Riding the Transsiberian Railway
We are currently in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, having arrived here from Russia on the train. Well, on several trains.
See, our travel plan for this trip means we don't fly, which leaves us tromping over land. Of course, this is a marvelous excuse to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip on the Transsiberian Railway, something we have always wanted to do.
We began in St. Petersburg, Russia and took the trains to Moscow, Perm, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, and Irkutsk, before arriving in Ulaanbaatar. Our final leg of the journey will be from here to Beijing in a few days.
Technically we are taking the TransMongolian Railway, since we're not headed all the way to the eastern end of the railway, but we have been extensively through Siberia, and the term "transSiberian" is much more well known.
We have enjoyed our journeys, though they are not what we expected, in general. We had this vision of a romantic train journey, where people gathered in the restaurant carriage for dinner and drinks, conversing with each other. What we experienced most was third class, where the too-short, too-hard beds offered a poor night's sleep and a maze of overhanging feet you need to dodge as you walk to the end of the carriage for hot water for your instant soup or coffee.
Our second class experience was much more enjoyable. We had a cabin all to ourselves and room to spread out. We met other couples in the same carriage and have enjoyed hanging out with them since then. We played cards and drank vodka and had a more comfortable, if cold, night's sleep, especially since we didn't have to deal with feet, body odor, or grumpy old men that want the bottom bunk.
(Bottom bunks cost more and are much more comfortable. We try to get them when we can, but there is inevitably an old man that doesn't want to move to his top bunk that he paid for. This happens everywhere.)
Overall, we have enjoyed the experience on the train and each of the cities that we stopped in. It has been astounding to see the massive expanse of land outside the window rush by as we sit comfortably inside with a cup of tea.
Check out this (condensed) view of the amazing trip we've had so far!
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