Moscow to Mongolia

We travelled THE trans siberian for four whole days! Including many a vodka night, lazy days, lots of cards, scrabble and sing-a-longs with our new French guitarist friend. We managed to fit 17 people into one 4-berth 
cabin! The three of us were glad we had bought out our 4th bed; managing to spread out completely. It was a long journey but interesting to see Russian villages fly by; crossing the Asian border and into siberian 
steppe.
Our big stop was Irkutsk, which we were thoroughly disappointed by. One night in Lystvanyanka was enough but with the sun shining and the help of the only friendly man in all of Irkutsk, we sought a tent and headed off 
to Olkhon Island for some nights on the beach. Lovely weather but tough on our backs, camping without mats! 
Lake Baikal is absolutely stunning, even bigger than we could have imagined. We loved it so much we even took to bathing in it, despite the freezing temperatures!  

Arrived into Mongolia on the 2nd, having seen in Kate’s 21st on the train with condensed milk with 21 matches in it! Everyone on the train singing Happy Birthday! The Mongolian welcome was very warm compared with Russian reception, seeing a big sign saying JULIA PARKHOUSE on the platform! UB guesthouse seems to be the place where all trans-sib ppl convene. We ended the day at a Mongolian nightclub – Face – for kate’s 
birthday, with a really ecclectic bunch ranging from 18-65! Julia made some mongolian friends and some girls kept coming up to me going ‘you Mongol?’ and pointing to my eyes!

Then headed way out west for a six day ger (traditional mongolian circular tents) excursion of the mongolian countryside! We were not anticipating the appalling states of the ‘roads’ just dirt tracks resulting in sheer exhaustion of being tossed around in a jeep for 12 hours! During the 6 days we played snap with local children, went to a national park, swam in the White Lake, horse rode up to a volcano, got in a cave with some 
locals one of whom proceeded to grip Kate very tightly whilst we were taking photos. We also visited the old capital,Karakorum, and the first monastery in Mongolia, Erdene Zuu. All of this was fuelled on a diet of mutton, goats milk and stodge (in various forms)- not pleasant. 
Net result; one bad reaction, Julia vomiting and Sophia feverish followed by the runs…

Next stop: Beijing for some Olympic action!

From Russia with love

St PetersburgGreetings from Russia.

So we’re nearly a week into our awesome adventure and already we have encountered many interesting folks and seen many sites. First stop was Helsinki, Finland, we only had the afternoon to sample Scandinavia but we tried the local delicacies before making our way to into Russia. Finland gave us a false sense of security; arriving in St Petersberg was almost terrifying, especially navigating the crowds in our very large backpacks…! Being this far north has really thrown us too, in Helsinki it did not get dark until 1 am and the sun rose at 3!
We are surprised at how hot the weather has been, so for all you cynics we are in fact getting a tan!

St Petersberg, Russia; no one speaks a word of english, cryllic is impossible to read, let alone understand. No one wanted to talk to us so it took us four hours to eventually find a hostel to stay in for a few nights. The city itself is beautiful; the churches are very grand and every street corner we are awestruck by the architecture.

The Hermitage is almost beyond words; there are over 3 million pieces of art there, and after seeing around 100 or so they all started to look the same… especially as the rooms themselves are so opulent that you barely take in the artwork some of the time (the Hermitage is partly a palace).

Russian culture dictates that anyone with spare time, a car and in need of some money can act as a taxi….we thought we’d get involved with local practices by sticking our arm out too…little did we know that this would result in a two and a half hour long twilight trip around St Petes and its outskirts… only realising later on that
we started out little more than ten minutes away from our hostel….nightmare!

Russian overnight trainMoscow, Russia: on our first overnight train we met a lovely russian called Sasha who taught us how to drink vodka, the russian way! Since then we have encountered more Russians, Ivan, a friend from Nottingham Uni has been showing us round. We have seen, the Red Square, St Basil’s cathedral, Lenin’s tomb…which was very surreal…the Arbat, galleries, war memorials and more. As for Russian cuisine, we’ve had borsch. Kate’s not a huge fan of the beetroot but all of us are loving blinis. Moscow has been much easier to get around seeing as Ivan has acted as our own personal translator and guide. We’ve learnt some essential Russian phrases which we hope will equip us well for Siberia! We have enjoyed home comforts of a real russian home,
especially as we face four days on a train without showers.