Tag Archives: international

Vendor of the Month: MIR Trains

The MIR Corporation hosts private train travel throughout Eastern Europe, Central Asia and China. These customizable journeys are scheduled by Seattle-based experts who work closely the Trans-Siberian Express Co. National Geographic Adventure has rated MIR twice as one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth,” and we’re inclined to agree.

Since the fall of the Soviets, this entire region has been opening up, revealing vast histories and complexities. Train is an ideal way to travel through these lands, as many roads and infrastructure have yet to be improved. The train network has existed in this area since the Russians first set down rails in the late 19th century as part of the Great Game political struggle with Britain over India.

The tours will take you on paths as diverse as the Caucasus, Balkans, Silk Route, and the Trans-Siberian Railway. Ride on one of their packaged tours or build one of your own. Their customizable nature allows them to tackle any challenge; within memory they have coordinated with overland 4X4 trips, RTW travelers, and those hoping to catch the solar eclipse in Siberia.

MIR CorporationWhile onboard, you’ll sleep in well-equipped cars, all-inclusive drinks and meals. Stops will be to major highlights on the route, terrific events like the Mongolian horse races or historic monuments like the Kremlin. Wander the Ring of Fire on the wild Kamchatka Peninsula or relish in the rich Mediterranean-like cuisine and wine of Tbilisi.

Your hosts will be English speaking guides who serve as cultural ambassadors. WIT and Mir will also coordinate if you would like to spend extra days before, between, or after you travel. Willamette will also assist you in preparing for all your visas, flight routes, and border requirements before your trip—in order to make sure your trip is enjoyable, authentic and stress-free.

MIR Corporation

For a terrific firsthand report on one client’s tour to on the Trans-Siberian express, check out the link: WIT Client Chet Benson’s train trip from Mongolia to Moscow. He compares Siberia’s green and lush landscape to Oregon: it was “like traveling through an endless series of Willamette Valleys.”

NEW 2012 Space Program: In their recent May 2012 issue, National Geographic Traveler selected Mir’s “Inside the Russian Space Program” tour as a 2012 Tour of a Lifetime. The tour, only available in September, permits guests to witness the manned launch of the Soyuz spacecraft on its way to relieve the crew of the International Space Station. Led by Dr. Steven Lee of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, it will provide exclusive access and insight into Russia’s Space Program. For a fee, you can even attend actual cosmonaut training, ride the world’s largest centrifuge, fly in zero gravity, or climb into a Russian Orlan space suit.

Willamette International Travel is proud work with Mir! Call us for info or to book a tour, at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

Photos courtesy of the MIR Corp

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Filed under Asia, Travel by Rail, Vendors, VOTM

Easter Traditions around the World


Since its ancient origins in the Christian church, people have observed the festival of Easter with such a diversity of traditions. From Orthodox to Catholics, from Scandinavians to Latin Americans, everyone has a different way to celebrate this holiday of springtime and rejuvenation. Here are just some of the unique customs found across the world:


1) In Argentina, people customarily substitute fish and seafood for their regular staple of meat. Families will often enjoy a large barbecue and even local treasure hunts sponsored by the local government. The Rosca de Pascua is a delicious bread ring baked with maraschino cherries just for this holiday.

2) The Saturday before Easter Sunday, Greeks will promenade their way to church with unlit candles, chanting “Christ is Risen!” After their candles are blessed by a priest, the festivities erupt with fireworks and resounding bells.


3) In Lebanon, with more than half of its population Christians, Easter is a time for impressive and colorful celebration. Decorations, bunnies, eggs, and chocolate line the shops and houses of believers. Families share lamb and maamoul (sugared semolina cookies) together, and children decorate candles with ribbons and flowers.

4) In Sweden, children dress up as good witches and exchange letters for eggs, sweets, and coins. At the end of the day, they roll their eggs down roof tiles to see which can go the farthest without cracking.

5) In Croatia and Slovenia, a basket of food stuffed with bread, colored eggs, ham, horseradish and potica nut cake is taken to the local church and blessed.


6) The USA is the only country to have an official holiday mascot, the Easter bunny, who passes out gifts and sweets to children.

7) In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, men will fashion whips from willow rods and bright ribbons, and mock-whip their women. In some areas, men will instead throw a bucket of cold water on them. Revenge is suitably enacted the following day, when the woman pours a bucket of cold water on the man. In Poland, this day, so-called Dyngus Day, has evolved into an all-day water fight.

And whatever the destination, everyone seems to love eggs.

Know any unique Easter celebrations from other cultures? Feel free to comment!

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