A Travellerspoint blog

Russia

Stop 23 - Ulaanbaatar to St Petersburg


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The next leg of our trip consisted of a 75 hour train ride, luckily we had treated ourselves to a first class cabin for this rather lengthy section!

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Time passed surprisingly quickly and was mostly spent looking out the window at incredible views, playing cards, eating and reading. We had a lot of bread, cream cheese and tomatoes, and far too much tea. Seeing the landscape in full summer was a really nice contrast from three and a bit months earlier.

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We had decided to break the journey to St Petersburg with a night in Yekaterinburg, Russia's fourth largest city. We had a slightly odd AirBnB, but the city turned out to be surprisingly fun and interesting, with some beautiful buildings, a great photography gallery, good Uzbek restaurants and some atmospheric cafes. The church above was built on the site of the deaths of Tsar Nicholas II and his family.

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After a two-nighter back in third class 'platzkart', we arrived early into St Petersburg, woke up our AirBnB host and headed for breakfast and coffee. It felt strange being back somewhere European after a few months in Asia. We spent the day wondering round and sightseeing, heading for various churches and cathedrals, the beautiful parks and canals, and Palace Square - the Hermitage is shut on Mondays :(.

Next morning, we jumped on the early Allegro train to Helsinki.

Posted by Chloemillen92 13:42 Archived in Russia Tagged train russia saint_petersburg siberia yekaterinburg trans_siberian Comments (0)

Stop 6 - Ulan Ude


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Next stop was Ulan Ude, Capital of the Republic of Burtyatia, a part of the Russian Federation. It seemed a much more friendly city than the others we had experienced in Siberia.

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One of Ulan Ude's biggest claims to fame is the world's largest statue of Lenin's head... Actually pretty impressive.

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Having wandered around the city and found a great cafe that served 'herring under a fur coat' (best Russian food so far!), we had an early one with plans to walk up to a Buddhist monastery at the top of the hill nearby. The views were pretty spectacular, allowing you to see for miles around and the temple complex was interesting but the temple itself wasn't the most attractive, described fairly accurately in Lonely Planet as a 'Buddhist bust terminal'.

Next stop, Beijing!

Posted by Chloemillen92 08:33 Archived in Russia Tagged russia trans-siberian siberia ulan ude Comments (0)

Stop 5 - Irkutsk and Lake Baikal


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Our next stop was Irkutsk - our main reason for visiting here was to visit the world's deepest lake but the city itself also sounded pretty chilled with a few interesting things to do. We arrived late and took the tram in the wrong direction for about twenty minutes until we found ourselves at the edge of the suburbs. We showed the tram driver where we needed to go and he waved us back on. Thirty minutes later we were inside our strange but comfy alpine themed hostel eating pasta and weird tasting sauce that we found in the supermarket.

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The city itself was nice with some interesting wooden buildings and a great selection of traditional Siberian windows! We visited the house of a Decemberist and his family who had been exciled to Siberia as a punishment for his political views and actions. We knew hardly anything about Decemberists before coming here but learned that they were a liberal group protesting against Tsar Nicholas I. The house in which this particular family lived was a weird mix between a fairly fancy European house and a Siberian peasants house. It had expensive bookshelves and beautifully designed fireplaces but the ceilings were wooden and low.

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We picked a beautiful and sunny day to visit Lake Baikal and it was really very impressive. The lake is 1642m deep and holds one fifth of the world's fresh water! It was perfectly blue to look at from a distance but up close the water was very clean and c!ear. Although the lake itself was incredible the lakeside village that we had taken the bus to was a bit strange and less attractive that we had anticipated so we ventured out to find a cable car to a view point we had heard rumours of. After an hour or so of walking we managed to locate it and enjoyed a peaceful ride up a very big (and slightly snowy) hill. The views from the top were really worth the effort of getting there and we spent a good hour or so up there taking photos and eating an omul (a lake Baikalian fish) pancake!

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After two days in Irkutsk we boarded the train, once again in Platzkart, for an eight hour overnighter to Ulan Ude.

Posted by Chloemillen92 07:42 Archived in Russia Tagged lake russia trans-siberian baikal irkutsk siberia Comments (0)

Stop 4 - Tyumen & train to Irkutsk


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Our next stop was the city of Tyumen and to be honest I am not entirely sure why we thought spending three days here was a good idea. Whilst I'm sure the city is great to live in and would do fine as a stopover on the Trans-Siberian for a night to have a shower and bed, there really is not all that much going on here. We mostly chilled in our hostel (which luckily was pretty nice) Skyped our families and took some long walks to the limited number of 'attractions'.

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We had read about a square with lots of cat statues so decided to pay it a visit. From a little online research we found out that these statues were a memorial to the cats from Siberia that had been sent to St Petersburg shortly after the blockade was lifted in WW2 to try to control the rat population. The number of rats had grown out of control due to the fact that few cats survived the blockade. The Siberian cats sent over were very successful hence the decision to build the statue to recognise their part in the war.

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We also found this little square which was kinda cool...

We walked almost an hour to have a look at the "Lover's Bridge"...

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After 3 days of doing really not a lot (although finding it all pretty funny) we boarded the train for a 40something hour journey to our next stop Irkutsk. This time we were in third class, also known as Platzkart, meaning we were sharing a carriage with 50 or so others. This photo was taken a few minutes before an entire children's ice Hockney team boarded the train. They had just won silver at an 8 day tournament and we had a funny evening chatting to their slightly drunk, celebratory parents.

Posted by Chloemillen92 07:33 Archived in Russia Tagged russia trans-siberian siberia tyumen Comments (0)

Stop 3 - Moscow & train from Moscow to Tyumen


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We arrived in Moscow around 4pm, checked in to our (slightly odd) hostel and then went for a night time wonder. We were both surprised at how vibrant and lively it seemed. After a good nights sleep we headed out to probably the most well known attraction in Moscow - the Kremlin.

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Inside the main cathedral square (the main open space surrounded by important buildings and churches) it felt strangely peaceful for somewhere that important history changing decisions had been made for the past 800 years. The various white washed churches topped with golden domes had been used for different reasons over time including burials, worship, celebrations and coronations. As well as the churches there are also the government buildings although these are obviously not open for random tourists to just wonder into.

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As well as the Kremlin there were many other beautiful buildings to look st in Moscow - the photo above is of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

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And obviously we couldn't visit without going to take a picture the famous St Basils!

Besides looking at buildings we also spent time in Moscow at a park called Gorky Park full of weird little (and some actually pretty big) statues of all the people you can imagine from Lenin to Pinocchio. We also went to a pretty interesting arts development called Red October which used to be biscuit factory. The building itself had actually been changed very little with what seemed like quite a bit of industrial sized biscuit making equipment hanging about. There were quite a few arty shops and galleries to explore but we spent most of out time eating in a rather hipsterish and very yummy Georgian restaurant.

That evening we boarded the train for a 2 day and 2 night journey from Moscow to Tyumen

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The provodnista was very friendly and we settled in quickly to our little compartment. It was a second class cabin meaning we were sharing with two other people. These two others were two Russian men, both very friendly and one extremely interested in English kings; Richard III seemed to be be the topic of most conversations. We had the two bottom bunks which were pretty comfortable and big. Despite the bumpy train we both managed to sleep pretty well. In the morning we quickly tidied our beds up and made them back into seats so our friends could sit down - however it seems this wasn't necessary as they both stayed lying on their top bunks for most of the rest of the journey. After poking our heads into some other compartments we realised this seemed normal - if you have booked a top bunk you stay in it!

The scenery was pretty although not very varied; We spent the majority of journey in birch forests. However it was surprisingly easy to stay entertained listening to podcasts, reading, writing, drinking tea and playing games.

Posted by Chloemillen92 07:15 Archived in Russia Tagged moscow russia trans-siberian Comments (0)

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