7595 km – 18 days

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TRANS-SIBERIAN RAILWAY
or some would call it 7595 km of Spasiba !

Where to start and how to end ? Maybe first of all some facts.


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Organisation : Vodkatrain (no typing error)
Kilometers : about 7595 km
Nights in the train : 6
Comfort : second class
Hygienic standards : toilet, but no shower
How much Vodka : can’t remember
How many foreign people on the train : I would guess 20%
Favorite food : Chinese instant noodles
Most worn garment : Ping Pong T-Shirt (the whole story here)
Special events : a wedding
Border controles : 2
Countries : 3
Timezones crossed : 6
Common activities : card game Yanif, eating noodles, drinking vodka, sleeping, reading, singing, laughing and sharing … what ever we had to share, because sharing, is …


diary –  somewhere in russia – 9th of August
Time stands still.
On a 5-day-train-trip.
We are moving, the landscape is passing by. Just some short stops, sometimes only 2 min, here and there 30 min. Today, we will have only two longer stops. I quickly changed my clothes. Taking a shower isn’t possible. There is only hot water for coffee, tea, instant food and to clean your toothbrush. The beds are comfortable, I’m sleeping on the upper one, with a view, in second class. 4 people are sharing a cabin.

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I walked through the third class wagon. Open cabins, a shared wagon, people are reading, sleeping or playing cards. It’s an interesting mix of people, most of them are Russian, there are some Germans, French and other European nationalities, all age, alone, couples or friends.
Our group, 11 travelers – only 2 of them know each other for years. The others are on their own, like me. And most of them aren’t living anymore in their home country, like me. We are a mix of 3 Australiens, 3 Danish people (! , which is a lot for such a small country), one Mexicano, an American, two English man and me, ‘the‘ German.  All their passports are full of stamps from everywhere. It’s a great inspiration to meet them – all this travel lovers.
It’s true, it’s addictive. It’s only my 5th day out of 326.

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diary –  still somewhere in russia – 11th of August
We are all a bit out of it.  We are loosing the sense of time and space.
We are just somewhere, somewhere in Siberia. Here where parts of the birch forests of the West Siberian Plain are dead. We see thousands of white stems that rise like thick pins from the Taiga. Marsh? Fire? We do not know. We continue.

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What if I tell you someone got married on the train ? Yes, things like this are happening somehow. Let’s say there is a lot of Vodka involved in this story – we always need to blame it on something, right ? Like we would say in german a Schnapsidee. But after 4 days on a train you try to find some occupation so why not a wedding ? We had everything we needed. Two strangers. A borrowed flower crown for the bride, some hand stiched rings with stamped names on it. We all got dressed up – I mean dressed up for train standards, some shaved their 3-days-beard or created ties out of socks. We were invited for an Apéro in one of the cabins, before the wedding ceremony started in wagon number 22 – the train restaurant. We organised a (borrowed) father who could accompany the bride to the happening place and of course hand drawn flowers made by a 5 years old girl. All in all – perfect.
The ceremony itself – two strangers in front of an American who wrote their wedding promises – even this was arranged in this short amount of time. The rings – had been carried and given by a little boy – felt down in a moment of tension but no worries, they made it to exchange the rings.
Afterwards two shots of Vodka.
Remarkable moments were the speeches of the bridesmaid and groomsman. Intense and emotional words by people who know each other for 5 days. And then the party, vodka shots, dances, songs, kisses over and under the table. All in all a blast on the trans-siberian railway !

And a happily ever after … or maybe not.

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diary – on the train to Mongolia – 15th of August
Yesterday, we left the lake Baikal.
I really enjoy traveling and living on the train. Being back on the train is like coming back home. Everything has its place. The rhythm of the train, the tiny beds, different landscapes and the fact of enjoying the simple things.

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I haven’t informed me a lot about Mongolia. This country is a surprise. Passing all these pretty landscapes before we enter into Mongolia – it’s promising a lot . It’s a new style, new vegetation and it’s poor. Vast landscapes with trees and lakes here and there. Suddenly it changed into a rocky landscape with mountains.
But the fire smell is still here.

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The veldt which alternates between green and brown. A wide river crosses the vast landscape. Horse herds which graze and then nothing, nothing less than vast landscape. In the background the monoton sound of the train. Warm air and a very foggy view surrounds us.

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The Russian Border crossing
Already one hour before we arrive at the border some conductress are distributing papers, it’s customers and identity papers. It’s exciting, our first border crossing on this trip. We are all in our cabins, filling out the papers and waiting for the next step.
It is time, we all have to leave the train. It’s 2pm and we are somewhere, on a platform. We heard that we have to wait here for about 4 hours. Ok, let’s see what this area has to offer. One tiny supermarket, some food sellers and a park outside the platform.
Unfortunately it’s full of trash, random stuff everywhere. It’s sad.

We are all tired, hanging around, reading, chatting – letting the time pass. Finally we got back on the train. Now we had a very accurate passport control accompanied by dogs and the collection of our passports. Doors and toilets were closed during this time, it was quite in the train. All in all it took more than two hours before we started towards Mongolia.
And here we had our Mongolian border control – again the passport and validity of the visa control and eventually collecting our passports a second time. Two hours later we got them back. In total about 8 hours for the border crossing from Russia into Mongolia.

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diary –  back on the train – 20th of August
On our way to China. Border crossing is at midnight. On our last evening in Ulaanbaatar we went out for party and it was one ! Our group in middle of hundred Mongolian – such a fun !
There was a moment when I felt really thirsty and grabbed a coke from someones table – I know it’s not correct – but I just borrowed it. So I went away and suddenly two Mongolian girls stood in front of me – like really angry. I didn’t even tried to explain myself, I felt so stupid and excused myself million times and of course they got their coke back and the girls took it really cool.  Later this evening our paths crossed again and with one of them I started to talk – excusing me again and again – she told me that she lived for 15 years in Germany, her parents still live in Munich. So I started to speak german with her, in a Mongolian Night Club. Never imagined this. We changed contacts and maybe we see each other again.

We almost missed our train the morning after. Martin and Joe are our heroes, even our honcho slept over.
7:30 – we all woke up. Panic. 8:00 is our train.
Lewis’s backpack straps broke, everybody run and we made it ! We are back on the track !

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I’ve to say Mongolia was amazing, breathtaking landscapes, an incredible horse riding into the sunset – a precious and funny time. I had some excitement when I realised I forgot my laptop in the hotel room – this is when you realise that being too paranoid isn’t good. I thought I should hide my laptop under the bed in a locked hotel room. In the end I completely forgot about it and was wondering why my bag feels so light.
On our bus tour to the Genghis Khan Statue I realised it – everyone calmed me down – we gonna go back to the hotel after our stay in the national park – Puhhh, lucky you. Since this I made myself a list which I check every time when I’m leaving a place. So no worries I don’t get bored with myself.

Oh Mongolia …

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It’s our last day on the train.
Again a flat and vast landscape. It’s hot here, windows are open and the warm Mongolian wind circulates in our cabins. We are so tired. We come to the end of our trans-siberian trip.
Tomorrow morning we will wake up in China.

With a blue sky over Beijing … 

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18 unbelievable days. Crazy memories. Places I want to visit another time. People with who I will stay in contact.

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And all this was just the beginning.

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