Sunday, 8 May 2011

Travelling on my sofa

I have a new hobby, and it takes up quite a lot of time. I've always loved reading maps, and I was told when I was young that I got this love from my Great Grand-Nan who read them when she was bored like books. I suppose when your lust for travel is stopped by two world wars and a growing family, the best you can do is imagine the amazing places that are out there. My sofa hasn't got several atlases tucked down the side for as-and-when perusal, but I have to confess, I do generally have a tab open on my laptop with Google Earth at the ready. I used to be happy to click away at random in various countries, zooming into cities and waterfalls I'd never heard of before, but I've discovered something a bit more specific. The largest country in the world, to be precise.

Russia was never a country I gave much thought to. It was too big to comprehend, like the sky or the universe. It got on with it's own mysterious business, and I got on with mine. recently, however, I accidentally came across a website for the Russian wetlands (while feeding another obsession involving Fabergé knick-nacks), and a new obsession kicked off. I had absolutely no idea that Russia had such huge expanses of gorgeous scenery and wildlife out the wazoo, and frankly, it made me feel incredibly ignorant. Clicking away on Google Maps I became annoyed at the poor quality of the images for one lake.

It only occurred to me later that perhaps I might have been the only person since the beginning of Google Maps who wanted to see ozero pyatamyato in any kind of detail. I'm now still searching around Northern Russia an hour later.

Courtesy of Google Maps

This is part of the Ob River near Nizhnevartovsk, and I've been looking at it for ages now. There's something incredibly fascinating about finding parts of the world I'd have never even thought of before. I've never once imagined there might be a place called Nizhnevartovsk, and now I have I want to visit and meet people who've lived there forever. My second favourite place to look at is the Siberian Traps.

Courtesy of Google Maps

They are a huge ancient lava flow attributed to the "Great Dying" Permian volcanic eruption 250 million years ago on prehistoric earth where it's thought 95% of all the species on the planet died out. It is the size of Western Europe.

I, by chance, came across an incredibly interesting and historically important natural wonder I had no previous knowledge of, despite it covering the same landmass as the continent I live on. That's fucking staggering. If I had been talking at the time I started reading about it, I'd have been gobsmacked. E-touring Russia is my new hobby. The internet can be a wonderful place.

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