A Travellerspoint blog

Trans-Siberian/Mongolian railroad – to Ulaanbaatar

A little more of Russia and our journey to Ulaanbaatar

sunny 19 °C
View 2012 RTW on Drifters's travel map.

Hi! We are finally getting better about writing here – we are out of the relatives grasp and back to our backpacking/hosteling/not understanding anything around us – selves.

Just a few comments on the rest of our time Russia. I think, we finally had a proper visit with my family for all the 15 years since I have left the country. We visited everyone a few times and even helped my parents around their houses, which made me feel a bit better about my selfish self. Also, we definitely saw St. Petersburg properly and even visited Hermitage twice! Along with Hermitage we visited all of the buildings of State Russian Museum, Ekaterinensky Palace and even Kunst-Camera. I have to shamefully admit that I have never been in some of the above mentioned places myself and they were as much a discovery for me as for Ryan.

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While in St Petersburg we scrambled around to get tickets for the train out of Russia, which proved to be a bit of a challenge since the Russian computer system is not synced in with Mongolian, so everything took a bit longer and we had to actually go buy them from a train clerk instead of booking online (there is a RZD office on Griboedov Canal for international ticket sales for travellers out there). At first we had an idea to have a stop over in the city of Irkutsk, but there were no trains available on the days we wanted, so we had to regretfully skip it...

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After returning to Moscow, we mushroom-hunted with my dad and step mom (a lot of mushrooms and a lot of fun!) and then partied well long into the night with my mom and uncle Serezha, his wife Vika and my cousins – Alesha, Vasya and Gosha. Vasya and Gosha are super awesome and were selected to become Candidates in Masters of Sport in Baseball, a super prestigious thing in Russia, considering they are only 15 and 14 years old! Alesha is super awesome as well as he just became a student of International Tourism in university! So, needless to say, we had a tremendous visit with them and had a lot of great food and drinks.

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Then after saying goodbye, we met my dear friends and they sent us off on our four day journey to Ulaanbaator. For our journey we bought food, snacks, and our friends generously supplied us with beer. After boarding the train we found out we were by ourselves in our car compartment, and this condition lasted all throughout the trip. So instead of being uncomfortable by sharing a car with people for four days we ended up going and looking for some travelling backpackers and spending some great time swapping travel stories. We have not done much in the last four days, just slept well, read our kindles and looked outside at the beautiful scenery. Russia seems to be doing great as far as towns go, it was very refreshing to see that people started caring about their cities and towns and have planted flowers and keep everything clean. So we have just have arrived here in Ulaanbaatar this morning and already did some sightseeing here, but we will put it in our next entry

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I want to thank everyone again who made our time in Russia comfortable and enjoyable and took care of our every need. You are loved and are always on our minds and in our hearts, and we hope to see you all again soon!!

Posted by Drifters 20:56 Archived in Russia Comments (1)

Onward East

The End of our Vacation in Spain and our travels further East to Russia

overcast 14 °C
View 2012 RTW on Drifters's travel map.

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This blog is in dire need of an update, and as usual, we have done a lot over the last couple weeks and there is much that I would like to say here. But I will try to keep things concise and to the point. We were really enjoying our two weeks in Spain. The weather was beautiful, although a bit hot, and we were getting to see some amazing places. After Seville we headed off to Figueres, and as Anastasia likes to refer to it, “The Dali Triangle.” We opted to fly from Seville to Barcelona because it was the cheapest option (go figure) and then take the train from Barcelona to Figueres. It was a long day of traveling but well worth it. We stayed with a very nice host in Figueres named Mary, and made that our home base while we explored the surrounding cities over the next few days. Figueres is a quiet little town near the French border and the only reason it is on the map is because Salvador Dali lived there for many years. He created his theatre museum in Figueres and it is really quite a spectacle. I think just the museum itself is worth a trip to Spain. We really enjoyed an opportunity to visit the museum at night, which they allow during the summer months. Then over the next few days we explored some more of Dali’s history by visiting his wife Gala’s castle in Pubol, and Dali’s workshop and home in Portlligat. Plus we managed to squeeze in a couple days on the beach in Roses and Cadaques just to round things out. Although it was nice, I really wouldn’t recommend visiting the Spanish coast in August because there are way too many tourists. It is tough to find a spot to sit down on the beach, much less enjoy yourself. Overall, Figueres was a good time, and I now have a newfound interest in Dali and his works.

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After our two week layover in Spain, we had tickets to fly to Russia. We took an overnight train from Figueres to Madrid, then after a long day at the airport, headed out on an overnight flight to Moscow. We arrived early in Moscow, and our friend Katya was happily waiting to collect us from the airport and give us a ride downtown. As usual, we feel like we don’t have enough time here in Russia. My visa is good for 30 days, but it seems everyday we are here we are running around town meeting with friends and family, and then occasionally trying to fit in some sightseeing. But I shouldn’t complain, it has been great getting to catch up with everyone and seeing people we haven’t seen in years. As always, everyone has been very welcoming and helpful. I even think Moscow has gotten nicer since we last came here. Maybe it is just the weather, but it seems cleaner and friendlier with flowers and small produce shops all over. We spent a little over a week in Moscow, and then took an overnight train to St. Petersburg, where we are now. In between visits to Anastasia’s Mom and Grandmother we have managed to make a trip to the Hermitage and also St. Michael’s Castle. We have a few more days planned here, and then back on the train to Moscow.

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Our travels have been great, but I feel like the last couple of months, really since we left Chile, we have gotten off the “backpacker” trail. Which, in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. We have become more like tourists on a two week holiday, enjoying all the great sights, people, and food. (And we have had some really nice places to stay thanks in large part to our family and friends) But it is almost too easy, in a lot of ways I miss the adventure and challenges that come with trying to find a clean and nice hostel, or walking back and forth between busses and trains with my huge pack on trying to figure out how to get to somewhere else, and to do it without spending a fortune. I find myself wanting to meet other travelers in a hostel, or at a bus station to share stories with. Then again, maybe we have just spent too much time in the big cities lately, and what I really need is to get outside and away from all the other nameless people here. Anyway, for these and other reasons, I am really excited about our plans to head off on the train next week through rural Russia and then on to Mongolia. I don’t really know what to expect, and that is what keeps me interested.

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Posted by Drifters 12:12 Archived in Russia Comments (2)

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