Port Baikal to Irkutsk

After very little sleep due to train noise and thinking about losing my brain function, we ate our dehydrated noodle breakfast and waited until it was time to leave the rent-by-the-hour room. (I wasn’t aware it was RBTH, I felt dirty once I found out!)

Onto the little boat to take us to the other side of the mouth.

Lush to watch the sun come up over the mountains while on a boat coursing through icy waters.

A whirlwind visit to Irkutsk, as no sooner had we arrived by bus it was time to catch the train back to Baikalsk. Innokentiy showed me a cafe next door to the train station which was very elaborate for a cafe.

Slow train back to Baikalsk and fly back to Saint Petersburg.

Flying over the lake can see it’s now starting to melt.

And back in Saint Petersburg to enjoy my last few days with Oksana.

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Baikal

Staying in the tiny village of Baikalsk with my host, we woke early-ish to catch a bus to the next town to catch a train to Port Baikal.

Enjoyed a breakfast of pelmany (dumplings) whilst gazing at the mountain view.

Lake Baikal is still iced over, but starting to melt (so no walking on ice for me).

Innokentiy took me to the supermarket to stock up on snacks, they stocked cans of horse meat!

Staying in the tiny village of Baikalsk with my host, we woke early-ish to catch a bus to the next town to catch a train to Port Baikal.

Enjoyed a breakfast of pelmany (dumplings) whilst gazing at the mountain view.

Lake Baikal is still iced over, but starting to melt (so no walking on ice for me).

Innokentiy took me to the supermarket to stock up on snacks, they stocked cans of horse meat!

Apparently this is the guy who came up with the idea of the Transiberian railroad.

Pretty amazing views from the train as it trundles alongside the lake’s edge.

When I did manage to peel my eyes away from the view and look out the other window I noticed tiny little settlements.

We arrived at Port Baikal where we would be staying the night.

Had a little explore, the temperature changes here were really weird, you’d be walking along quite comfortable, then all of a sudden you would hit a pocket of cold. Like walking through ghosts!

The water here is said to be drinkable straight from the lake. That may have been true at some point in time, but when you see the locals littering the shore and throwing fag butts into the clear waters…I wasn’t about to drink it!

It was so peaceful here, exactly how I imagined. I could have stayed standing here staring out at the water and mountains, listening to the ripples of the water and the cracking of the ice melting for a good hour.

Innokentiy wanted to show me around a bit.

This is where lake Baikal ends and the river begins, this bit never freezes, which is lucky as they closed the road from Port Baikal to Irkutsk. So you have to take a little boat over to the other side to take the bus!

Now, I would consider myself a fairly responsible traveler, as in, I do a bit of research about the country I’m going to to find out if I need certain vaccinations from any nasties. I did this research and it showed we don’t need anything.

I learned from my host that in Siberia there are ticks that may be infected with encephalitis. Which, if you look it up, is a bloody horrific thing to be infected with as it eats away at your brain cells. Scary. Obviously, I’m not vaccinated against this. And sure enough, a bloody tick landed on me! I freaked out a little bit. I like my brain. I like it functioning. I didn’t get bitten, but you don’t feel these buggers land on you OR bite you, so by the time you’ve found them with their heads buried under your skin, it’s too late.

Tried to enjoy the view of the sun setting over Baikal, whilst constantly checking my coat and trousers for ticks!

Finally made it back out of the grass and to our ‘hotel’ which is also the train station, as I discovered in the night when trains sit outside chugging the engine and tooting their whistles regardless of the fact it’s 3am.

I jumped into the shower as soon as we were checked in and examined myself for ticks. There were none! Thank goodness. My brain is safe, for now.

Transiberian Travels

What do you do on a train for four days? Catch up with blog writing (and sleep).

So I’ve finally caught up, a bit late, but better than nothing!

From Russia with love and

Some like it hot are the only films I’ve seen and can think of that involve sleeper trains. So I’m going to blame them for my longing to travel on one. They both conjured up the sense of adventure and romance. Plus it’s an awesome, chilled out way to travel, as the Russians showed me. You can sit in the restaurant cart drinking vodka and eating fish and potatoes from 9am until midnight, or until you pass out, whichever comes first!

I preferred to nurse my green tea and gaze out the window, the train moves slow enough that you can actually appreciate the scenery without it becoming a blur.

This seemed like the perfect time to admire the surroundings, there was still plenty of snow everywhere, but a clear blue sky behind the birch trees.

Changing time zones as we travel through the country, falling asleep at 2200, waking at 1200, but realising I’d only actually slept about 6 hours! That spun me out!

I woke up one day to the sound of an Irish accent, I went to investigate and met Niall, who was also achieving his bucket list goals.

Through Niall I met two guys who were in the Russian army and also knew some English. All their food and snacks, they shared, they would help translate when I was struggling, and good fun to be around.

These guys definitely made the journey quicker.

Before I knew it, I was at Baikal.

The smallest station I’d seen. I was the only person getting off and the train completely passed the platform and I had to exit the train via a long drop into the darkness!

My Couchsurfing host, Innokentiy was there to meet me. It was past midnight and we made our way by taxi back to his apartment.

He showed me around and then opened a map and gave me two choices of tour he would take me on the next day.

First, try to sleep in a bed that isn’t rocking and no gentle ‘ta-chuck-ta-chuck’ of the train as it rumbles along the tracks.

Thank you

Victoria Morgan-Hill

Transiberian Train journey

Lots of bucket list ticks going on right now. Transiberian Train!!! I’m so excited! 4 days on a train, eventually arriving in Baikal.

I boarded in Moscow, and as soon as I saw the room, I kinda thought ‘oh dear god, what have I done’. Me in a room with three strangers for four days! Eek!

I boarded after midnight so climbed straight into my bunk and passed out.

I always thought I was a light sleeper, turns out, I’m not. I slept right through two people leaving the room and the beds being re-made!

First day was mainly me exploring the limited space, I didn’t want to sit in the room for 4 days, I would go crazy, so i ventured out and found the restaurant cart.

Trying to be frugal after spending money like a millionaire at a strip bar in Saint Petersburg, I only ordered green tea just so I could sit there, read and enjoy the scenery.

That didn’t last long.

As soon as the Russians who can speak a bit of English find out there’s an English speaker on board, they crowd round to practice their skills!

I watched as they downed shots of vodka, chasing it with either beer or fruit juice and slowly ate a meal of potato and fish.

Space Museum

Pretty amazing sculptures to show the location of the space museum, although I had to walk all the way around to find the entrance!

The first Russian space suit was really short!

Space dogs. Belka and Strelka. These are the ones that went into space, orbited and came back and survived.

Space inspired art and adverts.

I am loving the little porcelain figurines. Such a random thing to have a figure of, a spaceman!

Inside the space capsule.

This is where I get lost, I need to research my space history here, but from what I remember there was almost a race between Russia and the USA to get to the moon first. Here is a picture of a flag and a bit of space dirt, which was presented to the Russians, by Nixon. It says they took the flag into space and back and collected the dirt for the Russians. Is it me, or is that a ‘in your face, we got there first’ gesture?

This is the space suit of the astronaut of Michael Collins who was aboard the Apollo 1 which landed on the moon.

Don’t know about you, but if I traveled all the way to the moon, I’m going outside to have a gander!

Then all we get is all the Luna robot information. So we landed on the moon, then after that we just send robots? Wouldn’t we send the robots first?

I still have a lot of questions about space! Maybe I should visit NASA next!

Moscow day two

Went back into the city and visited Gorky Park. A giant area to escape the city. Over winter becomes a giant ice rink. And now, in spring, roller skaters everywhere, walkers, dogs, kids climbing up bridges.

The sweetness of doing nothing. Just enjoying being, walking, people watching. No pressure, just taking it all in.

I realised there was a Couchsurfing English language group meeting that afternoon, so I messaged them to join them.

There were a few characters there, and a very handsome Russian, who I obviously was not paired with. Gutted.

Instead I had to experience language learning like speed dating with one guy who had no hobbies, just work, and then refused to talk about his work, and another guy who looked like Ron Jeremy, but was more interesting and even gave me ideas of where to travel to next!

It was exhausting! And it’s my first language! Crazy!

I made my way back to where I was staying via the metro, where, let’s face it, they put our little London Underground to shame. Chandeliers, mosaics, statues. It’s all going on underground here!

Some of these are Saint Petersburg, just thought I’d include it all in one place!

Spring is springing!

Once the snow melts and the sun starts to show its face, the Russians arrange a picnic and BBQ to celebrate.

This was a lot of fun, and something you wouldn’t get from staying in a hotel or hostel!

Met up with Oksana’s friends, and head into the woods for the best spot to picnic.

The boys hard at work doing man-fire-cooking. While we enjoy the sun!

The boys had done a good job! So much food! They made shashlik

This was a great send off as it was my last day in Saint Petersburg, I was off to Moscow that night on the sleeper train!

When I woke up, I was in Moscow. Convenient, although not the best sleep as you can imagine!

Alexandra, who was going to host me, met me straight off the train.

It was still early in the day so once I’d freshened up and unpacked we went on a whirlwind tour of the city.

Unfortunately, it was a Sunday, which meant the whole world and it’s dog was out, but that didn’t stop the thrill as we approached St Basils!

I was so excited to see this church, ever since I can remember, and have a picture of it in my bucket list book! So that can now be ticked off!

Look at that smile!

I may have got a little carried away and taken photos from every angle!

And sketched it…

Reluctantly moving on, we walked past a film set, for a film we will probably never get to see in the uk.

Over the bridge to the ‘island’.

I can’t get over how hot it is here. I packed layers of clothes and bobble hats and it’s like 18 degrees out!

Saw the Kremlin from the outside.

Alexandra and her husband Andrej took me to a Russian Soviet restaurant. Which was basically like stepping back in time to the 80’s.

I’m getting a bit obsessed with Piroshki, filled buns, the meat ones taste like corned beef pasties!

After the attempted sleep on the train and a day of sight seeing, I was ready for bed!