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Trans-Siberian Express

Trans-Siberian: Day 14-15 - Moscow

Trans-Siberian Express | October 25, 2010

“Roooodzher, do not stray from the collective!” Once again, our sextagenarian tour guide Natalia was yelling at me from the far end of one of Moscow’s many bridges. We were halfway through a lovely, several-hour amble around the city via the leafy park that runs parallel to Tverskoy Boulevard, but Natalia was flustered. As one of the most governessy tour guides from our train journey, she wasn’t used to people lagging very far behind her fluttering purple flag.

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Trans-Siberian: Day 11-13 - Novosibersk to Kazan

Trans-Siberian Express | October 25, 2010

Back on the train out of Irkutsk the following morning, we were forewarned: these next several days were to have little variation in terms of landscape. It would be birch tree after birch tree after birch tree, since for certain stretches of Siberia one can see very little else. 70% of the western Siberian region of Sverdlovsk, for example – itself the area of Holland, Austria and Switzerland combined – is covered in forest. 

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Trans-Siberian: Day 9-10 - Irkutsk

Trans-Siberian Express | October 25, 2010

Irkutsk’s railway station lies right on the banks of the extremely wide Angara river, but unless you look behind you on your way out the train, you’d never know this leafy, industrious capital was set anywhere near a body of water. Of course, I knew the place well from countless days spent playing Risk as a kid; it had rivaled Kamchatka as the place on the map with the most exotic place name – and therefore the most desirable property to own.

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Trans-Siberian: Day 7 – Entering Russia

Trans-Siberian Express | July 30, 2010

After the train skirted the Selenga river valley just after dawn, we reached the Mongolian-Russian boarder at a town called Sükhbaatar (in Mongolia) and Naushkii (in Russia). The carriages were idle for several hours, as we waited, and waited, and waited for the Mongolian and then Russian border guards to sift through our passports, hunting (I imagined) for whiffs of contraband.

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Trans-Siberian: Day 6 - Crossing Mongolia

Trans-Siberian Express | July 27, 2010

After an overnight trundling through the Gobi desert in southern Mongolia, we arrived around noon at the capital of the country, Ulan Bator, a bustling megacity whose name could hardly sound more exotic. From afar, Ulan Bator presents the countenance of any normal overgrown industrial capital – high-rise apartment blocks, potholed pavement roads, busy byways crammed with gas-guzzling cars.

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Trans-Siberian: Day 4-5 - Beijing to Gobi Desert

Trans-Siberian Express | July 24, 2010

At 7:33pm last night the locomotive pulled slowly out of Beijing Railway Station, bound for Erlian on the Chinese-Mongolian border. The station was just as chaotic as I had imagined it. Hawkers were giddily peddling Chinese beer, Chinese spicy sausages and packets of instant Chinese noodles, and there was a palpable sense of excitement in the air – even among people who weren’t travelling.

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Trans-Siberian: Day 1-3 - Beijing

Trans-Siberian Express | July 21, 2010

We began our first full-day tour of Beijing yesterday with a crackerjack tour to the Great Wall – a humbling and gorgeous place to spend an afternoon. While rain had been predicted for the day, the sun came out to greet us as we approached the towering Shuiguan mountains. The Wall itself was very intact in some places, crumbling a bit in others, though climbing it wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined – though I wish I’d had my hiking boots on for some of the more rocky bits.

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