing you see at the main entrance to the mall? Yup, it's like they knew I was coming...AND Sochi managed to get my name right. Bonus points for them!



We wandered around the mall a bit, walking off the jetlag, and the mall was majorly modern with lots of international stores - likely a beneficiary of the Olympics as well. We were getting a bit hungry, so stopped into a pelmeni restaurant for some dinner. Dozens of varieties of pelmeni on the menu, and I don't remember what we ordered in the end but they were seriously delicious.



After a bite to eat, a little more walking around the mall and exploring, and we found another odd vending machine to pair with the caviar vending machine in Moscow. I mean, don't you always go to the mall and realize "damn, I forgot my contact lenses, I better hit up the vending machine!"



There was also a huge grocery store in the mall, so explored that a bit as well. I find grocery stores fascinating places when abroad, and a good insight to how at least some segment of the local population lives. Nothing terribly unusual about this one, except for multiple aisles with nothing but alcohol.

Called an Uber which had no trouble locating us at the mall, and after a short ride we were back at the hotel where we promptly passed out for the night. Despite all the confusion over the room rate at the hotel, they did decide that breakfast was included, and it was a reasonable spread for Easter Sunday. The breakfast was seriously empty, but there was still a huge amount of choice at the buffet, both hot and cold options, plus some local sparkling wine. Not bad at all!

...and seriously, how can you resist taking a pic when the hotel has something like this set up?



It was a nice clear morning, and unfortunately sleep won out over an early morning walk around the Olympic sites. Most of them were well behind fences anyways, so it wasn't like I was going to get an early morning tour of them. This view from my room would have to do:



We hadn't put a whole lot of thought into getting to Abkhazia, but knew that there were essentially two options: take a taxi to the border, cross over, and then wait for a minibus to Sukhumi, or find a driver/taxi who was willing to make the full trip. Given it was Easter, and we didn't know how much traffic there would be, we opted to skip the public transport option and arrange for a driver. My first thought was to hire our driver from the airport since he had Abkhaz plates, but he he no interest in making the trip.

Our second try was to see if they hotel could find us a driver. Yes, they could, but their driver wanted to leave at 6am to avoid traffic at the border, and wanted 9,000 rubles ($180) for the one-way trip. We definitely weren't going to pay that much to get up early.

So, google to the rescue and I found kiwitaxi.com which seemed to be too good to be true. A global transfer booking company that could arrange transfers anywhere in the world? They only wanted about 5,500 rubles for the trip ($100) and only 20% in advance with the rest to the driver (I imagine the 20% is their commission) so I figured I would give it a go. Only took about 30 minutes, and I had confirmation that our driver was booked, and would pick us up at 11am as we requested.

Our driver Dima showed up right on time, and had a perfectly comfortable and modern SUV for the trip. He didn't speak a word of English, but was extremely friendly and easy to communicate with. We set off right at 11am, and were at the border in just over 15 minutes. He made sure to tell us that if anyone at the border asks, we are "friends" since trying to explain a taxi might open him up to bribes. When we got close to the Russian side of the border he let us get out, and go walk through passport control. Exiting Russia was pretty straightforward, with just a couple simple questions "how long will you be in Abkhazia? When will you come back to Russia? Where do you live? Why do you speak Russian?" and we were through.

Dima was just getting the car cleared when we exited, and we were ready to head to the Abkhaz border post about 100 meters down the road. Here we just pulled up to the officers, said hi, showed them passports, and they waved us through without a single question. Way too easy! The whole border had taken about 30-40 minutes due to the passport control line on the Russian side, but overall really easy.

From here, it was about a two hour easy drive to Sukhumi, where we had little trouble finding our hotel. I asked Dima if he would be interested in picking us up in two days, but when we told him we needed to leave at 9am he wasn't interested since it would mean leaving Sochi super early. No problem, we had two days to sort out transport or use kiwitaxi again, so figured we were set.

Now, time to explore Abkhazia!
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Old Apr 30, 17, 6:32 am   #27
  
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https://kiwitaxi.com/

Thanks for this!! I have saved it - am sure that it will come in useful.

Enjoying your TR as usual - have fun.
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Old Apr 30, 17, 7:49 am   #28
  
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After you finish the unrecognized countries, this is a new list for you to tackle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_micronations

Safe travels!
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Old Apr 30, 17, 9:50 am   #29
  
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After you finish the unrecognized countries, this is a new list for you to tackle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_micronations

Safe travels!
Don't do this to us, I can barely afford the ones that are only mildly unrecognized!
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Old Apr 30, 17, 9:51 am   #30
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Don't do this to us, I can barely afford the ones that are only mildly unrecognized!
I think Post 21 is onto something...
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