Category Archives: Trans-Mongolian Express

Exploring China, Mongolia and Russia by train in October 2017.

Our Russian Guides

During our Trans-Mongolian adventure, we visited four Russian cities: Irkutsk, Yekaterinburg, Moscow and Saint Petersburg. In each one, G Adventures had arranged for a walking tour with a local guide: Luba in Irkutsk, Valentina in Yekaterinburg, Irena in Moscow, and Mike in Saint Petersburg.

Each guide was university educated. The three women are retired professors. Mike, who is younger, has had a career as a guide. They remember life under the Soviet regime.
Today, guides like these are free to talk about those times and all of them did. In fact they were quite candid. Continue reading Our Russian Guides


Discovering the Moscow of War and Peace

I read War and Peace when I was 13. It brought Czarist Russia to life for me and to this day I can easily imagine scenes like a gala ball at a prince’s opulent mansion or couples arriving to that ball in a troika piled high with bear furs to keep them warm against the Winter cold. I can also imagine the devastation of the battlefields of the Napoleonic Wars, especially during the brutal Russian winter.

Having lived with these images since I was a young girl, it was very exciting for me to be in Moscow. I knew that I would not see the Moscow of War and Peace but I was keen to discover the city. Continue reading Discovering the Moscow of War and Peace

Chic Moscow

Moscow has the vibe of a cosmopolitan city. It’s the seat of the Russian government and it’s lively with bureaucrats and business people. Muscovites are chic and stylish, easily setting themselves apart from the frumpy tourists that roam the streets. Sidewalks are full of elegant men in designer suits and women in impossibly high heels and beautiful wool coats. Chauffeur-driven luxury cars sit double-parked waiting for their passengers, sometimes accompanied by security details in black SUVs. The city has an air of purpose and growth.

All this activity happens surrounded by iconic locations: Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin; sites that have witnessed the history of Russia from Tsarist times, through revolutions, communism and now the Russian Federation.

Famous Red Square is bordered by the State Historical Museum on the north side, the Kremlin walls to the west, St. Basil’s Cathedral to the south and a shopping mall on the east side. The mall is called GUM which stands for Main Universal Store in Russian. The building opened as a department store in 1893. It was turned into offices between 1928 and 1953, but it’s a busy high-end mall now with brands like Coach, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Cartier, Rolex, and Versace.

You’ve got to wonder what Lenin thinks of this, lying in his Mausoleum just across the square.Lenin Mausoleum


Unique Lake Baikal

I was surprised to learn that Lake Baikal holds one-fifth of all the fresh water in the world, equal to all five Great Lakes combined. It’s the Earth’s oldest freshwater lake dating back 20-25 million years. Knowing this, I was looking forward to seeing it for myself.

We stayed overnight in Listvyanka, on Lake Baikal. It gave us the chance to truly appreciate the area and to experience several local attractions.  Continue reading Unique Lake Baikal

Beautiful Mongolia

When I looked out the window of the train on our first day in Mongolia, we were in the Gobi desert, the Mongolian steppes. The landscape was flat, the low scrubby grass fall-brown, the light diffuse, and all of it completely spectacular. Herds of animals appeared, horses, cattle, sheep, Angora goats, Bactrian camels, gazelles or yaks. Here and there, a few Gers (yurts), a testament to the traditional nomadic lifestyle. Continue reading Beautiful Mongolia