I have always enjoyed rail travel, which is fortuitous as I recently travelled over nine thousand kilometres by train! From Beijing to St Petersburg, the Trans Mongolian Adventure was certainly that, and much more.
Starting in Beijing, China we travelled into Mongolia, which was a fabulous experience because it isn’t a straight-forward border crossing! The rail tracks between the two countries are different gauges, therefore crossing from China to Mongolia the train had to have a bogie change. This means that the carriages are hoisted up, the Chinese bogies taken off wheeled away, then Mongolian bogies are attached and the carriages lowered. This all happens at night, so we didn’t get much sleep!
Mongolia is a large country of only three million people, and many of the Mongolians still live a traditional nomadic life in a Gher. They have so much land, have freedom for their families and their animals (mostly horses) roam the land uninhibited. The country is like a huge national park!
From Mongolia, across the Gobi Desert, we crossed the border into the Siberian region of Russia and travelled to Listvankya and Lake Baikal. Lake Baikal is an amazing expanse of natural water - the oldest, deepest and largest freshwater lake in the world. It is also home to one of the cutest seals I have seen! In the winter the lake freezes and is used for winter sports.
Let’s move on to one of the longest train journeys in the world. Taking 56 hours from Irkustk to Yekaterinburg, there is a lot of time to read, rest and watch the beautiful, forever changing scenery. I found that a lot of Russians travel by train as it is the least expensive mode of travel to cross this vast country - especially when there is a family and their cats travelling together!
Yekaterinburg is full of fascinating history and was one of my favourite cities that we visited. It has beautiful architecture, and Church upon the Blood dominates the site where the Romanovs were executed.
Moscow and St Petersburg are both beautiful cities, with so much history and many architectural delights. They are also home to some of the most stunning collections which tell of the earliest royal families and the Kremlin Armoury Chamber in Moscow is where the royal treasures are kept... wow, wow and another WOW!
You must travel by metro when in Moscow, just to see the stations - they are amazing! Some are 80metres below the city and have some of the longest escalators you’ll ever see. They are works of art with amazing features and all are spotlessly clean.
My highlights in Moscow? St Basil's Cathedral, Russian Orthodox Church and Gorky Park along with the Kremlin.
St Petersburg, my last stop, is another city steeped in history - Peter the Great founded this city in 1703. A visit to the Hermitage, Winter Palace and the Summer Garden should not be missed.
Overall, my trip was a fantastic journey across three countries. All very different, all very interesting, all very beautiful. This trip is one I will remember and treasure – I have so many memories, along with lots of photos! It was not just a journey but an adventure that was cultural, eye-opening and a great history lesson.
By Lisa Cheso, Easy Travel and Cruise Murray Bridge