26 August 2008


We are in Ulaanbaator – finally. Or lets say, finally we are in Mongolia. The border transit from Russia to Mongolia took us 6:30 hours. 4 hours our train was trapped on the russian side of the border. The famous town of Naushki felt like a holiday camp for police and customs officials. We saw crowds of them walking around, hanging around and mostly doing nothing. And finally some of them managed to get the whole train checked. We filled in funny little customs declaration sheets, gave our passports to officials (not feeling too well giving away the passports in this country) and needed to get our whole luggage down the over head rack because some hatches in there needed to be inspected. And no, we did not try to smuggle out children or whatever. Strange, very strange. Ah, the toilets were closed all the time as they are the old fashioned ones spitting everything onto the tracks.

Same procedure, different side of the border. The customs declaration sheet was even funnier. There was not a single english word on it. But a customs lady showed us an english version. 2:30 hours later the train started to move towards the mongolian capital. We had some self brewed dinner (at around 2am), a short read and fell asleep too late. Again.

Travelling on the train doesnt make you feel jetlagged. It makes you trainlagged. With no fixed rhythm to follow, passing 7 time zones in 7 days completely tangles your brain. The only thing we were really looking forward to was breakfast, dinner and the 2 longer stops each day. 10 to 20 minutes time to stretch the bones, walk around the platform and eventually buy some food from ladies selling everything one might need on the train from cucumbers to smoked fish to bread.

But lets start at the beginning (at least now). Entering the nighttrain to Moscow on the evening of Aug19th in Frankfurt felt strange. Some friends waved us goodbye, we had some beer and a bit of food with us. The double compartment felt so small with our backpacks still on us. But it grew bigger and bigger the longer we stayed in it. The first night in the bunk beds started after a beer. Passing through Czechia and a bigger part of Poland during the night we awoke somewhere in the middle of Poland only having to pass some hours to the Belarus border. The entry to Belarus was smooth and doubled as entry to Russia, which came in handy as the russian border transfer would have been somewhere in the middle of the night. That was the easy part. Western Europe and former Russian Federation territory have a different rail gauge. So we needed to change bogies in Brest. We waited for three hours to be the next train in the line, while the bogie changing itself only took about an hour. With us in the train. Again toilets remained closed.
Due to the delay at bogie changing we arrived in Moscow nearly 4 hours late. So what. We grabbed our bags, found an ATM and equipped with rubles we descended into the depth of moscovite metro. Impressing is the only word I have for such beautiful metro stations. We didnt even get lost as we got used to cyrillic quite fast. We collected our tickets for the transsiberian train about one kilometre away from the kremlin, had some nice russian food and started our walk to the kremlin. Moscow is by no means pedestrian friendly. Especially not if you are loaded with a big and a small backpack. But finally we arrived at the kremlin and had a nice walk around it. Impressive, powerful, stunning. And also beautiful – the Saint Basil cathedral looked like made of sugar and taken out of a fairy tale.

After that short glimpse of Moscow we decided to come back one time while heading for the train station where our home for the next 5 days would leave. Yaroslavl Vokzal is a nice building and easily acessible by metro. We shopped some food in a nearby supermarket and boarded train number 6, carriage number 5, seats 5 and 6 at quarter past nine. The compartment was bigger with one bed on each side of the compartment instead of bunk style. There was a small table, lots of plastic-fantastic fake wood panels, some lights and the usual two pillows, one blanket and kind of a matress to soften up the bed. We got the sheets, a dishtowel and a towel and started our ride. We had breakfasts and dinners, passed Yekatarinburg, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, had more breakfast and dinner. We even had one dinner in the restaurant car. Its not made for vegetarians – but has beer 🙂  The nicest thing to see on the way was lake Baikal. In the morning at around 7am we saw the first parts of it accompanied by a wonderful sunrise. This lake is so immensly huge that you hardly see the coastline of the opposite side, and that is only the shorter distance. Unluckily no fresh water seals appeared. Most of the time in the train was spend by reading, knitting, watching the landscape go by and playing cards.
Now we are in Ulaanbaator the first day. We had a short nap, a shower (thank God!), nice chinese food and will grab a beer later. The guy from Zavkhan (the company we booked the horse trip with) that picked us up from the train was very friendly, open and had a great english. He will be one of the bunch in the tourism sector that will be making money in the next years.

Up to know the city itself doesnt have a too good impression on us. The people of course are friendly and open and a lot more shy than in Thailand or Malaysia. But the city is an ugly conglomerate of russian heritage: concrete sins, honking cars in traffic jams, a nightmare for pedestrians and somehow feeling like an administrative must in an otherwise nomadic country. And its cold.

More of that after our return from the countryside.

4 Responses to “Trainlagged”

  1. Uli Says:

    Ihr Lieben,

    wie wundervoll, von Euch zu lesen! Wie ich gerade mit einem Schmunzeln feststellen durfte, ist es durchaus lohnenswert, beide Einträge, den deutschen und den englischen, zu lesen. Während Tom den Umfang des Baikalsees in km angibt, schreibt Ju von einem wundervollen Sonnenaufgang… Das ist … niedlich :)!

    Es klingt alles so surreal, Sibirien, Holzhäuser, Steppe… Da kommen einem ganz viele alte Filme in den Sinn (von Märchen bis Dschingis Khan), in die Ihr in meiner Phantasie nicht so recht passen wollt. Umso spannender werden wohl die Fotos!

    Herzlichst, Uli

  2. M+V Says:

    Hallo Ihr beiden,
    es ist wieder herrlich Eure Reiseerlebnisse zu lesen. Man kann es beihnahe miterlebt haben.
    Euch weiterhin spannende Eindrücke und uns tolle Seiten zu lesen.
    Bleibt schön gesund.

    Liebste Grüße Eure M+V

  3. ermanna Says:

    Girl! Happy to hear from you!A big hug…the travel has just started 😉

  4. Werner Sonne Says:

    Es macht einfach Spaß euren Blog zu lesen! Wirklich sehr gut!

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