Real Russia Blog

Trans-Siberian Zoom backgrounds
27
April
2020

Trans-Siberian Zoom backgrounds

Call your friends and colleagues from along the Trans-Siberian railway!

Remote conferencing and video calls are more necessary than ever, but many of us do not want every to see inside our homes or offices. Thankfully, both Zoom, and Microsoft Teams allow you to change your background so you can be anywhere from the beach to the moon. We at Real Russia are missing our travel, particularly, and so we decided to do the next best thing, imagine that we are travelling! So, we put together a small selection of Zoom and Microsoft Teams backgrounds and thought we would share them with you guys too. Scroll on for the images and instructions on how to use them!

How to change a Zoom background

All our images have been set to the recommended size for Zoom, so all you need to do to ‘visit’ Russia while on a call, is follow these instructions … Please note: this will change your default image.
  1. Log in to Zoom online here.
  2. Select ‘Room Management’ and then ‘Zoom Rooms’.
  3. Click ‘Account Settings’.
  4. Go to your profile and under ‘Background images for Zoom Rooms’ select ‘Upload New Image’.
  5. Select the image you want as your background and click ‘Open’.
If you would like to change your background image for just one room, floor or location, check out the instructions over on the Zoom website.

How to change a Microsoft Teams background

Changing the background on your Teams account is slightly different to Zoom, but just as easy.
  1. Open File Explorer on your computer.
  2. Copy the following address into File Explorers address bar and press enter: %APPDATA%MicrosoftTeamsBackgrounds for Windows, or ~/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Teams/Backgrounds on a Mac.
  3. In this folder you will see another called ‘Uploads’.
  4. Drop the photos you would like to use in here, and they will be accessible next time you make a Teams video call.

Trans-Siberian Zoom backgrounds

Now for the reason you are here, some Trans-Siberian backgrounds to help you feel like you can travel across the Trans-Siberian railway at any time! Just click on whichever image you would like as your background to download it and it will be ready to use on Zoom or Teams. It is as simple as that!

Lights along Arbat Street in Moscow

Take a night-time walk through the artistic quarter of Moscow with these beautiful archways. Lights on Arbat Street, Moscow

The walls of the Kremlin in Moscow

Take a trip to the halls of power, the imposing, and beautiful, Kremlin. The walls of the Kremlin, Moscow

A Tartar style village in Kazan

Step back in time to Russia’s past in this recreation of a typical Tartar village. A Tartar style villae, Kazan

The border between Europe and Asia outside Yekaterinburg

Pretend you are calling from two continents at once, Europe and Asia! The border between Europe and Asia, Yekaterinburg

A steam train on the Circum-Baikal railway at Lake Baikal

Relive the golden age of steam by posing with this incredible Soviet steam train. A steam train at Lake Baikal, Russia

A Mongolian train on the border with Russia

Not looking your best? Call alongside this train on the Russian border and pretend you have just been making repairs, so looking a little scruffy is to be expected. A Mongolian train on the border with Russia

Beijing Railway Station

Tell people about the Trans-Siberian journey you definitely didn’t just imagine, while stood on the platform in Beijing. Beijing railway station, Beijing

The Great Wall of China at Mutianyu

Get away from it all atop one of the most famous walls in the world, the Great Wall of China. The Great Wall of China at Mutianyu near Beijing

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Real Russia Blog

Customer Tales: The Ultimate Trans-Siberian Adventure
2
January
2018

Customer Tales: The Ultimate Trans-Siberian Adventure

Unforgettable 5-weeks journey along the Trans-Siberian railway and beyond

Read how our customer Linda fulfilled a lifelong dream, with her daughter, taking a tailored Trans-Siberian tour with Real Russia. She spent 5-weeks experiencing as much of the diverse cultures as she could along the way and taking in the unrivalled sights.

So, what did she experience on the world’s most famous rail journey?

The Rossiya train

We booked on the Rossiya, the flagship of the Trans-Siberian. Interestingly, for staff benefit, no matter how many time-zones we passed the train kept to Moscow time – this is crucial to understand when using the restaurant car!

The Rossiya was home for four days, we travelled hundreds of miles with ever-changing scenery. From the riches of central Moscow we noticed changes in housing immediately, memorably an estate of pink houses with marshmallow like roofs.

As we made a stop at its grand station, I concluded in hindsight I would have liked to have stopped at Yekaterinburg, famously where the massacre of the Romanov Royal family took place. Now memorialised in a little church a little way out of the city.

Irkutsk and Lake Baikal

We arrived at Irkutsk, the capital of Siberia, to see Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake. We booked a day trip to Lake Baikal from Irkutsk by taxi. As it came into view the site was immediately breath taking, on one side of the lake was a seaside complex and on the other majestic mountains loomed large.

​ Serene Lake Baikal – a jewel of the Trans-Siberian

Ulan-Bator

Ulan-Bator, Mongolia’s capital, the land of Genghis Khan. We arrived at 5.45am to the most glorious sunrise. 1.5 million people live in Mongolia, and 1 million of them live right in the capital. A huge golden god oversees the capital and is worth a morning trek. Mongolia is known as the ‘land of sky’, nothing but miles and miles of horizon. We found four more travel companions and hired a jeep and driver, who would also be our chef for the next six days to head into the Gobi. At the time, there were no roads to the Gobi; only well used scrubland tracks with flocks of sheep, goats and camels that scattered when our jeep appeared. We stayed in local yurts along the way and our meals were rice with goat meat, only horse milk was available.

Beijing

Our train was now the Trans-Mongolian, a proud engine with 16 coaches. As night descended the train pulled into a huge factory-type complex. My daughter said, ‘I feel like I’m going up’; we drew back the curtain to find ourselves 10ft in the air, supported by hawsers, as the men below changed the wheels from 8’ to 6’. Foreign trains could not use China’s tracks without this change.

We arrived in Beijing and stayed in the Old City. We explored Tiananmen Square, with the huge photo of Chairman Mao being the meeting place for all tours and taxis. We visited the Forbidden City, home of China’s emperors for 500 years. We climbed part of the Great Wall whose route we had already followed along the train journey from Mongolia. We experienced a cultural evening of song, dance and food. We visited a silk factory and finally, a jade factory.

Xian

We left Beijing after 4 days and travelled to Xian, home of the Terra Cotta army. It was impressive, each face unique, the detailing intricate. Our guide pointed out though sometimes described as life-size, being made around 2,200 years ago they would have been huge compared to the population, therefore formidable guardians to protect the emperor in the afterlife.

We visited a Rescue Centre for pandas, after an hour of waiting Bam Bam appeared right in front of us. He put on a tree climbing display for half an hour before shuffling back into the undergrowth.

Hong Kong via Shanghai

Shanghai was a beautiful modern city where we stopped for 3 days before Hong Kong, our final destination.

Hong Kong

We climbed to Victoria Park on the funicular railway revealing a stunning harbour view; and visited the oldest Taoist temple in the world where a local shaman will put a curse on the head of your enemies at £4 a head. You will also find the third largest Marks and Spencer in the world, constructed in adherence to Feng Shui naturally.

We did a whole island tour by coach and sampan, Hong Kong was beautiful, the temperature is never lower than 15 degrees throughout the year.

We flew back to Heathrow, my dream holiday over. We had physically traversed over a third of the planet by train.
​_________________________________

Where would you go?

The Trans-Siberian route offers a completely unique experience that can be tailored to suit your dream journey. Thanks to our dedicated and knowledgeable customer service we can work together to make sure you won’t miss a thing.

​If this personal experience has inspired you, why not to take a look at the Trans-Siberian routes and start planning your adventure?

Real Russia Blog

Chinese New Year
19
December
2017

Chinese New Year

It is the most important annual event in China and a great opportunity for visitors to experience authentic Chinese traditions!


There is no better place to experience this unique Chinese festival than China itself. Immerse yourself in the colourful Chinese culture and celebrate this special time of year alongside the locals: with fireworks, family and a whole lot of dragons. This year China will welcome the year of the dog.

Date: from 15 February – 2 March 2018
Place: China.

Chinese New Year falls on the first day of the first month in the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, which is 16th February 2018 in the Gregorian Calendar. China adopted the Gregorian Calendar in 1911 so Chinese New Year was renamed the Spring Festival to mark the end of Winter and welcome Spring. However, the ancient traditions of the day remain unchanged.
Traditionally, the end of the Spring Festival, the Chinese New Year, is the Lantern Festival, where beautiful lanterns are displayed everywhere, and sweet rice dumpling soup is eaten. This celebration symbolizes the wish for a bright future.

Chinese New Year is the most important annual event in China and a great chance for visitors to experience authentic Chinese traditions!

How locals celebrate the New Year in China.

Preparing for the New Year celebrations, people clean their homes, buy gifts, clothing, food and items to decorate their house. Chinese people put New Year pictures on their walls and decorate their homes with red papers and couplets for happiness, wealth and longevity, and hang beautiful red lanterns.

In the evening of the Spring Festival Eve, many people set off fireworks and firecrackers, hoping to cast away bad luck and bring in good luck. Many people will wear new clothes and send Chinese New Year greetings to each other. People joyfully participate in various festivities, such as beating drums and striking gongs, dragon and lion dances.

​ The Lion Dance

It is a time to reunite with and visit relatives. A festive dinner is held on New Year’s Eve where families will gather to celebrate, normally in or near the home of the most senior member of the family. The New Year’s Eve dinner is very large and traditionally includes meaty dishes, such as pork, chicken and fish. Most reunion dinners also feature a communal hot pot to signify the family gathering for the meal. Meals on this date have a big significance, certain foods are consumed to usher in wealth, happiness, and good fortune.

During the dinner family members exchange red envelops, which often contain money in certain numbers that represent good luck.

The first day of Chinese New Year is a time for younger people to honor their elders, families will visit the oldest and most senior members of their extended families, usually their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. The second day of the Chinese New Year is the time when married daughters visit their birth parents, relatives and close friends. Some believe that the second day is also the birthday of all dogs and give them special treats.

Most employees in China have at least seven days off work to celebrate the Spring Festival. However, the festival lasts for 15 days, from the Chinese New Year Eve to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year. Various traditional customs and activities are held during the Lantern Festival that appeal to people of different ages, including watching lanterns and fireworks, guessing lantern riddles, performing folk dances, and eating yuanxiao (a rice ball stuffed with different fillings).

Symbols of the holiday.


The Chinese believe that while red is a symbol of happiness, gold is a symbol of wealth. Traditionally, red envelopes are passed out during the Chinese New Year’s celebrations, from married couples or the elderly to unmarried juniors and children. Red envelops almost always contain money and, sometimes, chocolate. Interestingly, the amount of money in the red packets should always be an even number, as odd numbers are associated with money given during funerals. The numbers six and eight are considered lucky so they are commonly found in the red envelopes.

Small gifts, usually of food or sweets are also presented to friends and relatives during Chinese New Year, for example, oranges cakes, biscuits, chocolates, candies, or other similar gifts.

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Did we inspire you to experince the greatest annual event in China? It’s never too early to book your trip! Contact our travel specialists to get assistance in planning your dream journey.

Real Russia Blog

12 of the best Russian travel Instagram accounts
26
September
2017

12 of the best Russian travel Instagram accounts

Russian Instagrammers revealing the beauty of Russia

Russia is a country with a rich cultural and historical heritage, as well as being home to extraordinary natural diversity.

From Moscow’s iconic views to the wilderness of Siberia and Kamchatka, here are 12 Instagram accounts to explore the world’s most fascinating country. Some of them are not translated into English, but a language barrier should not stop you from being able to admire the beauty on display!

While we are very proud of our own Instagram page, we have chosen to focus on the efforts of others on this list. Also, if we included ourselves the list would number 13, and 13 is considered unlucky in Russia.

However, we encourage you to follow realrussiatravel to check out images taken by our team on their travels through Russia and along the Trans-Siberian railway! From time to time we also share the photos others have taken; if you would like us to share your own stunning images from Russia, the Trans-Siberian railway, or the neighbouring counties, use the hashtag #realrussiantravel!

1. pollirusakova


Based in Perm, Polina is a true explorer. Among her collection, there are the breath-taking photos of the Ural Mountains, as well as Georgian, Crimean and Nepalese mountains, among many other beautiful landscapes.

2.Russianexplorers

This account consolidates many travel photographers who are inspired by Russian nature. Expect many incredible views of snow-capped mountains, idyllic scenery, wild animals, arctic wonders and dreamy lakes.

3.anna_zagaynova


A Siberian photographer who takes utterly captivating architectural shots while travelling in Russia. Hit up her Instagram account to find some hidden gems and wonderful examples of provincial buildings, and structures, in Russia.

4.alex.mazurov


A landscape photographer, whose images of the turquoise rivers of the Altai region, arctic landscapes, starry Caucasus nights, Crimean coastlines and misty mountains near Sochi will make you want to book your next trip immediately!

5.lake.baikal


It seems that Alexey Matveev, an enthusiastic Baikal fan, never gets tired of shooting the fascinating Lake Baikal and its fantastic scenery. Comments in Russian should not deter you from following this account, as on these spectacular photos, nature speaks for itself.

6.ted.ns


Planning a trip to Moscow? Then you must follow this incredible photographer’s account with ‘futuristic’, and sometimes dreamy, photos that will give you a look at one of the world's best cities from every angle. And as a bonus – you will find photos of other curious places in Russia, including a frozen Lake Baikal, the ‘Winter Wonderland’ of Kazan, and the wide-open spaces of the Altai Republic, all in one place!

7. Onlyminimal Dmitry Malkov


Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary, capturing fields and forests, endless lakes and rivers, Malkov asks us to appreciate the wonder of everyday life. Minimal and simplistic, yet charming, Malkov’s images are mesmerising and beautiful.

8.Damedvedev

Великий Новгород

A post shared by Дмитрий Медведев (@damedvedev) on


The Russian Prime Minister travels a lot across Russia, and apparently his camera never leaves his hands. Beautiful landscapes and urban photos will give you a glimpse of Russia, and the main Russian events.

9. elenakrizhevskaya


The winner of Best of Russia 2016 photography, Elena captures Moscow in many different angles and places. From underground to the sky, from metro stations to the fireworks over the Kremlin, and everything in between, this photographer tells us a wonderful fairy tale about Moscow.

10.village.ru

Рыбинск, Ярославская область Фото: @vrybinske

A post shared by Русская деревня (@village_ru) on


This wonderful project is dedicated to traditions, way of life and nature of the Russian countryside and province.

11. rozanov.mikhail


Mikhail Rozanov is a Moscow-based photographer whose journeys all over the world, including untouched and distant spaces, have resulted in a collection of gorgeous images, from black and white photos of architectural forms and landscapes to minimalistic and refined photography. He goes even further, capturing stunning sculptures and industrial objects in Russia and abroad.

12. Russia.travel.official


This Russian-speaking account led by National Tourism Portal of Russia is an online guide that encourages people to open their eyes to all of Russia, with no exceptions; including its unrevealed corners and small towns, as well as its culinary masterpieces. There are endless photos of natural and man-made wonders found in various places across Russia. The English version of their website is a true treasure-cave for those with wanderlust – https://eng.russia.travel/.


If you think that there are other Instagram accounts worthy of being mentioned on this list, please feel free to comment below, or share them with us on social media!

And don't forget to check our the Real Russia Instagram page!


Feel inspired? Contact our travel experts to book your dream adventure!

Real Russia Blog

Customer Tales: The Great Trans-Siberian journey!
13
June
2016

Customer Tales: The Great Trans-Siberian journey!

From Beijing to Moscow on the incomparable Trans-Siberian railway

Some journeys just stand out as something different, something special. For many people, such as Real Russia customer Paul, the Trans-Siberian railway is one such journey. The ‘Trans-Sib’ crosses both Europe and Asia, taking in many cultures and locations that have helped shape global history, as well as some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Real Russia aim to make taking this journey as easy as possible, from working with you to create an itinerary, to ensuring that fantastic accommodation, excursions and rail travel is included. Here Paul tells us about his experience.

Paul’s experience

We had a wonderful time on this trip, it really was the trip of a lifetime. That’s a lot to say for us, as we have been all over the globe, and have ridden many trains. Trains in the USA, Europe, Asia, Japan, all over the place, and none will compare with this trip. Here are a few notes about the trip.

Russian Trains

Train awaiting departure on the Trans-Siberian railway

Provodnistas awaiting travellers on the Trans-Siberian railway

Modern, clean, well maintained, and vastly underrated. Ok, we travelled 1st Class, but in the end, it isn’t that expensive. Russian trains have chemical toilets, so that they are available at all times. The dining cars are clean, have a good menu, and if you like soups, salads and such, you can find a good meal. Each carriage has two attendants, and they keep the place clean, vacuum the floor, the carpet, and clean the WC’s two or three times a day. They also keep track of who gets on and off, and help maintain security.

Each compartment has its own air-con, so that you can regulate the temperate as you wish. Also, you can stand in the corridor, and open the window.

We rode on some iconic trains:

  • Train 003 (Trans-Mongolian Express) from Beijing to Irkutsk 54 hours.
  • Train 001 (Rossiya) from Irkutsk to Novosibirsk for 30 hours.
  • Train 029 (Kuzbass) from Novosibirsk to Yekaterinburg, and on to Moscow, 20 hours, and 30 hours respectively.
  • Finally we rode the great train 002 (Krasney Strella – or Red Arrow) from Moscow to St. Petersburg in 8 hours.

Get on these trains, and the attendant will come by and ask you what you want to eat for dinner. You have a choice of two mains, and several other minor dishes. Order a nice soup with your meal, and you will have plenty. The attendant will deliver your meal on chinaware, and come back later and pick up the dishes.

Dinner along the Trans-Siberian railway

Dining on the Trans-Siberian

The tickets are issued as E-Tickets, and are registered. You just show the ticket and your passport to the attendant, and you are ushered on to the train. This all works very smooth, without drama.

The Tours

This was a semi-guided tour. In other words, we were on our own on the train, and for parts of the excursions. Having said that, I have to add that we had ‘door to door’ service. We were met at the airport in Beijing, and taken to our hotel. We were then taken to the train station, escorted through the station, and out to the platform and into the carriage!

But there were no busses with 40 other tourist to contend with! No busses! No 40 other passengers to have to wait for while they got lost shopping. No hearing about someone’s grandkids back in Nebraska. It was just the 2 of us, with a guide, and driver, in a nice motorcar.

Beautiful scenery on the Trans-Siberian railway

The beautiful Lake Baikal

We toured Beijing, Irkutsk, Lake Baikal, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Moscow, and St. Petersburg. The guides knew what they were talking about, knew the history, knew the art, the architecture, and all the little things. All were fluent English speakers, had worked for the Russian Foreign Ministry, or even one had worked for the KGB. All were ardent Russian patriots! Even the Chinese guide in Beijing had been trained in Russia, spoke Russian, (and Mandarin) and knew her history.

Real Russia Tour Company

They did a great job, from start to finish. They help with visas, with tickets, and throughout the journey, they checked on how things were going. We worked with Alla. And she is brilliant. She kept up with us all the way, and she was in Volgograd (Stalingrad) and was there to offer assistance if needed. She even organised a free guide of the Moscow Metro Stations. You can’t go past Real Russia for this kind of thing, and they even organised good hotels, usually located in the heart of the city. I would use them again.

Russia

Russia is prosperous! Everything is freshly painted, clean, and kept up. Stores are well stocked, supplies are easy to get. Streets are cleaned, washed, and rooms also clean and fresh. Russians are helpful. There isn’t a lot of English being spoken, so it was a good thing that I had taken the time to learn to speak a few words, and read Russian as well. But Russians are helpful, and kind people. They will go out of their way to assist you even when they don’t really know what it is you’re after!

Ah Russia: if you go there looking for the good, you will easily find it. If you go there looking for the bad, you can find that too, but it isn’t as easy as finding the good. Don’t trust what you read in the western press and media. It’s all self-serving nonsense.

We had a great time. A genuine ‘Trip of a Lifetime’.

Paul

A happy Real Russia customer

Paul relaxing on his travels

Experience the Trans-Siberian yourself!

Thanks Paul!

Trains run along the length of the Trans-Siberian all year round, so whether you want to bask in the sun along the shores of Lake Baikal, or gaze at a Siberian winter wonderland, Real Russia can help you get there.

Click here to browse Real Russia’s Trans-Siberian tours

Click here to book a train anywhere in Russia

Click here to speak to one of our fantastic travel team

Real Russia Blog

The Kazakhstan Adventure, Day Eight: The End of the Road
14
August
2015

The Kazakhstan Adventure, Day Eight: The End of the Road

Charyn Canyon, There and Back Again

So this is it. The last day in Kazakhstan. It was such a shame that the tour had to end. Even after everything that we had seen it felt like we had barely scratched the surface of what Kazakhstan had to offer.

Setting Out

For our last day we had another early start. Charyn Canyon is around 175km from Almaty along, mostly, tarmac roads. Unfortunately, though the roads are tarmac, they are not in the best state of repair. More than once we hit a pot hole big enough to launch me from my seatbelt-less seat into the roof of our minibus. Luckily there were not a lot of brain cells to damage. And even less now! Thanks, in part, to the road quality, the drive is around four hours each way.

Oh, and as an aside, if you are looking to Google Charyn Canyon, some websites spell it Sharyn rather than Charyn. Just so you know.

On the plus side, the roads are about to get a whole lot better as alongside the current road to Charyn, they are laying a new highway that will stretch from China through to Europe to help make the transport of goods to, and from, China significantly easier; tourism too, probably. This new stretch is due to open in April 2016.

Anyway, enough about roads, what about the view. The incredible view. For most of the journey you have the northern stretches of the Tian Shan mountain range running parallel to the road, and it makes for a stunning companion. Completing the view are lush green fields, many full of poppies in bloom. If you didn’t know any better you could swear than Julie Andrews was about to bound over the nearest hill. I cannot attest to whether the hills were alive with the sound of music though.

Poppy field outside Almaty, Kazakhstan

Glorious

Like most of the travelling we did, I quickly ditched the idea of reading my Kindle to pass the time. Instead I watched the incredible scenery pass by. No book I had downloaded could compare.

Arrival in Charyn Canyon

From the moment we reached the end of the 12km off-road canyon drive way, it was obvious that this was the most tourist-friendly location we had visited. We even saw other foreign tourists! Nuns! Who expects to find nuns at the bottom of a sun baked canyon just a hop, skip and a jump from the Chinese border?

Anyway, it is much more developed than anywhere else we had been. There was a car park, an entrance gate, and even a toll booth. Not only that, there were sign posts in English. We felt spoilt. The level of development really showed what Kazakhstan could be capable of with a little effort and money. Unfortunately, this would probably remove some of the charm of the country.

Once we had parked up, we had an incredible view. The sky was blue, the canyon was incredible and there, in the distance, were snow-capped mountains. In 25+ degree heat there they were, in the distance, snow-capped mountains. Not only that, but they seemed to be working hard to hold back all the cloud that could have ruined our day.

Charyn Canyon with mountains in the distance, Kazakhstan

The canyon with the snow capped mountains off in the distance

The Bottom

From top to bottom the walk took around an hour. It felt like walking into a Road Runner cartoon. There were even precariously sat rocks that looked like they were ready for Wile E. Coyote utilise in his ongoing war with the Road Runner.


A precarious rock in Charyn Canyon, Kazakhstan

‘Meep meep’

Under the glorious sun it was a lovely way to finish the week, no one rushing us, just a nice, peaceful stroll through amazing surroundings.

As we closed in on the bottom we could hear a rushing river, and after a minutes more walking, low and behold, there it was. And along the banks was a small ‘outpost’. I can’t think of a better word for it now. It turned out, it is possible to stay here overnight. And to facilitate this were several huts and yurts, as well as a bar and lots of outdoor seating. It is the perfect accommodation for backpackers not wanting to make two four-hour drives in one day. It is a shame we were unable to test out the facilities for ourselves. Particularly as the bar prices were not too bad! There were even signposts advertising horse trekking; though we did not have the opportunity for this either.

Yurts in Charyn Canyon, Kazakhstan

Accomodation for those who wish to spend a night under the stars

As I took in the surroundings at the bottom of the canyon, I think I was more relaxed and content then I had been at any other point in the tour. The canyon was a lush green either side of the river, a little oasis in this sun baked canyon. It was the perfect place to rest and have lunch after the walk down.

Let me use photos to do the job of my inadequate words.

Charyn River, Kazakhstan

The Charyn River flowing through Charyn Canyon

Charyn River, Kazakhstan

The Charyn River coming round the bend

The End

If only we could have stayed longer. But, alas, that was not to be. And so after a brief stop for lunch we turned round, and walked back up the canyon. By this point the temperature really had risen, offering a demonstration of what this visit may be like in the middle of summer when the thermometer can read in excess of 40 degrees. Take it from me, you probably wouldn’t want to be hiking down and back up then. It was rather uncomfortable. So try and time your visits for spring or autumn when the temperatures aren’t quite so high.

Once we had reached the top we had a few minutes in which to rest, before we hopped back in our minibus and started the four hour journey back to Almaty.

We made one, brief, stop on the way back at a fascinating roadside market full of people selling, seemingly, everything you could imagine. From fresh produce to toys to tools. It was all bustle and colour. Given the proximity to the busy road, though, I would not have vouched for the taste of the fresh fruit and veg on offer. I don’t imagine car exhaust fumes add to the flavour particularly well.

'Unofficial' toys in a Kazakh market

The market had a line in 'unofficial' toys – if only Batman really was an Avenger!

And that was that. At 3am the following morning I was up and prepping for my transfer to Almaty Airport for my flight home. A journey that was much easier than my journey to Kazakhstan I am pleased to say.

So there you have it. Kazakhstan. Wrapped up in ten blogs. Of course, as I have mentioned, I barely scratched the surface, so hopefully next year I will have the opportunity to return and see everything that I missed, and maybe even hop on a train or two!

See you then!

Real Russia Blog

A Word from our New Private and Luxury Tour Providers!
9
February
2015

A Word from our New Private and Luxury Tour Providers!

Meet our new tour partners!

You may have spotted a theme to our social media this week. If you haven’t visited our social media this week, I shall give you a moment to go take a look …

Facebook

Twitter

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.

.

Welcome back. Noticed the theme?

New for 2015, we have partnered with a, handpicked, selection of tour operators in order to offer you four new luxury and private tours.

We have had our say about these new partners already this week, but we thought it would be better if they introduced themselves to you directly.

So without further ado, here they are …

Imperial Russia

With our new exciting Trans-Siberian tour on a luxury train, ‘Imperial Russia’ you will feel the imperial spirit of the endless expanses of Russia, see the unique nature of Siberia with your own eyes, enjoy Mongolian hospitality, get inspired by the mysterious culture of China and make new friends from all around the world.

Our ‘Imperial Russia’ train is a ‘hotel on wheels’, having different classes on board; VIP, First Class Plus, First Class, Standard and also Restaurant and Bar Cars.

Experienced local guides perform tours in English, French, German and Spanish. You will never get bored as folk shows, cooking master classes and concerts are included in the tour.

Tsars Gold

Lernidee Trains & Cruises, established in 1986, is the world’s leading tour operator for private train journeys and boutique ship cruising.

Lernidee’s extraordinary private train journeys in more than 40 countries allow clients to discover foreign lands, incredible geographical features and the world’s most famous railway lines from the comfort of a train carriage e.g. on the Trans-Siberian Railroad or on Africa’s colonial tracks.

Most of our journeys are tailor-made for small groups, private tour groups and individual travellers, ensuring truly memorable experiences. We take our clients to natural wonders and significant cultural sites and provide them with the authentic flavours of local life. Fascinating lectures, exciting excursions and delicious local dishes allow our clients to get a genuine impression of the travelled regions thus lifting them into an enthralling world of pioneering exploration.


Golden Eagle Luxury Tours

What’s the best thing about a Golden Eagle train journey? Is it that feeling of luxury embedded into everything you touch? The romance of rail travel which has inspired a thousand stories? Could it be the companionship of fellow travellers or the friendly, expert service of our staff?

What ties all these things together is the sheer, unrivalled scope of the whole experience. Luxury, romance and friendship go hand in hand as you travel across some of the world’s most breath-taking terrain. Nowhere is this stunning variety more apparent than on our Trans-Siberian route across Russia and into Mongolia.

On this, our flagship journey, you’ll experience things that simply have to be seen to be believed. Sights and sounds which photography and the written word can only go so far towards capturing.


So there you have it, straight from the source.

Has this inspired you to hop on-board a train to travel across the incredible expanse that is Eurasia and the Trans-Siberian railway?

Or does this bring back memories of journeys past?

Either way, let us know in the comments below!

Real Russia Blog

Journey through Russia, Mongolia and China part 3
27
September
2013

Journey through Russia, Mongolia and China part 3

Part 3a – into China

Restaurant carriage

We had an early dinner on this train in a very ornate Chinese restaurant car. We arrived at the Mongolian border station and we were there about 90 minutes for customs and clearance. It was interesting that the Mongolian police and the Chinese train attendants conversed in English. As is normal passports were collected and taken off to be checked. Then we crossed the border into China where we were due to be nearly four hours. The track gauge in China is the same as the UK and most of the world, but Russia and Mongolia are wider. So, after removing the restaurant car (not sure why!) the train was split into two and put into adjacent tracks in a long shed and the coaches separated. Then each coach was raised up using jacks leaving the bogies on the rails. These were taken out of the shed and the new bogies with the narrower gauge pushed under the carriages. The coaches were then dropped down, still with us inside, and the train was ready to run on the Chinese gauge. Going back into the station about midnight we found a shop still open selling beer at about 55p a half litre. As the train pulled out for its journey to Beijing we settled in our sleeping berths for the night.

I woke about 08.30 and found us passing through a much more populated country with large towns. In the distance we could see the Great Wall of China climbing a mountainside. Then we entered a long, high sided valley that twisted and turned overlooked by high mountains. We travelled through it on the original track but another line had been built mainly on the other side of the valley and we could see, while we were having lunch, a succession of freight and passenger trains using it. Also on the journey we saw the evidence of China's prosperity with new construction works and in particularly high speed lines and new ones being built. We passed the new station in Beijing built for the high speed trains. Amazing. We could see just on this journey, and in Beijing, how fast China has developed.

Tiananmen Square Beijing

We arrived at Beijing Main station on time, a very busy station, teeming with people. The temperature was 38 and our guide met us and led us to our road coach. He was excellent and told us many interesting facts about China and Beijing. 99% of the cars were built in China even if by joint Chinese/European or Chinese/Asia companies. Importing cars from abroad was subject to 300% import tax. Cyclists were banned from the main roads of Beijing now. The population of Beijing was 27 million and there were 260,000 CCTV cameras. Policemen were in evidence but not oppressively so. The coach dropped us off at a railway museum in Tiananmen Square that was in an old station. I thought the museum set out the history of Chinese Railways in a very logical and good way. From here we walked into the Square itself. A lady that seemed to be objecting to something was steered away by a street seller without the police getting involved. But I expected to find the Chinese friendly but was still amazed how friendly they were, many of the younger ones asking to take pictures with me, or agreeing to me taking their picture. This was in complete contrast to Russia where it was difficult to make people smile even.

After a ten course lunch at a very large jade shop we were taken to the Great Wall about 40 miles away. Part of the way we travelled on the No 6 ring road. (Yes there are five others, all seemingly packed with traffic.) After a steep walk from the coach a cable car took us up to the Wall very high on the mountainside. We could see it snaking into the distance in both directions. Arriving back at the hotel a few decided to try a brew pub a few metro stops (20p) from our hotel. Ten different beers were brewed on the premises. The two I tasted were excellent, up to UK standards. Burger and chips was quite sufficient after our eating previously. We caught a trolleybus (10p) back to the hotel and at 23.00 found ourselves in a traffic jam. It was a street full of shops and restaurants and the Chinese cars were parked two abreast so blocking the road to passing traffic.

Chris Lewis – Member of Locomotive Club of Great Britain

Website: www.lcgb.org.uk

Real Russia Blog

New Tour Ranges Now Available
10
April
2013

New Tour Ranges Now Available

Allow us to introduce our improved tour ranges, inspired and designed around you. Now with unbeatable choice and flexibility, you’re free to customise your trip exactly how you want. Combining our years of practice and unparalleled expertise, it’s time to book your truly life-changing experience.

With a choice of Trans-Siberian, Trans-Mongolian or Trans-Manchurian routes, you’ll have the opportunity to witness some of the World’s most breathtaking scenery. Depending on your choice, you might pass amazing destinations such as Moscow, Irkutsk, Lake Baikal, Ulan-Bator, Yekaterinburg and Beijing.

The Trans-Continental tour routes are arranged into three exciting options taking into account your individual needs:

The Explore Range is ideal for independent travellers who love getting off the beaten track. You can explore what you want, and when, without losing time booking complicated routes and transfers; accommodation is also arranged.

The Discover Range works well if you like the best of both worlds. You will be taken straight to the heart of the action with introductions to destinations in the comfort of professional guides, but also enjoying the flexibility of your own time to explore. The Discover tours are structured with routes and transfers, again with accommodation provided.

The Experience Range is the premium choice. If you always wanted a life-changing experience but didn’t know where to start, you can explore in comfort with quality transport and the finest accommodation. You will receive a truly unique and in-depth adventure with as little planning as possible. Relax safe in the knowledge that your entire trip is taken care of for you.

For everything you need to make your trip as easy and enjoyable as possible, look no further. We can also arrange all visas, train tickets, upgrades and extensions to suit your individual tour requirements.

Through multiple time zones and nations, your adventure will bring memories that you will never forget. We hope the new product ranges will encourage you to explore, discover and experience the real Russia.

To see our Trans-Siberian tours click here

Real Russia Blog

Upcoming consulates closures
31
January
2013

Upcoming consulates closures

It has been announced that, during February, the following visa application centres and consulates will be closed on some days due to national holidays:

Chinese Visa Application Centre
– Monday 11th February 2013 until Wednesday 13th February 2013

Mongolian Consulate
– Monday 11th February 2013 until Tuesday 12th February 2013

Vietnamese Consulate
– Monday 11th February 2013 until Friday 15th February 2013

These closures could have an effect on visa processing times so please be aware of this if you are planning on using these services.