Tag Archives: Trans-Mongolian

Rushing though Russia

From St Petersburg to Moscow we set off on the long journey east to Beijing, overland.

After Moscow, we detoured to the small historial village of Suzdal, famous for its wooden houses and onion domed churches.

We braved years of accumulated pigeon poop to climb the stairs up to the bell tower of the church in the main square. The view was totally worth the risk of bird flu.

We then popped into this medieval inn for some mead. There were all sorts of delicious flavours such as hops, spices, mint and rose petals. We mistakenly chose the most alcoholic option and had headaches all afternoon.

In all honestly, a whole day in Suzdal was about five hours too long, but the sunset over the onion domed churches was gorgeous.

Our trip back to the train station was less enjoyable however. Our driver, Yuri, embodied all the worst traits of Russian drivers, enjoying overtaking on crests, ignoring traffic lights, undertaking, and general speeding in the rain. I had to bury my head in Luke’s chest, if I looked up and saw what was going on, I involuntarily screamed out expletives.

Luckily we made it to the train station, and boarded out train to Yekaterinburg, famous as the place where Boris Yeltsin went to university (perhaps he should have studied economics rather than construction?), and where Tsar Nicholas and his family were murdered.

Yekaterinburg also marked the start of our journey into Siberia, and as you can see, the weather changed from lovely, to rainy and bloody cold. A perfect Siberian summer.

The train took around 24 hours, the scenery was gorgeous, mostly small farming villages with very cute wooden houses and barns. If we ever lost track of time and wondered where we were, this helpful timetable showed us what was what.

The Trans-Mongolian Railway runs on Moscow time, which was fine at this point, but later on when there was a 5 hour or so time difference between where we were and Moscow, it was very confusing! The timetable shows how long a stop there is at each town, so you can decide if you want to get out a buy an ice-cream or a beer. Not recommended for the stops of 1 minute.

Amazingly the train always runs on time, word is that this is achieved by building heaps and heaps of time into the timetable, resulting in the train often stopping for hours in the middle of nowhere to make sure it isn’t early. Good old soviet efficiency.

I loved visiting the Cathedral of the Blood, it was a really sad but beautiful church. It was built as part of the canonisation of Tsar Nicholas and his family, and featured gorgeous paintings of the family as saints. I lit a candle for the children, and enjoyed the babushkas singing from the bible.

Another highlight of the fourth largest town in Russia was this rubbish bin! Girl Power! Not forgetting the thrills of  the Geological Museum (shout out to Gresley and Gordon!), and a bizarre restaurant where the staff did an odd river dance every half an hour or so.

Next, Krasnoyarsk and Lake Baikal!

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