|Subject: Short Trip Arond the World|
I just completed a short trip around the world, short only because it was just over three weeks.
The trip was from Vancouver to Beijing, with only a few days to finalise visas and trip plans. It was then on to the train for two nights and onto Irkutsk in Russia. I travelled on train #3 which is the Chinese train and the route was through Mongolia.
The border crossing from Mongolia took about 4 hours, part of the time being taken to change the wheels. We finally we moving again by about 1:30 in the morning. We spent about 24 hours in Mongolia, only in transit. Many people departed the train in Ulan-Bator.
We had another late night border crossing from Mongolia to Russia, again over 4 hours and started moving again at about 2:30 am. The Russian customs people didn't bother the non-Asians but took a great interest in the Chinese and other Asians on the train. One Chinese trader was found with 10 cartons of cigarettes and was immediately fined $200US, he had many other thing s that they did not find that was spread throughout the train. The grassland in Mongolia looked very beautiful, Mongolia is said to have 2 million people and 10 million horses.
The next afternoon I arrived in Irkutsk and was met by a car and driver and transferred to Listvyanka village on the shores of Lake Baikal. I stayed for two nights at a family homestay, in one of the traditional Siberian wooden houses. During my stay I was treated to some good traditional home cooking. I also was able to have a Russian sauna, banya, in the evening. I had a local guide who showed me many of the sights in the area.
After two days at the lake I returned to Irkutsk, again I stayed with a family. This time in was in a typical Russian apartment. I enjoyed my visit to Irkusk it has much history and many interesting sights.
I was back onto the train and it was another three nights to Moscow. This time it was a Russian train. We arrived in Moscow about 5 hrs late, having been delayed for a while by a railcar derailment on the track.
I spent 4 nights in Moscow and found it to be a beautiful world class city. I found the city to be relatively clean and easy to get around. I did many walking tours with the help of my guide books and made good use of the subway system. Many sights to see in Moscow, you could spend days and never see them all.
I joined up with The Beetroot Bus Tour, which is a budget bus trip from Moscow to St Petersburg. We made various stops to see some of the sights, and spent nights at Kostroma, Rybinsk and Vologda. We had 4 people on the tour with a guide and driver, the vehicle was a 10-passenger van. It was a good trip, the guide was very informative and took us to places that the average traveller to Russia would not visit.
I spend another couple of days in St Petersburg. Again, another fantastic city. More walking and many more sights, there are few cities in the world similar to it. A full day was spent in the Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum. It is one of the world's largest museums and contains many works of classical art including Leonardo da Vinci (The Virgin and Child), many Renoir's, Rubens, Rembrants, Matise and many others. The complex has over 1,000 rooms, it would take many days to see all the exhibits.
>From St Petersburg I took a night train back to Moscow. I then flew back from Moscow to Seattle on a non-stop Aeroflot flight, it was a good flight, service and food was good and the aircraft was a rather new 767.
I enjoyed my visit to Russia and I will return someday to see more of Moscow and St Petersburg.
Gary Saunders Victoria BC