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Russia

Altai Russia

Just left Mongolia and I’m now on my way back to Kazakhstan, done the road before but its still a very beautiful one. Some impressions from the crossing below.

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Lake Baikal

Finally we reached our main destination - Lake Baikal.

First we visited the Baikal Museum for a guided tour and the history about the unique place. The baikal lake is very very old and holds the most fresh water of lakes, it is the deepest (about 1650m) and even further if your would consider the buildup morass (this could add up other 9000m, yep the lake is so old and has even is own bail seal. Also it hold s few of the rarest fish breads and not only a few can only be found in the lake. The water is so clean and so pure that you could use it to top up your car battery.

Anyway. Now the visit of the main Village Listwjanka. This looks like a sunny holiday resort and it really is. Small tourist markets, beaches, ice cream, bars, restaurants and hotels. We went also for a 3 hour boat cruise. What a water, you could really see downwards for meters. And the water itself was like silk, so smooth. This, I can say for sure, is best water I have seen so far!

Worth a visit and for a stay of at least 5 days. The one and a half we had was way to short to enjoy the lake fully.

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On our way to Baikal

Now, what’s like to be on the trans-sibirian train - the normal one, not the Zaren-Gold.

Well, it’s very, very standard and not well equipment. Simple 4 bed cabins. Sometimes clima does work, sometimes you cannot open the cabin windows for fresh air. And its cramped and so on. There are also the open coaches, not very pleasant. Would not recommend to use them but there her there ladies from Bolivia who crossed the open one on purpose. Not my cup of tea but hey.

Compared to the night trips from china which are similar looking, there are also no washing facilities apart from one basin for each toilet. If you are lucky there might be a shower available on one of the few lengthy stops - if you got the key and they would tell you.

On this first stint to Yekaterinburg we were together with Olga, Kati and here daughter Lisa. You can’t wish for a more lovely fellow passengers.

The second stint to Irkutsk we had a 4 bed cabin for us, the next two nights two from Russia joint us. On the second train were meet quite a few tourist from all over the world: As already stated - Boliva, South Africa, Australia, Ireland, Scotland, Netherland, Switzerland, England, France......

As for the land scape, it wasn’t what I would have expected. Very greenish and treeish, more like somewhere is Europe, I expected far more swamps, green lands, a lot of brown lands, mountains or even hills, rivers, lakes etc. etc. At least the villages in between told you that you were somewhere else.

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Yekaterinburg

After Moscow we were on the trans-sibirian train and a major stop before the lake Baikal was Yekaterinburg.

The city is famous for steel, gold on and on and on. During the sorwjet times it wasn’t open for foreigners. But it is also known for Boris Jelzin and the shooting of the last Zar, the Romanovs.

We only had one day, but we had a down good and funny guide. Best you can wish for. First we had simple tour de city about the modern world of Yekaterinburg as it is a city made for the industry. As a result the city is a bit of mixed bag architectural wise. Bauhaus here, modern there and in-between old merchant houses and then social housing. Compared to the ones before this city feels a lot more open and grounded. Really likable!!

But of curse we went on the footsteps of the Romanovs, which means visiting the Church on the Red Blood build were they were shoot and then the place in the woods were they tried to get rid of the bodies - which is now the place of monastery.

For the rest of the day we went for a city stroll before we jumped back on the trans-sibirian train.

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Moscow

After a 3 and a half hour train we were in Moscow.

A large City, and it feels a bit like a swiss one as a lot is upper class. Off course we went to the „Roter Platz“ and the Kreml, but as everything is also on a large scale went on a hop-on guided bus tour for the rest of the day. For the second one we had a private city tour. We were lucky as our guide was very good and we could also skip the queue for the Kreml-Tour. The Kreml itself was rather surprisingly as it was really open for visitors and we could have good walk around, of course we couldn’t enter any of the main buildings apart from the cathedrals. I for sure was expecting a more strict access and a lot fenced off, but it wasn’t. We could also exit the Kreml via the main door towards the KGB - thanks to Putin this is now a public exit.

They were setting up a stage on the Roter Platz as tonight were the celebrations for the school graduates.

We also visit the grave of the unkwon soldier. Late afternoon we went for a small boot cruise in front of the Kreml.

In addition they were setting up small wooden shops etc for the weekend close to the Kreml and within the main shoppings street - and we’ve been told they do this for every weekend. Cool.

Late afternoon the year-end school graduates started with their celebrations. It was a bit strange for someone from the west. First every „school“ laid red roses on the grave of the unknown soldier, one ofter the other. Also the celebrations were fenced off , so we could only watch form the far.

Next a bit of night life and a stroll through the shopping streets with its restaurants, bars and pubs. At about eleven I went tot the Roter Platz to see whats going on. Total mayhem. Could music with a lot of base, a bit of a light show and the graduates were enter from the inside of the Kreml. Yes! And with a good look at the main gate you could the set were parting inside the Kreml. A least some large beachballs were flying around. Unbelievable! Af for the show end a major firework for about 25min.

So, thats Moscow now.

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St. Petersburg

We are on our journey back to Ulaanbaatar. First Stop ST. Petersburg

What an impressive city! It is not that old (about 300 years), but it looks nice and very similar to Vienna but everything is on a larger scale, very! Worth a visit, better a few to get around. Anyway. We stayed in the lovely hostel „Friends of Dom Knigi“ - it only has two-bed rooms, but the interior is rather lovely. Highly recommended.

As we only had about there days we’ve done few city walks and a boot tour, which I would recommend to at least get a feel of the size of St. Petersburg. We also visited the Hermitage. It is located right at the riverfront in the Winter-Palace. Very majestic. But we have to raise a complain - most of the descriptions are Russian only, thats not up to date for such an museum.

All in all an very European city with good street life. A must-visit.


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Out way back to Ulaanbaatar

Now the long awaited update to our Journey.


After 3 long weeks relaxing and not doing a hell lot in Germany we will back on the road... ahh... train again. Yes, we will take the Trans-Siberian Train from St. Petersburg via Moscow, Jekaterinburg, Irkutsk & Listvyanka to Ulaanbaatar.


  1. 20.06 Flight to St. Petersburg
  2. 21/22.06 Sightseeing - St. Petersburg
  3. 23.06 Train to Moskau
  4. 24.06 Guided city walk including the Kreml Area
  5. 25.06 Trans-Sibirian Train to Jekaterinburg
  6. 26.06 Jekaterinburg - Guided city walk
  7. 27/28.6 Trans-Sibirian Train
  8. 29.06 Arrival Irkutsk. Direct transfer to Listvyanka, Guided city walk Listvyanka incl Baikal-Museum
  9. 30.06 Stay Listvyanka, Baikal Boat Trip, return to Irkutsk
  10. 01.07 Irkutsk - Guided city walk
  11. 02.07 Trans-Sibirian Train
  12. 03.07 Ulaanbaatar


Our beloved Landy awaits us fully restored in Ulaanbaatar (will it be the same after the awful crash? It’s a Landy....) and we will continue our small trip around Asia. After Ulaanbaatar will head down to the Gobi desert and some very interesting places before turning towards Erenhot for our Overland Journey across China towards Tibet and Nepal.



Transibirische-Eisenbahn

Russia - Toljatti

Tolyatti, the home of Lada and a city thats existence is based on Lada. Well, the Lada plants couldn’t be listed for whatever reason(s). So, we had to relish the main city on over a two dull days. And to do this we went for a Russian taxi cruise to main park. However as winter just hasn’t finished it was grey muddy misty and not the sexiest place. But at least there were was a political demo (very well surveyed by the state) in true Russian colors - Red and Hammer & Chisel.

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Driving in Russia

Well, this is an experience for sure. The Russian Driving style is not as bad as the Polish. This is for sure, but still very mad and very close to hara-kiri. And then there are no road marking for lanes and whatsoever. Have a guess.

But the roads are..... well awful terrible. If you think the roads in Germany, UK or Ireland have potholes, think again. Those are nothing compared to Russia. Potholes everywhere and up to 2 square-meter in size and 30cm in depth. You are driving zig-zag finding the best route along the roads. They must made a fortune on tyres and shocks around in Russia!

The surrounding landscape is however compensating. The villages and cities are poor and in often in a very bad state. Basically rundown. But the nature gives an impression of a big natural nothing. Wildness pure.

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Smolensk

Our first destination in Russia was Smolensk. Famous for the old city wall, also known as the Small Kreml. We went for a short walk around the main wall alongside the river Dnepr. And then of course the Uspensky Cathedral. Very, very nice and large. The Interior is impressive and a lot of, I mean a lot , of gold.

As for the dinner we went for the Temnitsa, located inside the Kreml wall. Definitely an upper class restaurant. Big old typical Russian chairs. Wall carpets and massive tables. Food was very very good and very affordable, basically a full three meal course plus drinks for two person for about 35 Euros. And then the waiters - took a selfy including us!


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Enter Russia - The home of Putin.

We didn’t know what to expect, but with current political situation we could be in for a treatment.

So, enter the Check-Point. Hand-over Passports, Car documents. Easy. Next: Inspection. Open Motor Bay, Open Doors. What is this, what is that? Ok, First Aid, Camping Equipment, Camping Chair, Solar Panel.... but this was really straight forward. Done after about 25min. Very reasonable. However, this was only the Latvia Crossing. Next Mother Russia.

Ok, now this is the real thing. Hand-over Car Registration, hand-over Passport - by yourself! Done. Next: Inspection. Open Motor Bay, Open Doors. Ok, car full of stuff.... Inspection done. That was easy. Passports back. Now we had to move on for about 10m. Customs. Ok, I had two fill out the customs form - twice the same and about okish. Now we had another inspection and this time they went for a long way. Open Motor bay, Open Doors, open nearly all boxes. What’s that...? First Aid, Medicine, Spare Parts, Camping Equipment, Tools, Camping Chairs, Tripod, Solar Panel, Fridge, Water Canister, Remove cover from Rooftent..... Ok, now for the sniffing dog. Waiting. All Ok. We had to pack everything back together.

After about 90min we where in Russia. Not bad at all!!


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