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Entries in Bruce Talley (113)


Six Sites Selling Quality Handmade 

The holiday season is nearly upon us and shoppers are more discriminatory than ever about where their clothing comes from and who makes it. There are several sites that I think offer excellent products, in different price ranges.  In the upper middle price range, Granted, from British Columbia, Canada sells handmade sweaters that run about $300 US.  They have a variety of designs from classic and simple to more whimsical with hula dancers and Smoky the Bear. The quality and consistency is evident and while hula dancers on a sweater may seem funny, it really does work. They have a variety of colors and designs and it is not hard to imagine at least one on your Christmas list who would really be pleased at receiving a Granted sweater.

Threads of Peru has everything you would expect, shawls, ponchos, those cool Peruvian hats, fingerless gloves, beanies.  (I kept thinking the only thing missing was Salma Hayek, although not Peruvian, in one of their ponchos.)  South American style (some using the techniques of the Quechua), beautiful handmade clothing does not come cheaply, though.  The ponchos range from $425- $750.  They also have great alpaca bedspreads that run $1,515.  I will have to tell my friend, Brian the alpaca breeder, about that one....


Threads of Peru- poncho


I want to also highlight a company in New Mexico called Rainbow Gate.  They don't sell clothing, but make beautiful ceramics.  I like their rainbow ware and saturn rings collections of dinnerware.  Most items range from about $50 - $180.


 Rainbow Gate- Saturn Rings


In Amish country, a number of artisans produce high-quality quilts, pillowcases and other domestic items. Amish Country Lanes has a large inventory of quilts, both large and small hanging of the patchwork, Amish colors, Christmas and embroidered quilts.  The simple lifestyle and dedication to quality work is evident in their work. Production of the quilts is very exacting and detailed.  Each large quilt has between 40,000 and 50,000 stitches.  Patchwork quilts are designed so not only are the stitches perfectly uniform, but invisible.  Designs range from the traditional:


 Amish Country Lanes the more abstract:


Amish Country Lanes


Scotland is famous for its quality wool and knit clothing.  Wool is important in keeping warm in Scotland's cool, damp climate.  Also, here are so many sheep and so many people knitting that the competition has driven quality to the very top. Kilvaree is a small croft on Scotland's west coast where they raise Soay sheep, a rare and primitive breed that is registered with Britain's Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Using age-old methods of collecting wool ( they are not shorn, but the wool is shed and collected in the fields and near the trees the sheep rub against!) and  "solar" dying the wool, the owners produce distinctive felt and unique handmade Crofter's Bags (women's handbags).  


Kilvaree Croft Bag

Finally, there is a new site, Caucacaus Mountain Knits.  The Caucasus Mountains are beautiful, remote and rarely visited due to a lack of infrastructure.  The products are made in the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, where useful and warm socks and mittens are necessary and the distinctive Karbarino slippers and dzhurabi are produced by hand.  The sheep are shorn using hand clippers, the wool is dyed and the yarn made using methods handed down from generation to generation and mostly older women (babushki) make the uniquely designed, durable and warm dzhurabi and other items.  Take a look at the products and also the photos and videos of the Caucasus Mountain backdrop and people who make Caucasus Mountain Knits. Because the area is remote and impoverished, buying from CMK makes a measureable difference in a place with little industry or tourism.  Prices are modest and range from about $12 up to about $28 (for cool and popular dzhurabi).

 Caucasus Mountain Knits 






Moscow Guide

Customers ask us regularly about guides, transfer services and translators in Moscow. We refer them to one of Moscow's best, internationally recognized, Artur Lyukanov. He is an expert guide who can capably translate and handle transportation services for individuals and small groups.  
Artur provides guided tours of Moscow and the surrounding cities of the Golden Ring that are tailored to the client's interests and schedule. I met Artur nearly a decade ago and have watched as his business has grown due to excellent customer service.  f you have one day or one week, he can make your Moscow experience richer and more interesting.



Sochi High Speed Rail- More Photos

Sochi Station

Olympic Park Station

Rosa Khutor Station

Rosa Khutor Station

Rosa Khutor Station

Olympic Park Station

Olympic Park Station

Olympic Park Station

For more information about Sochi, use the site:

For accommodation and other services, contact:


New Accommodation

Accommodation options in Sochi, Adler and Krasnaya Polyana are being booked rapidly for the period from now until the conclusion of the Games.  However, new hotels, guestshouses and other options are also being added to existing inventory.  Destination Sochi has a very complete database and an extensive network in Sochi, so we are constantly being updated on new inventory.  Contact us about your accommodation needs:



Sochi High-Speed Rail System Operational


Olympic Park Station- Sochi


Yesterday I took the new high- speed rail from Sochi to Krasnaya Polyana for the first time.  The system, which began operations on November 1, is a spectacular improvement to the infrastructure in Sochi.  The trains are new, the ride is smooth and fast and the views are great.  I went from Sochi to Adler (through stops at Matsesta and Khosta stations) and from there past the airport.  At this point, the train accelerated to 115 kilometers per hour and we made the journey up the Myzimta River Valley to Krasnaya Polyana in about 20 minutes.  Along the way, the train passed over the river and through the steep mountain gorge.


We caught glimpses of snow-covered peaks as we approached Krasnaya Polyana.  The train stopped for a few minutes at Esta Sadok Station and just after we left that station, passengers had views of the ski jump, where athletes will compete for gold in February. Then we passed the huge new development at Gornaya Karusel and the train arrived at the last station, Rosa Khutor (which like Esta Sadok and the rail line is new,too), less than 5 minutes later.  I disembarked there and walked about 250 meters to Fort Evrika, a small hotel near the oldest ski lift in Krasnaya Polyana and just a short walk from Rosa Khutor.  There were quite a few other daytrippers who had come from Sochi to ride the rails and to see the views, the new stations and the mountain resorts being finished for the Winter Games.

I have made the trip from Sochi to Krasnaya Polyana hundreds of times over the last few years.  It can take anywhere from 2- 4 hours based upon traffic.  Even from Adler Station it is never less than an hour and can take 3 with traffic.  But I just made that distance in less than 30 very comfortable and relaxed minutes.

Esta Sadok Station


Rosa Khutor Station


I was first in Krasnaya Polyana in 2004 on a short trip to Sochi with friends.  This was 3 years before Sochi won the right to host the 2014 Winter Olympics and at that time I was not even aware it was a candidate.  We drove up the road and spent 2 nights at Fort Evrika.  Then, this was pretty much the end of the road.  There were only a few hotels in the area and the small mountain village of Krasnaya Polyana.  There was not much to do, either. We took the single chairlift to the top of the mountain next to the hotel, saw the views and had a raft trip for several hours down the river.  


Fort Evrika Hotel


While I was riding the train to Krasnaya Polyana and, after,  when I walked to Fort Evrika, I thought about that first trip. It never occurred to me at that time that I would return to Krasnaya Polyana, much less that I would do it very regularly on a road choked with trucks and buses delivering construction materials and workers to massive mountain developments.  And when I went to Fort Evrika, I looked at the small hotel now dwarfed by the new resort just up the road at Rosa Khutor, another just down the road at Gornaya Karusel and flanked by a world-class train station suitable for an Olympic destination.  


Rosa Khutor and New Lift


Next, I rode back down to Adler and switched to the train bound for the Coastal Cluster.  I followed this route because the direct route between the Coastal and the Mountain Clusters is not yet open.  However, it is only a few kilometers from Adler Station to the station at the Olympic Park, so it was a quick trip.  I have watched the station being built there for the last several years, but it was the first time I was onsite.  The building is not yet open, but the platforms and the approach to the Olympic Park are prepared.


Olympic Park Station

Olympic Park Station


Several times I asked for information about train arrival and departure times.  The main criticism I have of the system was that the information I was given was typically not accurate- even when I asked in Russian. However, these are growing pains in a system that is only a few days old.  I noticed that train conductors had badges which identified the languages they spoke, most were pleasant and helpful.

All of the new stations- Adler, Esta Sadok, Rosa Khutor and the Olympic Park are built on a spectacular, grand Olympian scale and capable of handling thousands of passengers per hour.  Sochi has a 21st century transportation system, leapfrogging the issues caused by traffic and construction on the road system.


Adler Station