Real Russia Blog

Customer Tales: Trains, and banyas, and exploring! Oh my! (Part three)
11
November
2015

Customer Tales: Trains, and banyas, and exploring! Oh my! (Part three)

Arriving in Beijing

The end of this epic journey approaches, as Helen and Charles near the end of their Trans-Siberian adventure.

Having started in Moscow in part one, travelled to Irkutsk and Baikal in part two, they now find themselves heading onwards to Beijing, before exploring one of the most incredible cities in the world.

Travelling on train 20

It was good to be active in Irkutsk ahead of our next 3 days on the train again. A chance to catch our breath and reminisce and relax and mingle. It transpired we were the only people in the whole carriage, which not as plush looking as our first train, functioned much better, the beds were more comfortable and were cleaned daily. A Chinese family boarded later on who were really nice neighbours.

The dining car not as nice as the first one, but we had stocked up in Irkutsk and actually did not get that hungry as we were stationery most of the time. We followed the stations along the way and liked anticipating where we would be stopping next and for how long. Very few vendors on the stations, but the few which did have, we shopped at, mostly ice cream and airtime! I was intrigued by the female voice making the announcements at ALL the stations en route and the number of female railway workers in overalls or uniforms. In our country it is strictly male dominated. This train was a steam train we realized, which was interesting in itself, and much smoother than the first train. The female Russian conductors were efficient and quite friendly, which made a change for our first train which was manned by Chinese men, rather gruff and not terribly friendly. We did get the odd smile out of one of them!

The second train (Vostok) quite different to the first, as I may already have mentioned. Definitely cleaner and more comfortable. I considered what it would have been like had we booked on the Golden Eagle (which I think is your top train and very expensive). And I realized we would not necessarily have enjoyed it more. The basis of the train trip was that we would have passed the same scenery, stopped at the same stations, and not had much to do on the train other than what one had brought with one and mingling with other travellers. I felt sure it would not have been as easy striking up friendships on the Golden Eagle. Our neighbours were down to earth types and easy to chat to. The awe of knowing one is crossing 7 time lines and the famous Russian/Siberian countryside was constantly in my mind. It was meaningful to me.

I do think the first train (Chinese train 4) should have been cleaner and that the water should have worked in the shower, definitely.

I was astonished at the 6 hour stop in Zabaykalsk and then another 6 hours at the very next station! I visualized we could have used that time in Beijing! The Russian officials were more concerned at our leaving their country than the Chinese our entering theirs. A part of the trip we will never forget and an exercise in crossing borders.

Finishing the journey in Beijing

And then our arrival in Beijing. Lilly spotted us straight away, no waiting involved and walked us to her driver. When we got to the hotel it was established that we could not go straight up to our room as it was not 8.30 and also that we could not have breakfast as it had been booked for the following morning! An awkward moment which we made the best of. We definitely wanted to shower and get our cases up to our room and prepare for the long day ahead. So, we arranged with Lilly that she would leave us and come back at 9. Whilst waiting for our room to become available we strolled out of the hotel and found a place to have breakfast. Eventually we were allowed into our room and a quick shower – then off to first the Jade factory and then The Great Wall. We realized we were not going to fit in the silk factory, taking into account traffic in Beijing that day ahead of a special day in China the very next day. Lilly was friendly and accommodating and gave us some interesting background to Beijing and Jade, and The Great Wall.

Once at the Great Wall, Lilly led us to the starting point of The Wall and left us to climb as we wished, which we thought was appropriate. Because we were several hours on the Great Wall there was not enough time for lunch. I think, had the travel time in rush traffic been taken into account it could have been established, at the time of preparing the itinerary, that we would not fit all of the places in!

We had a couple of hours back in our room to collect ourselves before Lilly returned to walk us to the chosen restaurant. Because time was of the essence, we were a little alarmed at the long walk we took to get there. Lilly explained she did not know exactly where it was, just a vague idea. It transpired that we could have taken a much shorter route as she realized after the meal we had taken the long way round. I was a little on edge as we had to be at the airport by 8. Meal was very nice and we loved the Peking Duck. Once again traffic was an issue and we got to the airport an hour later than advised but it did not seem to matter.

And, we headed for home … With sights and sounds dancing around in our heads.

A real adventure of a tour Alla, I loved all of it. 14 days was the right length. I am impressed at the way the tour flowed, all our guides were punctual, friendly and accommodating and well informed.

I believe the slight hitches we experienced were due to the language and in fact, in my opinion added just that bit of surprise, thereby enhancing the tour.

And that is that!

Thank you Helen and Charles for your fantastic tale and feedback.

Anyone else feeling inspired to hop on the Trans-Siberian now?

If you are, then take a look at our range of Trans-Siberian tours. If you want to follow in the footsteps of the intrepid duo, look specifically at our Discovery Range Siberian Eye tour!

Fancy sharing your Trans-Siberian tale? Get in touch with us at marketing@realrussia.co.uk.

Part one can be found here.

Part two can be found here.

Real Russia Blog

Customer Tales: Trains, and banyas, and exploring! Oh my! (Part one)
23
October
2015

Customer Tales: Trains, and banyas, and exploring! Oh my! (Part one)

Overcoming language barriers and soaking up Russian life

To continue our series of customer tales from the Trans-Siberian over the summer of 2015, we have a three part tale taking us from Moscow, via Irkutsk and Lake Baikal to Beijing on a tailored version of our Discovery range Siberian Eye tour!

Read part one below to find out their thoughts on arriving in Russia and exploring Moscow, and then keep your eyes peeled to our social media channels and our blog page to read parts two and three over the next couple of weeks!

Arriving in Russia

Good Morning Alla

I wanted to mail you once I had fully settled back here and could think clearly as I am sure you will be interested to hear about every detail of our trip.

My head is half full of Russia as I go about my daily things, visiting another country give one an opportunity for adopting a different perspective and a better understanding of oneself and another culture. Just love it. We have taken so much from this trip. The Russian language, whilst I cannot fully read it I feel familiar with it when I see a Russian word. Charles was good about learning quite a few phrases and words which came in useful on many occasions. I liked the way we communicated and eventually managed to get the other person to understand what we were saying. I think the few hitches we had were mainly because of the language difference and looking back actually enhanced the trip.

Our arrival in Moscow was a little disappointing as any airport might be, the officials were extremely unfriendly and when we arrived in the main entrance hall and got to the Academ desk, the little girl behind it could not understand what I was trying to explain to her even after taking out my Russian itinerary, and it seemed we were not going to get through to her, but eventually she called a gentleman over and he seemed to understand and said because it was a Sunday they would not be able to organize a taxi. However, I persisted and eventually we got a taxi – and a long ride into Moscow.

The receptionists in the Maxima were very nice and helped us always, although once again not all of them could speak good English. The Maxima was perfect from a location point of view Alla, thanks for that, right next to the Metro, which we took twice, after asking a kind receptionist to put in English the station names next to the Russian ones so that we could recognize which station to get out at! We found a supermarket right there as well, with the prices very comparable to ours, and an Exchange Bureau which was very handy.

Exploring Moscow

Our boat cruise was a lovely introduction to Moscow and our guide Olga, although a little quiet, was suitable actually, as she was quite right, we did want to take a lot of photos and she did not interfere, but made herself available to any questions we asked. We realized the following day that we would be covering most of what we saw on the boat trip, again, with Rita, which on reflection was very good, as it helped us retain some of the facts given out. Rita was the complete opposite to Olga, brisk and very knowledgeable, we walked our feet off that day but felt exhilarated nevertheless.

Once we had recovered in our hotel room that night we felt keen to visit Red Square again and go into the Kremlin and get to Arbat Street, which is exactly what we did. This time we could take it a little slower and savour and re-inforce what we had learnt with Rita. The weather was perfect the whole time in Moscow and in fact the while trip through, we were lucky. Charles was very keen to visit the Armory in the Kremlin and disappointed we could not take photos in there! I had no idea how many cathedrals there would be in there – full of Byzantine art, and oozing with history, really beautiful. We had thought we would be allowed into the Kremlin itself and would have appreciated if the lady we booked the ticket with had been able to convey to us that that would not be possible, but once again the language was a barrier. Charles was disappointed!

We loved wandering the streets in the area around our hotel and explored almost every single shop, and especially a delightful bakery across the road. I liked listening to the Russian accents and watching their mannerisms. They all walked very briskly and upright, almost as though marching, very unlike our pace of life over here! Very few smiles, but a feeling of serenity on the faces of passers-by, as though they all live a good life.

We noticed how clean the streets were and even street cleaning machines. And we noticed stray dogs crossing busy streets, Charles had heard that there were packs of wild dogs that roamed the streets, but Olga denied this.

…to be continued…

Excited for the journey ahead?

What did you think to part one? Come back over the next couple of weeks to continue reading about this fantastic journey.

And while you wait, why not take a look at our Trans-Siberian tours?

Alternatively, why not tell us all about your Trans-Siberian tales in the comments below, or via email to marketing@realrussia.co.uk.

Part two can be found here.

Part three can be found here.