It's all about the way, not the destination!
A 10'000 km trainride
A train rattling along an endless stretch of land, linking distinct cultures and breathtaking views. Sitting in a smoothly jiggling compartement, time seems to come to a stand, while timezones, landscapes, people and languages are changing on the other side of the window. This shall be another big milestone in our travel history.
Sunny St Petersburg makes a good start on our itenerary. Tsar monuments, lively neighbourhoods, markets, a surprisingly alternative scene and a lot of funny contrasts are keeping us busy for a couple of days exploring history packed former Leningrad.
|one of the many canals lined by the nice buildings from the tsar era|
|shopping for old stuff at the fleamarket|
The in-and outside of the church of the spilled blood. A never seen before mosaik work.
Getting into nowadays art scene
Some more onion domes, mosques and churches
Strolling along the streets and climbing the roofs
After a bumpy 720 kms nighttrainride we get to the Russian capital Moscow. The cold and drizzly weather makes a rather less convenient arrival.
However we almost get to appreciate this weather as it's probably more pleasent to wander the endless roads in the cold.
The Kremlin and Red Square
|visiting the mummy of Lenin|
Moscow by night
|our "night-guides", the family of Kathrins colleague, showing us around after dark|
|the univerity in one of Stahlins skyscrappers|
Exploring Europe's biggest city
|another of the seven sister,s how Stahlins skyscrappers also are called|
|the Tsum shopping mall|
inside St Basil's church
|the Red Octobre chocolate factory|
|entering Moscows tube is a sight itself, one could spend a while exploring the monumental socialism classistic stations|
|good to know some Russian basics|
On our last day at least, we are blessed with warm and sunny weather, just perfect to commemorate to the lines of the Scorpions "Wind Of Change":
|...down to Gorki Park...|
|...following the Moskwa...|
|...and listening to the wind of change...|
Moscows lovely last evening mood assures to stay in our minds.
At night we get to start the biggest chunk of our train rides. For 96 hours there is a little compartement of about 4 m² that we call our home. A blank schedule keeps us free from any kind of obligations. Four days, five nights, reading, eating, looking out the window and enjoing doing nothing.
|Next Stop; Ulan Bator in about 6'000 kms|
|first breakfast on the train after a good night of sleep|
|our cozy cabin|
because of the crisis there not many fellow travellers,
the two other beds in our cabin and most of the other
compartments stay empty for most of the time
|a "provodniza", there is one for every carriage; they are responsible that the toilet is closed in urban areas (usually just after having a beer), and shovel coal to keep the kettles boiling|
|some impressions out the window|
|South Siberian villages|
|life on the tracks|
Unfortunately the most famous part of the journey, along the hughe Lake Baikal, is dipped in heavy smoke. Big forest fires shade the whole area around the mighty lake.
A short night after a long but unexceptional border hassle, a nice, well deserved sunrise welcomes us to Ulan Bator, capital of Mongolia where we get of the train for a couple of days.
|our Ger on a downtown rooftop|
|the modern city center|
|and our shabby but charming neighbourhood|
|the Gandantegchinlen Monastery|
As we are short in time, we decide to get a car, a driver and a guide to get into the nature as quick and deep as possible. Endless steppe, sand dunes, rugged hills and cozy Gers make this old country so special and a particular highlight on this trip.
|literally feeling free like a bird; as soon as we leave Ulan Bator there is nomads land, no private property and no fences|
|on a hike in the Hustain Nuruu National Park; looking for wild Przewalski horses|
|off the road for a lunch break|
|the Ger of our first night with a spectacular view|
|in and around the Ger|
|the welcome ceremony; drinking Kumis - fermented mares milk|
|our host family|
|getting on a Camel|
|riding towards the sunset|
|foto session with the host mother|
|our Ger for the night|
|some more Camel shots|
After a hearty breakfast we head further towards the former capital Karakorum, where ruins and a huge undestroyed monastery proofs from a rich history.
|some funny Yaks on the way|
getting food supplies on the market
|an incredible place where three distinct landscapes merge at one point; steppe, mountains and sanddunes, all stretch endlessly in each direction|
|another Ger in a big flat|
|in the middle one can spot the toilet, especially hard to find at night|
|another host family|
Hitting the long road back.
Some down from our roof shots back in Ulanbator
The last night we are blessed with the full moon raising over the city.
Back on the train
|this time chinese brand|
After the rather less enthusiastic Russian conductresses, it's getting more and more asian in the train. Funny Chinese conductors pass by constantly, with big smiles, selling maps, shirts, beer and other stuff, or they come across with their currency collection asking if one could add some missing coins from back home. And, of course, the general volume is turning up!
|the landscape is getting flat|
|almost more important than the toilet; the always boiling, coal run kettle found in every single coach|
|platform-vendors waiting for the next train to approach|
A surprisingly warm welcome awaits us at the Chinese entering point, after expecting a harsh border control. We are treated with nothing but smiles snd good mood sprawling immigration authorities.
|lift up to get the carriages changed, due to tighter trails in China|
|we even got free food vouchers for every meal|
|buildings getting much more, closer and higher|
|Beijing Main Station - first impression how crowded it can get|
|wandering the narrow Hutongs|
|our cozy home before we have to give way to the parade, as the government shuts down every hostel and guesthouse for foreign visitors|
Since they've also shut down all shops in most parts of the town and even closed the forbidden city, there are at least some other well worth visiting sights around the center which we can explore.
Temple of Heaven
|the biggest one outside Tibet|
|burning incense in proper style|
Beijing City Centre
|snoozing in a Rikshaw|
|high quality Chinese copy, the coffee was good though|
|it all looks yummy but you never know what's inside|
|early morning; moving out into anozher Hutong|
To make shure to be safe of the tourist mass we decide to climb the Great Wall of China at a rather secluded spot. What els would you expect? It takes us ages to get there with public transport. However the drawback is quickly made up with all the funny experiences and meetings on the way and finally, breathtaking views on a stretch of wall, almost on our own.
|The Wall at Jinshanling|
|a rest and plenty of vitamins to cope the steep up and downs|
Back in Beijing
Back in town things are getting worse! Meanwhile even the food supply decreases, yet our last harbour, the 24/7 McDonalds around the corner locks us out. Fed on whatever we got we go to sleep with a light feeling of hunger and are looking forward for the big parade tomorrow and over all the reopening of everything.
|A very rare occasion; as all the factorys in and around Beijing stayed shut down for days and even street vendors with coal barbeques were banned, we are lucky to have blue sky and breathe in almost unpolluted air in the middle in one of the probably most contaminated city in the world.|
We dedicate to another big song, this time Katie Meluas "Nine Million Bycicles in Beijing" - now we got two of them to rattle along the narrow alleyways.
The last evening we join the bank hollyday crowd in a bustling nightlife district.
|the not to missed Beijing Roast Duck|
The Forbidden City
After being inaccessible over two dynasties for common people, it is almost so for us as well. But we are lucky. The last try on the day of our departure shall be successfull. They just reopened the doors this morning.
|we have not be the only ones being waiting for the reopening! Additionally with those restrictions they also suspended the ones for the factorys bringing back the dark and heavy clouds!|
|got to know something about the place|
The last train ride
A bullet train forwards us with an average speed of 300km/h, within 4:48 hours, towards our 1'200 km away, final destination.
"Oh travellers!" A student comments, spotting our backpacks in the subway. A nice chat and a hug welcomes us to bustling Shanghai. Tropical climate, amiable people and an interesting mixture of culture and modern spirit make this city well worth to visit.
From outside the concrete jungle hard to spot, there are a lot of gems, hidden between the high skyscrappers. Such as the chic French consession, labyrinth like shopping alleys, art studios in run down industrial parks and so on.
|Taikang Lu - shops, galleries and food stores|
Shanghai at night
above the new, below the old town
Pudong - Buisness District
|the modern verses...|
|...the old skyline|
Living in a Box
The Bund at Night
Thanks for your Attention
See You Soon