View from the Ural Mountains, about 60 miles from Ekaterinburg.

Ekaterinburg, where art thou?

Been exploring a lot of websites. That can be dangerous, since there is an abundance of not so tasteful websites offering Russian brides… oh dear.

But I have come across a few that are actually helpful. This one looks pretty interesting and features lots of good photos … but of course it’s a travel website. I HOPE they make it look good, even though it is known as one of the more industrialized cities (with a rather checkered past) in Russia.

Russia is such a BIG place!

I was thinking… Russia is such a HUGE country! Seven time zones, stretching geographically from eastern Europe to the Bering Straits, facing, yes, Sarah Palin’s home state of Alaska. The country is so big it sits north of Turkey, the Middle East, Afghanistan, India, China, and all of Southeast Asia. The International Dateline, which technically ran through (but politically wrapped around) the Fiji Islands, actually also wraps around the north east end of Russia, again right through the Bering Straits. According to the CIA World Factbook, it is the largest country geographically in the world, with over 6.6 million square miles (compared to the USA coming it at #3 at a bit over 3.8 million square miles, behind Canada).

The map here shows the timezones of the Russian Federation and the rest of the world.

Ekaterinburg is north of Kazakhstan and on the east side of the Ural Mountains. Here’s a closer map of the area that you can compare with the timezone map.

According to, I can expect temperatures in May as follows:
“The month of May is characterized by rapidly rising daily high temperatures, with daily highs increasing from 56°F to 67°F over the course of the month, exceeding 80°F or dropping below 42°F only one day in ten. Daily low temperatures range from 36°F to 46°F, falling below 26°F or exceeding 55°F only one day in ten.”

Apparently it is a very short summer there. So May comes in with the first real warmth but then it apparently doesn’t last very long since by August things are starting to chill down again. Maybe it’s more like Michigan than I thought?

Getting There…

So far, travel from Flint to Ekaterinberg, Russia’s 4th largest city and located at the southern and east side of the Ural Mountains, will take at least 20 hours at the shortest, but more like 25-30 depending on how the flights work out. One issue that comes up is that because this is a grant from Fulbright and therefore must be approved by the US Department of State, my travel must comply with the FlyAmerica Act. This means that I must travel on US Carriers or codeshares (if the airline is not a US Carrier). Well, you’d think this wouldn’t be that hard. And really, it isn’t that hard. Delta is the only carrier I can find that flies almost all the way there, combined with a codeshare for the last leg into Russia on Aeroflot Airlines. The challenge came when I needed to also come up with quotes for the cost of cancelling the flight or changing it. It seemed each of the travel sites referred the costs back to the specific airline. But when I looked on Delta’s website, it indicated their rules applied only to tickets bought directly from their website.

No problem, you say! Just buy the tickets directly from Delta. Ah yes, but there’s the rub. Delta’s website would only deal with their flights, not the codeshare. I couldn’t even book the codeshare on their site. I eventually gave up and just called Delta to ask why I was getting a message that, in essence, said I couldn’t get there from here. And that’s when they explained that Delta wouldn’t book the codeshare through their website.

Okay. Not to worry. Fulbright has been very nice so far and said I could just put in something to the effect of a “best guess”. After all, they were going to get their own quotes for the flights to compare to what I came up with.

Now for the next challenge, nailing down approval for the grant dates. But I’ll leave that for another day’s post.