On a legendary traintrip to Asia.
Our journey through the great mother Russia started from St. Petersburg. Arriving in Russia was exciting. It was our first pit stop in our journey to Asia. No one spoke English and no one wanted to even try. With our good map reading skills, getting lost for a couple of times, arguing a little and my ability to read Russian (even though I don’t understand much) we managed to find our way to the hostel.
St. Petersburg was beautiful and the city felt quite safe. Few autumn days we spent there were warm. It was easy to get around the city with the underground even though it was a bit scary with it’s flashing lights and bad smells. The historic city center was amazing and the architecture in the old buildings breathtaking. I got to say my experience from the city was quite positive.
That was at least before we had to buy our train tickets to get forward. It was a nightmare and took hours because no one at the train station spoke English and on top of that they weren’t keen on trying to help us anyways. By the time we got to Moscow with overnight train we decided to buy tickets forward for the next day. We had enough of the big cities of Russia and wanted to get to the other side of the Aral mountains. It was the Russian attitude what started to bug us so we bought tickets all the way to Irkutsk and spend only one day in Moscow to see the Kremlin.
We spent next five days on the train. We quickly became a sight on the train, because we were the only foreigners in there and on top of that we didn’t speak any Russian. The train was surprisingly tidy and cozy, but the days were long and boring. Some of our neighbors tried to have a conversation with us even though we didn’t speak the same language at all. I definitely got a better feeling about Russians on our way to Siberia Mostly we spent our time in the train chatting, reading, napping and staring out of the window. After a couple of days, I started to feel sick of eating instant noodles but we didn’t want to spend too much money. We rewarded ourselves with few beers during the journey.
Irkutsk is a city in Siberia next to Lake Baikal what is the deepest lake in the world. The sightseeing in the city was done pretty quickly, there was not much to see. We made a day trip to Lake Baikal and managed to find a minibus who took us there with a decent prize. The lake was beautiful and we should have definitely taken couple of days to spend there instead of just a day!
From Irkutsk, we decided to continue our travel with a minibus because it’s cheaper. We found a bus leaving to Ulan-Ude, our next destination and our final pit stop in Russia. No timetables, just be early and the bus will leave whenever it’s full enough! The bus ride along the small roads of Siberia took about half a day to reach our destination. It was comfortable enough and we had few short breaks. Rest of the journey we spent watching Russian movies, some of them being entertaining enough to watch without understanding anything.
Unfortunate, y we missed our train to continue to Mongolia and the next one was on the next evening. Without a place to stay or a ride to continue we ended up homeless in the town of Ulan-Ude. We spent most of the night sitting in the railway station after local fast food restaurant closed it’s doors.
We got some good news anyways that there is a bus leaving to Ulan-Bator, Mongolia, on the next morning. We decided to try that and made sure we will be there early enough to get the tickets. When the square started to get packed with people we started to get worried. People told us they had tickets for the bus already so we had no choice than to wait and see if there is room for us. Well, there wasn’t.
When the choice is to sit on the floor and even pay some extra for it we skipped. A french couple took the offer because their visas were about the expire on the same day. No fence but I wouldn’t take my chances hassling with visas in Russia… Anyways, me and my friend decided that we are going to find out something else and headed to the small bus station packed with minibuses. There was plenty of choices with buses going to multiple destinations. Our journey through Russia started to become more and more of an adventure.
Well we found a lift to the closest town to the border of Russia and Mongolia and hopped in the bus. After couple hours long and painful journey (I’ve never been on ride so bumpy and uncomfortable) we arrived to the little town and didn’t have a clue where we were and where we should go. After repeating “Mongolia, Mongolia!” several times, our coach driver pushed us to the next car. So we got in the car with this old grandpa hoping for the best that he will bring us to the border. It was quite exciting because no-one spoke a word of English. All we could do was hope for the best.
We made it, all the way through Russia! I was excited again, this time getting out of Russia and enter the country of the great Genghis-Khan.