Brian & Katherine's Trans Mongolian trip 2013 travel blog

A view along the canals.

Our hotel from the water.

Outside Vitebsky train station in St Petersburg.

On the platform, waiting for the train to arrive.

And the train is in.

Well, we managed it. Three weeks in Russia with no language and nothing booked before we arrived. We managed to go everywhere we wanted, see everything on our list, eat and drink well, get ripped off by taxi drivers (only once badly), and even managed a few unplanned activities (a ride in an ambulance and a visit to the emergency department of a public hospital). Not bad for a couple of geriatric Irish/Chinese Aussies if I do say so myself!

Overall, we found the people to be friendly and helpful even if, outside the major hotels, they had little or (mainly) no English. A bit of creative preparation from Katherine with the help of the phrase book and loads of patience was the key. In particular, we are very grateful to the staff at the Onegin Hotel in Yekaterinburg (Oksana and Irina) for their assistance interpreting with the ambulance staff and at the hospital.

We are also grateful to those staff who went out of their way to assist us in purchasing tickets at the train stations and ticket agencies. Ditto at the various restaurants, shops, post office and hotels where the staff were, in the main, helpful, patient and friendly. The lemon suckers and begrudgers were, thankfully, few and far between. I won't say it was always easy. Sometimes it was very frustrating and, at times, we seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time organising the next leg(s). Overall however, it was a successful trip with positive memories.

So far we have travelled over 11,000 kilometers, 11,186 to be exact I think. Not sure about the time we've physically been on trains, the change in time zones does my head in - I always get the change the wrong way round! It's around the 161 hour mark which is a tad under 7 days. That's a long time to be on a train and we've still got a ways to go yet! And you thought 20+ hours on a plane was a long time. Next time we'll go by ship. At least we won't have to unpack/pack every two/three days.

Our last day in St Petersburg was pretty uneventful. We had another late departure, this time the 7.40 pm to Vilnius. We were unable to get a late checkout as the hotel was fully booked so we hadn't too much planned for the day. A late breakfast (again), checked out, left bags with reception and went for a stroll. We had left the canal boat trip for the last day to give us something to do that didn't involve walking. Then a late lunch and a small bit of shopping.

After that, back to the hotel, lounged around reception for a while and then headed off to the station. We didn't bother with a taxi as it was only a ten minute walk, all flat. Once there, found the platform, waited to board and eventually got on and settled into our compartment. Easy.

Now we have a twelve hour journey to Vilnius ahead of us. Not sure what time the border crossing is but presumably they'll wake us for the formalities. Next time we wake up we should be in Lithuania!

Until then, take care and have fun.


Brian & Katherine.

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