by Max Barry

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Muralos: Travel Guide

Muralos (Esperanto: La Unuiĝintaj Insuloj de Muralos) is a cosmopolitan collection of islands located in the corner of the Far East. Despite having been the center of many geopolitical struggles between China, Russia, and Japan-- motivated by its wealth of resources and because of historic territorial claims-- the country enjoys relative stability today. Despite being rather industrialized and urbanized, there is still much that has remained untouched on this island, and there is a certain beauty even to the cities themselves.


(Orange indicates land under Muralosian control.)

Note: A number of groups are arguing against the renaming of cities from their former Russian names into their current, rather prosaic names in Esperanto. NSWikiTravel does not assume any stance on this issue; it only lists the names of cities as they are officially known within the nation and abroad, as well as their former names (for reference).

Muralos is divided into two main provinces: Sahaleno and Kurilo. All but one of the cities listed below, however, are located on the large, most populated island province of Sahaleno.

Urbego (formerly known as Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and before that, Toyohara)- the capital and largest city of Muralos (lit. "big city" in Esperanto)
Havenurbo (formerly Korsakov)- the southern seaport connecting Muralos with the island of Hokkaido in Japan (lit. "seaport" in Esperanto)
Okcidenta-Havenurbo (formerly Kholmsk)- the western seaport connecting Muralos with Russia
Saĥalena-Urbeto (formerly Alexandrovosk-Sakhalinsky)- the town where the noted writer Chekhov stayed (lit. "Sakhalin Town" in Esperanto)
Oleo (formerly Okha)- the northernmost city and the coldest city on average of Muralos (lit. "oil" in Esperanto)
Kurila-Urbo (formerly Yuzhno-Kurilsk)- a remote city located on Kunashira Insulo, a tiny, but populated island of the Kurilo province. For those adventurous travelers who make it there, the weather is invariably rainy or snowy, but the geography and scenery are infinitely rewarding.

(Sunset at Kurilo)

Prior to the settlement of Russian, Japanese, etc., present-day Muralos was inhabited by a number of indigenous tribes, including the Ainu, who reside mostly in the south of Sahaleno and in Kurilo; the Orok, who reside in the center of Sahaleno; and the Nivkh, who now mostly reside in the northern portions of Sahaleno.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the island (then called Sakhalin) was fought over in back-and-forth fashion by Russia and Japan, who governed the territory's southern portion. Chinese settlements had also been established on the island, and the land was indeed ceded from Imperial China to Russia in the early days of China's formation; however, due to mounting internal issues, China did not make any concerted attempts to conquer the island after its cession, and has not ever since.

(A guard stands at the border between Russian and Japanese Sakhalin.)

In 1945, the Soviet Union gained complete control over Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands, designating them as an oblast of Russia; however, it backed down two years later due to widespread lack of support for its administration, particularly the government's treatment of Sakhalin as a "lesser territory," along with its plan to expel the indigenous peoples of the island:the Ainu, Orok, and Nivkh. A multiethnic coalition within the islands decided to form the country now known as Muralos-- the name is a corruption of the Esperanto word for "walls." The new nation was recognized by the World Assembly in 1963. (N.B. Despite having been ejected from the WA in 2014, Muralos retains rather great international respect.)

The presence of the various groups on the island and the delicate issue of handling the divisions between them was of top concern to the newly established government after independence. In the early 1950s, it was voted to adopt Esperanto as the official language of the country. So as a result, Esperanto is the predominant language. While it is certainly not taken very seriously anywhere else in the world-- at least, not on a national level-- within this country the people have certainly achieved Zamenhof's ideal of uniting people of different cultures.

However, English is taught widely, and Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Nivkh, Orok, and Ainu are heard throughout the nation. Muralos' powerhouse education system dictates that citizens learn a foreign language outside of Esperanto and their "ancestral" tongues.

Get in:

It is fairly easy to travel to Muralos. Citizens of countries who are members of the Asian Archipelago are able to travel to Muralos with no visa restrictions. Outside of the region, Muralos also maintains friendly relations with most Western and Asian countries, as well as countries in embassy regions of the Asian Archipelago.

By plane- This is the best bet. There is little reason to travel in any other way. Muralos' "Presidential International Airport" in Urbego (formerly "Capital International Airport," but renamed to avoid confusion with the airport in Beijing) is one of the busiest, with nonstop flights from almost every major airport imaginable. (Most flights with one or more stops make landings in Tokyo or in Vladivostok.)

By boat- Travel by boat is not especially practical unless you are some kind of hardcore enthusiast or are travelling as part of a comprehensive tour. You will most likely also need proficiency in Russian or Japanese.

Ferry services from Wakkanai, Hokkaido in Japan to Havenurbo are fairly organized, though; they run daily. So do services from Vanino in Russia (accessible by rail from Vladivostok) to Okcidenta-Havenurbo.

(Eins Soya, the ferry running from Japan to Muralos)

(Presidential International Airport)

Note: The Muralosian currency, the stelo, is worth approximately 0.26 US dollars. When inverted, 1 US dollar is equal to about 3.8 steloj ["STE-loy"].

(Muralosian steloj from 1959)

Get around:
Muralos has well maintained roads, even out of the major cities, as well as public transport.

By car:

(A stretch of the Muralosian K1 road)
Rental car services are available at almost all major airports in the country. Driving is not hard: traffic is not often congested, roads and lanes are exceptionally wide, and drivers are rarely aggressive. Cities use the grid system whenever they can, which makes places incredibly easy to find.

- K1 is the major highway that connects Urbego from Urbo, with its western terminus at Okcidenta-Havenurbo. It is one of the largest and grandest highway projects in Muralos, and arguably the world.
(N.B. the three most major highways are all called "K1," with certain prefixes attached to them to signify their direction.)
- SN-K1 is the major north-south highway which connects Havenurbo to Oleo.
- M-K1 connects Okcidenta-Havenurbo to Oleo, and is fairly scenic on the way, being both a coastal and mountainous route.

By rail:
Muralos is astonishingly well-connected by rail, thanks to the efforts of the Russians and Japanese who had previously occupied the islands. One can travel easily from city to city.

Light rail:
Well-developed subway systems (many are double or even triple-deckers) exist to connect most cities, and stops are built specially to be near tourist attractions. In Urbo, a suburb of Urbego, there is also a monorail that connects even to residential neighborhoods. It deserves checking out in itself.

(The Blue Line of the Urbo Monorail, which is unique for its hanging cars. It follows the course of the Krasnoselsky River, which runs from Urbego to Urbo. The inspiration for the Blue Line came from the Schwebebahn in Wuppertal, Germany, whose cars also follow the path of a river.)

By Hyperloop:
Hyperloop is a fast-growing option in the big cities of Muralos (it first rolled out in Urbego). A distance that would normally take 10 or 20 minutes by car would take merely 30 seconds by Hyperloop. As the method of transportation is still new, though, and some people may not find traveling at such speeds very comfortable, many people are wary of Hyperloop. Still, it is undeniably convenient and while it takes you to other tourist attractions, it serves as a tourist attraction in itself in a way- much like the monorail in Urbo.


(St. Mary's Cathedral, Urbego)
(Yes, there is a notable Gothic-style cathedral in a historically Russian Orthodox city!)


(Whale watching on a tour organized by the Muralosian Maritime Association. Prices for whale watching are 100 steloj for adults and 80 steloj for children, seniors, and members of the Muralosian military.)

(View of Zhdanko Ridge from a helicopter; image courtesy of Zamenhof National Tours. 1000 steloj)


(Esperanto restaurant, Urbego)

In Urbego

La Krokodilo - A cheap, but amazingly clean restaurant that specializes in selling Chinese "steamed buns" (baozi) usually filled with ground meat, vegetables, mushrooms, and even truffles. It has been awarded an "Archipelago Star," which are usually given to much more upscale restaurants. Its takeout lines are just as long as the lines to reserve dining seats. The menus and packaging are especially interesting: one could read them over and over and still find things they've missed. But most importantly, the steamed buns are too savory and delicious to describe. Prices range from 12-30 steloj.

Esperanto - A casual, but pricey diner with cuisine from various nationalities, as its name may suggest. Some goods to try are the shabu-shabu with curry-flavored broth, as well as the "breakfast ramen" ham and American cheese melted in the traditional Japanese noodles. Prices range from 40-80 steloj.


Granda Muralano - a very well-maintained hotel in the center of Urbego. While its furnishings are quite lavish, an extended stay here will not necessarily break your bank. 800 steloj/night.