What a trip! China, Mongolia, Russia. Don’t ask me to choose a favourite country, it would be like choosing between my children. Each one is unique. Continue reading Trans-Mongolian adventure comes to an end
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
On a cold overcast Sunday morning, we decided to join locals at a weekend flea market in the northern part of the city. We went to the Udelnaya Fair, the best known in Russia and one of the largest in the world. To get there, our directions were to simply follow the crowd when we got off the Metro at Udelnaya Station. Continue reading Saint Petersburg Flea Market
We arrived in Saint Petersburg after our final rail leg, an overnight from Moscow. During our early morning transfer to the hotel, we got a glimpse of the beautiful architecture Saint Petersburg is known for. Later that morning, we walked among the city’s wonderful buildings, Continue reading Saint Petersburg, Russian Jewel
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
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.
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
Here are a few tips I’ve collected for happy traveling aboard the Trans-Mongolian Express.
- Board in an orderly fashion, let the ones with compartments furthest from the door go first.
- Compartments are small, stand in the hallway while your traveling companions sort out and store their luggage.
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
I got to shoot arrows at a hairy cowhide target that still had the tail attached and pay a visit to a nomad family where I was served salty tea and a snack of dried milk curd hard as rock. At night, I slept in a Ger (or yurt), just like the nomads.