Babis Bizas on Russian Geographical Society (In English)

A Greek rode across the river

Photo from the website

Greek traveler Babis Bizas sent his guidebook in English “All the Russias” to the Russian Geographical Society. Bizas wrote to the President of the Russian Geographical Society Sergey Shoygu that the preparation of the book was for him “a moral duty – not only as a member of the Russian Geographical Society, but also to the great country, I consider as my second home country.”

To Bizas who admires Repin, Vrubel, Vasnetsov, Shishkin, Aivazovsky Russia is close in spirit. “It feels genuine patriotism and love for the homeland here. Family ties and respect for veterans. Russia is the last place where these values are alive,” -he explains.

The so-called flying Dutchman, traveling Rambo, Odysseus of our tine, or simply one of the world’s most traveling people (according to the National Geographic Traveler version) Bizas had been to 194 countries and  visited the North Pole and Antarctica. Road Travels fascinated him since childhood, and his work in the tourism industry helped him to fulfill this dream.

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He spends 300 days a year traveling, and his wife Penelope, native of Ithaca, is waiting for him at home. It was his wife to whom Bizas dedicated “All the Russias”: “You must have a Homeric name to be able to tolerate my long absences for many years.” By the way, favorite poems of Bizas in Russian are the poems of the cycle “Wait for me, and I’ll be back …” by Konstantin Simonov.

Bizas had been collecting materials for the guidebook for 30 years. He really saw the whole country – from the Crimea to the Bering Strait, from Franz Josef Land to the Kuril Islands. The book tells about small towns and megacities of our country. The traveler accompanied his narrative with maps, colorful photographs and an alphabetical index.

In the book one won’t find reviews on hotels, although Bizas awards from one to five stars to each place he visited: the only criterion of the rating is his fascination. He gives five stars to not universally recognized tourist centers. In his guidebook Vologda, Tobolsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan and Kizhi are on top of the rating.

Tomsk became the first city with five stars on the road from east to west. “The most beautiful city in Siberia, with countless rivers, swamps, lakes, Tomsk is the pearl of Siberia,” Babis tells in the guidebook. But the Arctic deserves more than five stars, he says – “the last untouched wildlife in the world.”

Russia amazes and fascinates the author, now and again the reader can see three exclamation marks at the end of a sentence. Passing through the text there are historical notes, linguistic remarks (Babis learned Russian when he was a student), gastronomic impressions, advice where to stroll and what to see in each city.

All 256 pages contain interesting details, noticed by a foreigner. The traveler tells how he was tangled in time changing the time zones on the road from Chukotka, how he enjoyed salmon with black bread in Yakutia, how he was surprised by the titles in Russian and Hebrew in Birobidzhan, how he was shocked by a giant statue of Lenin’s head in Ulan-Ude. “I have not seen so many kissing couples on benches anywhere, in parks, on bridges, as I saw in Omsk”.

Babis gives an advice to the tourists in Russia: “Read my book, travel light, agree in advance with the taxi drivers about the price, eat in the cook-shops, not in McDonald’s.”

In autumn, the famous traveler will meet with readers at the Moscow Headquarters of the Russian Geographical Society. Follow our news!

You can see the guidebook in the library of the Russian Geographical Society.