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My trip to Russia 2017

Conference

01badge
Welcome to Russia! I am invited to give a talk at a Russian IT Conference.
01map
The conference is held at the Bannoye Ressort. This is East of the Ural mountains.

Map from Openstreetmaps

01talk
I give a talk on my work on Knowledge Bases. (I don't actually speak Russian. I just want to show off my font :-)

Picture by Alexander Kozko

01trees
The conference is located in a beautiful mountain resort.
02baby
Local customs have adapted to the weather. Here is a hybrid baby stroller (land / ice / water (?)).
02garderobe
Due to the cold weather, all restaurants have a garderobe — even the conference canteen.
02dog
We visit a dog nursery. They breed security dogs here. This one looks more like a bear.

Picture by Alexander Kozko

02cuddle
This one doesn't look dangerous, though. It has a lot of hair.

Picture by Alexander Kozko

02cat
The cat of the dog nursery has no hair at all. It is a Sphinx.

Bannoe Lake

03desert
The conference is said to be near a lake. But where is that lake?
03lake
Can you see it?
03map
It must be somewhere near, for sure...
03cracks
Oh, found it!
03fishermen
Local fishermen venture with their boats onto the lake, and throw out their nets.
03waves
At the shore, you can listen to the sound of the waves...
03path
... or take a stroll at the beach promenade.

Trip to Chelyabinsk

04road
We are on our way to Chelyabinsk.
04siberia
This is the beginning of Siberia. The landscape looks like an ocean of snow.
04village
We pass through little villages...
04dirt
...with dirty roads...
04house
...and cute little houses. Note that they are made of stacked wood logs...
04wood
...as explained here.

Picture teken in the Museum of Chelyabinsk

Chelyabinsk

05housepark
Welcome to Chelyabinsk! Yes, you have heard of this place.
05meteorfall
It is the city where this meteorite came down in 2013.

Picture by Aleksandr Ivanov

05meteor
Here it is.

Picture taken in the Museum of Chelyabinsk

05snowbuilding
Chelyabinsk has long served as the entrance to Siberia for European Russian migrants.
05wildwest
It is, so to speak, Russia's entrance to the Wild East — with an architecture that reminds us of the Wild West.
05wood
A bit like Saratov, Chelyabinsk combines wooden architecture...
05tram
...with Soviet charm.
05industry
The Soviets made Chelyabinsk a major industrial city. Ever since, the city has grown so that it now entirely surrounds the industrial park.
05river
The Miass River flows North, and ultimately goes to the Arctic Sea — although it looks as if it rather came from there.

Chelyabinsk University

06lecture
I give a tutorial about Information Extraction at Chelyabinsk University.

Picture by Alexander Kozko

06audience
Even though it's Sunday, the hall is packed. People want autographs, interviews, and pictures.
I feel like Elvis.
06dress
The university has a dress code. It is, however, in no way detrimental to beauty.
06wall
In these rooms, you can write on the walls. Yes, you can do that at Télécom ParisTech, too — but here you can also wipe it off afterwards.

Food

07breakfast
Russian food is far enough from Western foods to be interesting, but close enough to be tasty for us. This is breakfast.
07walnut
The food has a variety of influences from Asian cultures. Here are different pastes made from walnut, in a Georgian restaurant.
07cheesecake
Here is a cheese cake. That is: a warm cake made from dough and melted cheese.
07horse
This is a horse steak with grenade sauce. I have always wondered what horses are good for...
07fish
This fish comes directly from the Bannoe lake — with only very little post-processing. It tastes great!
07asian
Until now, I have never paid for my own food, let alone hotel or transport. My hosts insist on taking care of everything. I don't even know how Rubels look.
07pork
My host asks the waitress “Can we have an English menu for Fabian?”. Waitress: “Why? He's Russian!”
07fruits
Host: “No, he's German”. Waitress: “But then how does he speak English?” Very sweet.

Trip to Kazan

08gift
I had a great time in Chelyabinsk. I even got a gift!
08flight
Today, I fly to Kazan, across the Urals. There is a time difference of 2 hours, but no time zone in between.
08station
Therefore, I arrive before I left.

Kazan

10kazanka
Kazan lies at the confluence of the Kazanka river (pictured) and the Volga river.
10volga
At this time of the year, the Volga is 3km of frozen water.
10building1
Kazan is the capital of the Tartastan State, and the “third capital of Russia” (behind Moscow and Saint Petersburg).
10building2
The region is rich in oil, and this shows in the buildings.
10agri
Kazan is truly imperial (here: the Palace of Agriculture).
10newbuilding
Russia also does not implement the EU directive that new buildings have to be ugly by law. They are actually not.
10church1
The population is 50% Muslim Tatars and 50% Russian Christians.
10construct
Lots of money is invested here (see how the columns on the left correspond to the columns in the advertisement). Note that the planned church is not “modern”. It's just beautiful.
10holy
This is the Church of the Erection...
10church2
...of the Holy Cross. The Tikhvin Church of Our Lady (pictured) is on Open Street Map, but not on Google Maps — as many sights actually.
10ring
Kazan also sports a shopping mall.
10boxes
In the metro station, people have shops so small that you would not expect to find a person in it. But there is one in every booth.
10ruins
Some work, however, remains to be done. Also absent is a powerful sewage system. The snow water just evaporates (probably in May).

Museum of Soviet Culture

12jacket
The Museum of Soviet Culture is a colorful collection of stuff that is somehow related to the USSR. This jacket was sewn out of the leather covers of Communist party membership books.
12gum
Chewing gum was scarce, and so people would revigorate used chewing gums by soaking them in sugar water. In the times of the prohibition of alcohol, some would drink perfume. Several people died.
12burn
How to “burn CDs”: Take a vinyl (left), and then copy the tracks physically onto a carbon plate (right). Obtain the plate by melting the old radiographies from your local doctor.
12vhs
Showing Western movies on video cassettes to friends would make the owner rich. When the KGB suspected such activity, it would disconnect the electricity for the entire building before entering the apartment.
12soviet
Then the cassette was trapped in the recorder, and the KGB had a proof. Are these stories representative for the life in the USSR? I don't know. They're fun, though...

The White Kremlin

13wall
This is the White Kremlin. It was once a Tatar fortress. It was destroyed by Ivan the Terrible when the Russians invaded Tatarstan.
13all
The Tatar princess agreed to mary Ivan the Terrible only if he could build the highest tower in Kazan in seven days.
13tower
He did, even if it is leaning (pictured). But instead of marrying him, she climbed the tower and jumped to her death. Ungrateful.
13gov
The Kremlin used to comprise an entire city. Nowadays, it comprises mainly government buildings...
13church
...as well as the Annunciation Cathedral.
14outside
The most impressive part, however, is the Qolsharif mosque. It was built in 2005, and is the largest mosque in Europe.
14door
This is the entrance to the “tourist balcony”...
14inside
...which permits the view on the magnificent interior of the mosque.
14verse
Also shown are copies of the Quran. The verse shown here (14:1-5) warns the “disbelievers from a severe punishment” — a popular theme across all major religions and in the Quran in particular.

Kazan Federal University

09talk
I give a talk at Kazan Federal University. In terms of its international visibility, its openness to English, ....
09cert
...its strive for excellence, ...
09uni
...and its positive self-perception, it reminds me of my own institute.
09wash
Hygene and looks: There is a washbasin not just in the restroom, but also at the entrance of the university canteen. They are also actively used. (Just sayin')
09mirror
I saw girls carrying a hair brush with them, and using these mirrors at the entrance to make sure they look good. They do.

Trip to Moscow

11train
I take the Transsibirian Railway to go to Moscow.
11cabin
I booked the “Deluxe” cabin, which I have for myself. The table can be shifted left, and the right bench transforms into a bed.
11bath
It even has a private toilet and (right over it) a shower. Better actually than the place I used to rent in Paris.
11kazan
I arrive at 7:00 in the morning at the Kazansky Train Station in Moscow.
15tram
While Moscow's tramway may seem outdated...
15metro
...the metro is not. Traversing the city from periphery to periphery takes only 15 minutes (in words: fifteen minutes).

Moscow

15historical
At this time of the day, the Red Square is empty.
15basil
The view on the Saint Basil Cathedral is unencumbered. The Kremlin is shown left.
15gum
The GUM shopping mall at the Red Square is still closed...
15guminside
...but opens a bit later.
15kazan
This cathedral at the Red Square is named after Kazan, the city I just came from. It was reconstructed in 1993.
15monument
As last year, the city is in great shape: clean, renovated, and well-organised.
15church
I discover churches that I did not see last year...
15guy
...as well as a monument that was just unveiled a few months ago by Putin. Is it a coincidence that it is a monument of “Vladimir the Great”?
15north
Maybe Russia has to recover from Soviet architecture, which they do by investing in pre-Soviet buildings. Quite successfully so.
15cathedral
The Cathedral of Christ the Savior, first destroyed under the Soviets, and then rebuilt in 2000, is the tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world.
15bridge
The bridge was constructed just in 2004 — and still it is not ugly but beautiful. How do they do it? The Kremlin is shown in the background.

15view
I leave Moscow in the evening...

16paris
...for a city that is 10 degrees warmer.
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