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  • Day14

    View from the train

    September 8, 2019 in Russia ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

    Just a couple of short video clips through the train window, first as we travelled through a Siberian Village (with musical accompaniment) and then a typical view as we travelled through a silver birch forest in the rain.Read more

    Steve Stringer

    The whole thing looks like one of them B Horror movies 😱😱

    9/8/19Reply

    John Perkins

    9/8/19Reply
    John Perkins

    I always thought it was snow and more snow in Siberia.

    9/8/19Reply
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  • Mar6

    Crossing the Russian Poland border

    March 6, 2020 in Russia ⋅ 🌧 4 °C

    After a very nice meal in Kaliningrad we continued our journey to the border of Poland just to save some time tomorrow. And what we already expected again an intensive check from the Russian and Polish customs including a complete scan from our truck. When we are finished here it is time to find a good place for our night-stop.Read more

    😂😂

    3/6/20Reply
    Dirk Lorentzen

    Hope you explored the puddle's depth by wading or wooden stick before doing the crossing...😄

    3/7/20Reply
    Rob Folmer

    Haha, nope! Living on the edge...

    3/7/20Reply
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  • Day62

    First night out of Vladivistok

    June 26, 2019 in Russia ⋅ ☁️ 20 °C

    I couldn't get my car ready yesterday. It was very late when I got home.
    To get the car into the container I had to let some air out of the tyres. When unloading the car, I wanted to pump up the tyres, but when unpacking the air compressor I found that the curled hose had totally disintegrated and fallen into lots of pieces. Waiting for help. Yuri and I had still some shipping business to finalise, so he brought along an air compressor. What would we overlanders do without Yuri!
    After dinner with Yuri i drove home. As I wanted to get a head start for the next morning, I drove to the supermarket to stock up with all the stuff I still needed.
    The Carpark is very narrow (oh we spoilt Aussies) so I took one corner too short and
    dinted a super loved and polished old timer car. Got out of it with 200$US . Sounded like a good deal to me, but involved a lot of discussion, talking and waiting.
    This morning, after packing up and sorting out the van it wax time to say good by to my new found friends Katya and Vera. Katya has extra baked some apple and berry pies for me, Vera presented me with Vietnamese Coffee ( you should try it one day. Really yummy!), Russian chocolate and honey.
    Now I had to get a hose for this air compressor and fill up my gas bottle. After driving around Vladivostok for hours I did not succeed with any of it so I ended up buying a cheap compressor so i can use its hose and buying a gas cooker. In the process I got to close again to another car in an even tighter car park in China town, which this time resulted in no damage to the other car but to mine.
    Just a small dint, doesn't bother me, but my driving confidence is shaken by now. I only tinted 2x in my hole life and now 2x within 24 hours. What's going on??!!
    Finally at 4o'clock I'm headed out of town.
    Rexelby has been overjoyed to have the van back. I hardly got him out the car last night when i showed him what I brought home.
    Now , at around 5 he is making himself known. He had been extremely patient with me so I drove off the highway trip find a spot where i ciuld take him for a walk.
    Once you leave the highway there are mainly really bad dirt roads. So I travel along this really horrible dirt road, when I, I kid you not, drive the left front wheel into a ditch, so it its air borne. Here i am stuck again! Can you believe this? For no reason! Thank goodness a truck comes along and to my rescue. He has really deserved some of Katja's apple pies!
    I took this as a sign to call it a day! I hadn't realised how stressed I must have been. Time to rest and have a good sleep. There's a new start tomorrow!
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    Claire Jones

    Wow, that’s an interesting start. A good sleep will fix everything

    6/28/19Reply
    Jutta Ley

    Meine Liebe, jetzt mal alles ganz langsam machen! Take your time!! Ich drücke dich👩‍❤️‍👩

    6/28/19Reply
    ElisaLola Rexelby

    Well, ive done 2 days since without any hick ups

    6/28/19Reply
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  • Day15

    Galina's Homestay

    September 9, 2019 in Russia ⋅ 🌙 9 °C

    Just to close up on our time in Bolshoe Goloustnoye we thought we would just mention our accommodation. There are very few tourists that come to this Village so only a few places offer accommodation. We stayed in a chalet attached to a farm and enjoyed what you could best describe as a homestay.

    Galina was the lady of the house and she looked after everything. We saw her husband wandering around from time to time but apparently he is a victim of the booze, as is the case with quite a few of the Villagers here as modern day life takes it’s toll on small remote communities.

    So she looks after all guest related issues herself and also runs their small farm, with some support from her two girls and grandchildren. She prepared for us very good, filling home-cooked Russian food and despite having not a single word of English was the perfect host.

    The Banya facility was great and our room was fine with the exception of the beds which were hard beyond belief (we both agreed on that!). But it has been a very different and enlightening experience living with a real family, in a real Village, in the real forest, of the far East of Siberia.
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    Tommy B. Not surprised they get few tourists. Looks more like the Boro'.

    9/9/19Reply
    Danuta Joyce

    It puts our indulgent lives in perspective! It's an unspoilt part of the world still but hope families like these will keep trying to make a living. On the bed front .......... I thought your postures had changed!!! Djxx

    9/11/19Reply

    Is that a Mongolian mandi?

    9/14/19Reply
     
  • Day9

    Welcome Russia

    March 3, 2019 in Russia ⋅ ⛅ -15 °C

    Following this street for more than 200 km to Murmansk. We were happy to find this fuel station, but they don't accept visa or Euro - so now we are trying to reach the next city in 175 km.. But we are happy to have sometimes internet and phone connection ;)Read more

    Andrea Ledder

    Seid Ihr noch mit Team 11 unterwegs?

    3/3/19Reply
    Lennart Schuster

    Jep 👍

    3/3/19Reply
     
  • Day7

    Our journey to Yekaterinburg

    September 1, 2019 in Russia ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Our train is called and we go through boarding formalities with our Providnista who is the lady who will look after our carriage for the next 26 hours.

    We’re pleased with our compartment. There’s no first class on this train so we have a four berth second class compartment booked for just us (i.e. we have bought four tickets for the journey). Most other couples are sharing and there is no doubt that spending 26 hours in a confined space would be an interesting way to meet total strangers, but certainly not for us! We are not sure that with us and our luggage there would be room for anyone else anyway!!

    Now our Providnista is a very important person as she is ‘Queen Bee’ and responsible for everything in our 36 berth environment for the next day. We have read much about the perils of upsetting these ladies, but ours appears to be very friendly and we established a smiley relationship with her from the start.

    She does not speak a word of English so we had a very interesting situation shortly after departure when she sat down with us holding a pen and paper and rattled off questions in Russian. Don’t ask us how we got there (iPhone translate assisted slightly) but we finally established that everyone in second class is entitled to either a complimentary dinner or lunch, however, as we had bought four tickets for the journey we would get both and these would be served to our compartment at 6pm and midday.

    Dinner came, airline style, and was OK with a salami starter and a chicken and rice main. John ventured 5 carriages down to the restaurant/bar car where he bought a couple of local beers to go with the food.

    As darkness fell we read for a while, enjoyed a couple of vodkas (mixed with lemonade - a secret! Don’t tell the Russians!) and then prepared the beds which were already made and cleverly fold down. Lights were off about 11pm and we both slept pretty well through to 7.30am. There were a couple of stops during the night including 40 minutes at the city of Kazan (6th biggest in Russia), but we weren’t disturbed much and the gentle rocking of the train on a comfy bed did the trick and we awoke for a nice cup of (English) tea feeling refreshed.

    Now after the Providnista the most important thing on the train is the Samovar, a piece of equipment housed in every compartment which provides a constant source of boiling water for travellers to use for tea, coffee, soups, pot noodles etc. These are a long standing tradition on Russian trains and the water is still heated by a coal burning boiler which sends the water through the carriages at over 100F.

    Life on the train during the day is enjoyable. Looking at the views of the countryside (no shortage of trees) and seeing village life passing by makes the time drift by. Most people leave their compartment doors open daytime so you pass acquaintances and are able to get a view on both sides of the train and stretch your legs. By the way, sorry to disappoint some of John’s friends, but the toilet is absolutely fine and kept spotlessly clean by our Providnista, with hot and cold running water.

    By the way, much to our surprise (following our negative pre-trip research), our compartment has it’s own power sockets so we have been able to keep all of our electrical devices fully charged up. We should mention that we had a real result at the beginning of the trip when we purchased Russian SIM cards for our old iPhones for £12 each - amazingly cheap. This will provide us with unlimited 3G internet throughout our time in the Country. Reception is intermittent away from civilisation but it has allowed us to keep in touch with home regularly via WhatsApp, FaceTime and email and even when we’re on the move.

    Lunch was delivered to our compartment at midday and what should it be.......surprise surprise, exactly the same as dinner last night, a salami starter and chicken with rice. Fortunately we had some mustard with us so mixed it into our meal to make it more palatable. Washed it down with a Budweiser (turn in your grave Lenin) as the only Russian beers left in the bar were a bit too strong for lunchtime drinking.

    Unfortunately the weather forecast has proved accurate and during our journey on Monday the blue sky gradually disappeared until by mid afternoon we were travelling through dark skies and steady rain. As we had unbroken sunshine for 6 days on arrival we will live with a couple of poor days and then hopefully things will pick up again as we travel further east across Siberia later in the week.

    Following lunch it was an afternoon coffee, Picnic bars (a real treat), a bit more reading and then our 26 hour journey was in it’s last couple of hours. Where has that time gone? Our first long train journey has been enjoyable and encouraging.

    Our arrival in Yekaterinburg is 30 minutes late at 8.45pm. We say goodbye to our lovely, but nameless, Providnista and look forward to a swift hotel check-in and quick turnaround before having a meal and drinks in town (we have plans on where to go). Then it’s two busy days of sightseeing before we board our next train.
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    Brings back memories of our first iron curtain train journey from Hook of Holland to Poland - only the samavar in our carriage was more decorative, if I accurately recall. Love the restaurant car - very 1930s looking. Djxx

    9/3/19Reply

    Bet you miss Greggs. Tommy B

    9/3/19Reply

    Tommy B. Thought the Urals was Russian for the Toilets

    9/3/19Reply
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  • Mar3

    Visiting St Petersburg

    March 3, 2020 in Russia ⋅ ☁️ 0 °C

    We left this morning our night stop and continued the last 250 km to Sint-Petersburg. Halfway we stopped at a nice cafe for a coffee (pic.2) Around one we arrived in Sint-Petersburg where we parked our truck and took the subway to the city centre. After a good meal and some shopping we left Sint-Petersburg and crossed the Russian border in Narva (Estonia). We are staying the night in a small town called Aseri between Narva and Talinn.Read more

  • Day15

    Lake Baikal and Bolshoe Goloustnoye

    September 9, 2019 in Russia ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    We arrived bang on time in Irkutsk at 6.22am on Saturday and as we manhandled our substantial luggage down about a yard onto the platform there was Ksenia, our new guide, waiting exactly at the right place with our name on a sign. It was a quick hug and goodbye to our train friends and then we were in a nice new black Kia Sportage (yes another Kia) with Ksenia and our driver Igor for the two hour journey to the small village of Bolshoe Goloustnoye on the shores of Lake Baikal.

    Ksenia is in her twenties and an English teacher at a local private school who does Tour Guiding part time at weekends and during school holidays. She will be with the two of us exclusively for the three days we are in the area. We will be living in guest accommodation attached to a farmhouse.

    We arrived and were shown to our basic but comfy looking wooden chalet, one of a row of four. Breakfast (and all 3 meals a day) was in a separate unit and lo and behold in there was the Indian couple who we spent the day with on a tour in Yekaterinburg. They are the only other guests and they are leaving tomorrow morning.

    Our location is a proper working village of 700 with one shop, one cafe and very little tourism. The local trades are primarily fishing and agriculture. The indigenous population are Buryats who are very recognisable, looking like Mongolians. They represent about 80% of the local population now.

    In the afternoon Ksenia takes us on an orientation walk around the village and a 10 minute stroll down to the shore of the main reason for being here, Lake Baikal. This lake is a monster in size and staggeringly holds over 20% of the World’s fresh water! It is 395 miles long from end to end but what creates it’s volume is it’s depth as the lake is over one mile deep in places. In winter it freezes completely to a depth of several metres. Today the weather is mixed with sunshine and showers but tomorrow is supposed to be better and a long walk up into the hills is planned.

    Back at our chalet it’s bath time or as Russians call it ’Banya’. Our accommodation has a very smart Banya which is attached to our row of chalets. It is very similar to a sauna so was very welcome after several days on the train without proper washing facilities. 40 minutes in the hot Banya and then mixing hot and cold water to tip over yourself is a great way to clean up.

    Then it was a hearty home cooked dinner, with a couple of beers from the local shop, and an early night. The beds are pretty hard but bearable and despite the cold outside temperature we have two good heaters in the chalet to keep us warm. No problem going to sleep.

    Awoke on Sunday to shocking news.........Watford have sacked their Manager!! Anyway after recovering from this it was an early morning tea and then breakfast back in the dining room. We also woke to cocks crowing, cows mooing and the odd dog barking, all very rural. Weather windy but blue skies.

    What better for a Sunday in Eastern Siberia than a long walk with Ksenia which we’ll cover separately. We were back for lunch and then sat in the sun on our terrace reading, the silence only interrupted by a large Asian Sparrow Hawk appearing at high speed from nowhere and attacking a bush filled with sparrows. The bush was only about 10 yards from us and it gave us a real surprise when the Hawk made it’s initial attack and then smashed it’s way back in the bush for a second go. There were no fatalities as far as we could see.

    Things then settled down for the rest of the afternoon and after a 4 o’clock Banya (we were braver with water temperature this time) we walked down to the lake for a beer in the only bar in town (which had wi-fi....hallelujah!). Dinner was being served at 7:30pm prompt and as we were the only guests we made sure we were back in time and enjoyed our soup and dumplings.

    It was then time for a bit of packing, a coffee and a read before bed. It’s time to get on the move again and tomorrow (Monday) morning we are being driven back by Igor to the City of Irkutsk for a day and one night before boarding the Trans-Mongolian train for the first time on Tuesday morning.

    We have had a very enjoyable time here at Bolshoe Goloustnoye on Lake Baikal. It has been very basic, but given us a chance to see how life really works in a Siberian village. As we have thought before during our time in Siberia, what must it be like in a few weeks time once the snow comes and temperatures start dropping to -30C? It doesn’t bear thinking about how we would cope that’s for sure!
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    Danuta Joyce

    Just as well you weren't wearing one of those Russian fur hats, John, or the sparrow hawk may have decided to pay more attention to you! It's a monstrously big lake despite it having shrunk in size due to pollution. Caption for the picture of you with cow very apt. Djxx

    9/9/19Reply
     
  • Day65

    Home Maintenance

    June 29, 2019 in Russia ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Made some serious headway with my home improvements today.
    I struggled every morning with putting my bed together by pushing the big board onto the bench, creating the sitting area. Today when driving into Khabarovsk I saw some kind of timber sawing business, so I went and asked it they could halve the board, so that I have 2 pieces instead of one making it much easier to handle. Nice guys, did it all for free.
    I then found a shop where I bought a mirror for this horrible blind spot, which was the reason for the two dints I caused.
    And last but not least, I got my water filter primed which I hadn’t had time to so far, as I needed to change my cupboard so it fits into it as well.
    My next project are the lights above the sitting area. But that’s for another time.
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    Christine Biesgen

    Those guys really look Russian. How are you going with language? Do people speak English or how is your Russian?

    7/19/19Reply
     
  • Day25

    Ghostriders in Russia

    June 27, 2019 in Russia ⋅ 🌧 15 °C

    This was always going to be a long and eventful day. And that is exactly how it turned out. It began when my alarm went off at 5.30 am in my hotel room in Helsinki. A quick look out the window showed that the blue skies that we had enjoyed for the past three and a half weeks had disappeared. They had been replaced with a long lying blanket of grey clouds. A steady drizzle of rain had already soaked the roads and footpaths.

    That was exactly the type of weather that I had feared could have followed us for our entire time in the Baltics. I must admit that I was almost glad to see it now as it would have seemed a bit unreal for us to have spent so long in the region without getting some of their "normal" weather.

    After breakfast I donned my waterproof jacket for the first time on this trip (I was wise packing it in my bag after all) and headed out for the final time. After a little aimless wandering, I found myself in the city museum. It had an incredible series of huge photographs of Helsinki that showed life in the city at various times since 1866. The detail was amazing, so much so that you could spend a lot of time at each image, just to look at what the people were doing.

    I finally worked my way to the top floor, where a complicated array of data projectors were showing some sort of movie. It was quite dark and I nearly had a heart attack when a voice came from below me. "Hello Dennis", it said. I know that technology is smart, but how could it know my name when I had come from the opposite side of the planet ?

    The mystery was solved when I discovered that it was Sue. She had made herself comfortable as part of the exhibit and was watching the movie. I asked her how she understood Finnish. Apparently she had already read the script and knew what it was all about.

    I continued to the market near the pier. Already several new ships had docked and disgorged their human cargoes. Quite a number of them (about 500 I reckon) were animatedly shoving themselves and taking selfies around the market stalls. I decided that Helsinki is a lovely city, but I was ready for something different.

    Our train for St Petersburg was due to leave at 4 pm. At the appointed pickup time of 3 pm our small group of 6 were all waiting with our luggage in the hotel foyer. When there was still no sign of a driver at 3.15 pm, I decided that it was time for us to walk. It was only a 10 minute walk and the rain had now stopped.

    We found the St Petersburg train and climbed on board. It was a shame that there was no room for our luggage - only a small overhead rack for hand luggage. Fortunately I found a small storage compartment at the end of the carriage and,after a little rearrangement (throwing everyone else's luggage out into the aisle) , I was able to find a nice secure spot for my bag.

    Right on schedule at 4 pm we were on our way towards Russia. The scenery consisted of trees - mile after mile of forests and very occasionally a house or two. This area really is remote and very lightly inhabited. All the time we knew we were getting closer and closer to Russia.

    It was what happened over the next 90 minutes that was the really interesting part. Firstly a large guy with absolutely no neck at all, wanted to see our passports and make sure that our Russian visas were in order. A short time later a group heavily armed and very serious Finnish immigration police wanted to examine my documents.

    They slowly worked their way through the carriage, until it was my turn. The serious faced official slowly turned over every page. He seemed concerned about something. I was certainly concerned. I was far too old to be sent to a Russian gulag, or even a Finnish one for that matter. He eventually told me that I must have entered Europe illegally,since I had no arrival stamp. This was my worst fear come true.

    Trying to remain calm, I explained to him that I had entered through Warsaw and that he had better have another look. He went back through the pages again and finally found the stamp he was looking for. Thus satisfied he added a new stamp to my passport and handed it back. He seemed a little disappointed that he had missed the chance to make his first arrest of the day.

    The border crossing itself was a little anticlimactic - just a sign, lots of barbed wire and CCTV cameras. We were now in Russia, little wonder that the weather seemed gloomier and the forests looked like they had more weeds than trees. The sides of the railway line were lined with miles of coiled barbed wire and numerous cameras. It was a delightful way to welcome foreign tourists to your country.

    The carriage was then filled with a succession of uniformed Russian officials. There were so many of them that they filled all the standing room in the aisle. Some were dressed like police, while others looked like army generals. It was an impressive show of force. Sweat started to drip from my chin as they worked their way towards me. I started to wonder whether I would be offloaded to the next train to Siberia. To my relief I was eventually awarded the coveted Russian entry stamp, but not before another long and detailed examination of my passport.

    Right on time we rolled into St Petersburg Central Station. Another adventure was about to begin. I wondered whether our driver would be waiting for us. Would we have a hotel to sleep in that night ? It was very reassuring to see a man holding a sign with my name on it outside the station. He even had it spelt correctly. I started to relax.

    We were ushered to a waiting large mini bus and were soon heading towards our hotel. I watched the progress on my GPS, but soon noticed that we were heading in the opposite direction to our allocated hotel. Maybe the driver was a KGB agent and we were being taken to Siberia after all?

    A few minutes later he stopped outside the very impressive Sokos Vasilievsky Hotel and indicated that this is where we would be staying. I was not so sure, but we unloaded our luggage and rolled into the fancy lobby. To my relief the guy at the desk spoke excellent English and was obviously expecting us.

    We were directed to our rooms and discovered them to be far in excess of our expectations. In fact the rooms were enormous, the beds magnificent, the air conditioning was functioning and the bathrooms alone were as big as some of our previous rooms. I even found that my window could be opened - something that many hotels no longer allow you to do. When I looked out my window I found that I looked straight down into a yard filled with broken toilet cisterns. I am not joking, but I am not complaining either. I am very happy with the hotel and my room.

    At 8.30 pm we met to have our first foray into the unfamiliar city. We immediately discovered a new challenge. It is impossible to read most signs, because the alphabet is so different. Since no one speaks English,ordering anything to eat is a complicated matter of pointing and grunting, but somehow we managed.

    The next couple of days will be interesting.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

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