The site of the Trump/Putin summit is a compact, handsome, livable low-rise town of around 600,000. Click these photos to enlarge them.

President Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg is a little less than 400 kilometers up the road. The high speed Allegro train connects Helsinki with St. Petersburg in three and a half hours, four times a day.

Mr. Putin must feel – almost – at home. The lay of the land, the lakes and forests, is the same in Finland as where the Russian president grew up. Here is Mr. Putin with Sauli Niinistö, the Finnish president, on a boat tour when we saw them last summer. Saimaa, the name of the ship, is also the name of the lake:

There are many more photos from lovely Finland here, at

This Is for Non-Australians

Following a Norwegian programming idea, the SBS network in Australia recently aired a three-hour program mostly shot out the window on a train, the Ghan, which makes a regular three-day journey between Darwin and Adelaide. Response was sufficient for SBS to schedule a longer, seventeen-hour version of the same.

On the off chance that you are not reading this in Australia, and thus are unable to watch the TV version, here are some photos from the Ghan. And here is a link to my trip report at the time, posted just after we’d finished the 51 hour and ten minute journey.

Our journey began in Darwin, southbound.

The Ghan

Morning coffee in the lounge

Outside Darwin it looks like this.

First excursion stop, the Katherine Gorge

Way out in the middle of the outback

Wise guy at Lice Springs.

Somewhere out there, this happens.

And eventually as Adelaide draws closer, the countryside turns green.

Click ’em to enlarge them, and see photos from across Australia in the Australia Gallery at

Haydarpasha Train Station, Istanbul

Just a quick first photo now that we're back and I can edit on the big screens at home. This is the Haydarpasha train station on the Asian side of the Bosphorus in Istanbul. Click it to make it bigger. Photomatix, Photoshop, and the texture is a shot taken in Chernobyl, from which lots more is to come.

More in the Turkey and HDR Galleries at

Corruption in China’s Push for High Speed Rail


There's an article in the New Yorker, also online, that may give you pause when you settle in to that new luxury high-speed train on your next trip to China. The key quote:

“Inside the system today, if you don’t take bribes you have to get out.
There’s no way you can stay. If three of us are in one department, and
you are the only one who doesn’t take a bribe, are the two of us ever
going to feel safe?”

Montreal to Halifax on ViaRail’s The Ocean


The Ocean, service from Montreal to Halifax.


Just about to get started on the train from Montreal to Halifax, six-days-a-week service that will be unceremoniously cut to three at the end of October, a decision by fiat of the dictatorial, supra-parliamentary Stephen Harper conservative government, according to one of our fellow travelers. They’ve branded this service The Ocean, with a logo of a famous lighthouse.

Here in the ViaRail Montreal terminal they're queueing by the down escalator with the Halifax sign. An overweight man in a dirty orange T-shirt drops his Hello Kitty paraphenalia around him and settles in. Very odd. There is a queue of twenty or so, including one nun. We're across the way at a café. Two fat women are enjoying poutine, a dish with French Canadian origins comprising french fries, cheese and gravy.

As poutine has spread across Canada and come into its own, variants have popped up, like Mexican poutine, with jalapenos. These ladies sure were enjoying theirs, and the full-sugar version of Pepsi.

In Halifax there’s a lobster poutine, an egregious use of lobster. For $14, The Hart and Thistle offers Lobster Poutine Nova Scotia: Lobster morsels, cheese curds and lobster bisque topped with bernaise. Over fries.

A couple of days in the capital of Quebec suggest an obesity problem, if not the obesity epidemic in the U.S. Perhaps poutine is related?

By the late date when I set out to reserve a train compartment, the sleepers which included restaurant food were sold out so we've ended up in the most expensive accommodation, a large room with two beds located in the observation car at the back of the train. When I suggested that we'd thrown as much money at ViaRail as we could, the nice lady in the check-in Panorama Lounge (I think anybody who wanted to could use the Panorama Lounge) looked at the ticket and said "Yes you have."

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