A Travellerspoint blog

Surviving the chaos

semi-overcast 8 °C

When you enter Mongolia, you have to forget all your good manners. Spitting on the street is usual as long as elbowing others to enter on a bus. You are not likely to offer your seat to a mother with his/her child, but you will offer to carry the baby. Throwing garbagge on the street is more than normal and driving carelessly is totally acceptable. Strange country, isn't it? But apart from this, Mongolia has probably the most beautiful landscapes along the Trans-Siberian line. Nomadic people are very friendly, the Buddhist temples are beautiful and the countryside is fantastic!
Of course you need to have a strong stomach to stand some habits. But then again, it's a third world country - what to expect?
I had a wonderful night at a ger camp in Gorkhi Terelj National Park - only sounds of nature. Got to know a little bit more about Nomadic traditions: constructions of gers, Mongolian food and habits... These are the most fantastic experiences one can get from a journey.
Tomorrow I am spending my last day in Mongolia.

Posted by Billabongirl 08:18 Archived in Mongolia Comments (0)

Snowing in Baikal

-2 °C

That was not how I had pictured Baikal, but it was even more beautiful. On Saturday temperature was almost on 30 °C. I can't understand how a bunch of snow fell on my feet when I opened the window this morning! I know that Siberia has great thermal differences, but between Winter and Summer - not from one day to the next one! Visiting Baikal with snow was more than I could ask for. I really made some nice shots.
The Circumbaikal railway is a journey I truly recommend everyone. Snowing, raining, storming - it's always beautiful.
The small village of Port Baikal is just too nice to be true - lovely landscape and very quiet, away from the noisy tourists.
The lake is immense, the water fresh and pure, thanks to some algae that filters the water. 25 % of the Earth's water is on Baikal - amazing isn't it?
I'm heading tomorrow towards Ulaanbaatar, capital of Mongolia, so a couple more nights on the train - what could be better than sleeping on track?

Posted by Billabongirl 07:42 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

The Paris of Siberia

sunny 28 °C

Once known as the Paris of Siberia, it was also one of the coldest places on the Earth, though the global warming is rapidly changing this. I had to change my sweatshirt for a tshirt on one of the coldest places in Russia!
I am loving the city - all those wooden-coloured houses make such a pleasant view!
I have been walking and walking around the capital of Eastern Siberia, visiting locals of interest and enjoying its wide and refreshing gardens and squares. It's really a pleasant city to live in (in the Summer), just next to the Angara river, which drains Lake Baikal. In Winter, the climate is so harsh that people can't turn off the engine during the whole day! They don't need fridges either - pieces of meat and fish are hung outside from the top roofs!
A big difference here is the kindness and helpfulness of people - just the act of getting the map out of our bags makes a Irkutskian turn around and ask if we need help!
Tomorrow I am heading for Lake Baikal for a 2-day trip, before entering the Transsiberian again.
I'll dive for you!

Posted by Billabongirl 08:55 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

As far as I've ever been

sunny 20 °C

I could spend my whole life on a train, specially if it wasn't a Chinese one. Don't get me wrong - I have nothing against Chinese, but Russian teams and trains are way better.
I need time to absorb all the beautiful landscapes I have been sightseeing: from tayga to tundra - Russia has it all. When I left Moscow, temperature was rising thanks to the sweet Arctic wind. I was expecting even lower temperatures during Siberia crossing but we also descended a lot in terms of longitud, so this one has won the battle: yesterday the thermometers have recorded 28 °C! I persuaded the Chinese man on my carriage and got a permanent sit by the window, head outside of the train - not only fresh but I made great pictures!
At the moment, I have completed the first leg of my journey, which means I already have more than 5000 km done, yet still another 3000 km to come! It's hard to choose what I liked most, but the log cabins between the tayga forest amaze me in a way I can't explain!
Another particular thing about this journey is the changing of the timezones. If I was distracted and we didn't eat at 13 pm, soon it will be 15 pm, and almost time to get a mid-afternoon snack! Lucky we went through 2 time zones only at a day! The other thing that really bugs me (even though I already knew it before I came) is the fact that all trains run on Moscow Time (GMT+3h). This is stupid because:
1. We are now more than 5000 km away from Moscow.
2. It's really disconcerting for the passengers waking up in the morning when they are arrive in Beijing, and hearing the loudspeaker "Good night, you are now entering Beijing"! Good night? They have already slept the whole night...
3. What a confusion for local inhabitants when they look at the station clock and have to add a lot of hours...
Only in Russia!

Posted by Billabongirl 08:29 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

Sightseeing Moscow

overcast 7 °C

Moscow is much bigger that you think it is, at first time. Streets are wide and long, most of the times without a single crossing, so we end up walking much more than we expect. The buildings are always opulent in the good old-fashioned Soviet style. The underground stations are beautiful. This Friday 9th May is the celebration of the end of World War II (they call it Patriotic War here), so the whole city is being prepared for several parades and marches that will took place on the holiday. I would like to see something like this, but I am on train on that day.
I got to see an amazing convent that is part of the World Heritage Site! Amazing! The All-Russia Exhibition is just another place where we can see the greatest deeds Russian has conquered along the Cold War. Really worth a trip.
The only thing bad about Moscow/Russia is that hardly anyone speaks English - the advantage is that I can fully read Cyrillic by now! Last afternoon I got stuck between the underground doors - don't know what would have happened if it wasn't for a Russian strong man that managed to open the doors from the inside! People are cold but sometimes they amaze us and ask if we need help.
Today I am visiting the Kremlin and then I'm shopping for the train trip.

Posted by Billabongirl 21:37 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

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