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Archive for the ‘Transsiberian Railway’ Category

After more than two and a half weeks in the country, let me sketch a short summary of our experience. I also try to provide some advice for others planning to go on a similar trip.
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It’s five am and our neighbour has decided that it’s time to wake up. For himself and everyone else around. This is how our third and last day on the train started.
The platzkart (third class) wagon by itself is not as terrifying as one could fear. I expected all of us to be stacked like cattle, while in fact the the wagon is arranged in a string of six berth coupes, two on one side, four on the other, separated by small walls and the corridor running in the middle.
On the one hand this means that there is a bit of privacy, but on the other it also means that your comfort (survival?) totally depends on your neighbours. And this time we’ve not been exactly lucky. (more…)

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We arrived in Ulan-Ude at 6:15 in the morning. Even though we first re-arranged our suitcases, had bread and cheese for breakfast and brought the suitcases to the luggage room, it was only seven when we headed out to town. We were not properly awake, but what else could we do? The sun was about to come up and the few drifting, strangely puffy looking clouds had a pink glow about them. (more…)

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A few days ago, I had the most boring day of my life. Not at home on my sofa, but on the shores of Lake Baikal.

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Learning Day

We arrived in Omsk on Monday, September 1st. Learning day. As we were explained on the train, this is a very important occasion because it marks the first day of school after summer. Our hotel was right on the shore, there where the Irtysh river flows into the Om river. And this was a perfect place for us because the touristic port is just a hundred meters down the river. And from the port there are hourly pleasure boats that go along the Om. After a night on the train this looked like a wonderful opportunity for a relaxing early afternoon (we had arrived at the hotel at eleven but all we managed to do was to fall asleep on the bed, in a nice room sporting pictures of the Navigli and the Duomo of Milano).

Children of all ages were cueing with us to enter the boat. All dressed up, the boys in suits and the girls in a more traditional black and white dress, with wonderful ribbons on their heads. Fashion is not exactly one of the strong points in Russia these days (more on this later), but this more traditional – and sober – outfit is definitely lovely.

Everyone was just as you would expect on a school trip. The mothers accompanying the younger children all looked properly proud. Younger boys and girls were admired by everyone for their suits and dresses. Alas, the teenagers were already showing some of the corrupting effects of the surrounding fashion. Much less serious in their outfit, they were trying to spice it up with tottering high heels and chamber-maid-like lace aprons. Still, they were wearing their most serious faces while taking each other pictures with their small cameras and mobile phones.

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Food

If you think, an English breakfast is heavy, you have probably not experienced a Russian one yet. You start off nicely with a Kasha, a porridge which can be made of different things, oats, semolina, even rice. Then, you’ll probably go on with more serious stuff, such as an omelet with mushrooms and ham, bliny (the local pancakes), or something fried, such as fried dough balls for example. In hotels with buffets, you’ll also find salads, soups, and other hot dishes such as meat balls. We’ve even encountered fried liver once.

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Since the night trains we are taking these days, you really don’t want to miss, we always show up one hour in advance. And every time it feels a bit like a night at the opera.

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