Our trip to Russia had mainly one goal: We wanted to see Siberia and especially Lake Baikal in winter – and travel the longest railway in the world.
Our Russian adventures started in Vladivostok where we arrived by ferry from South Korea. Vladivostok is not quite Siberia yet, but it was damn cold anyway… The sea was partly frozen, which came as a bit of a surprise to us.
However, Vladivostok was not really the goal of our adventures, so we soon boarded a train to reach the real Siberia and find a way to Lake Baikal. We chose the city Ulan-Ude as our gateway to Lake Baikal – 60+ hours and 3300 km by train from Vladivostok.
For both of us this was the longest train journey we had ever been on, but we came prepared: We carried on loads of bread, sausage, cheese, cup noodles, and mashed potato powder – and of course our best ever time killer: Bohnanza (the bean game).
Due to our heritage in Jutland we were of course on “Platzkarty” equalling third class on the train. This means a big open coach with 50 other people living, eating, and sleeping on the train. We soon engaged with our nearest “neighbours”: Two Korean girls who were not really prepared for the train. There was a lot of back and forth – packing and unpacking, and luckily they left after only 16 hours.
We had more luck with our next neighbours: A quiet Korean guy in the upper berth, and a lovely Russian girl in the lower. Also, during the night a Russian grandpa joined us in the berth at the end of our small open compartment across the aisle. They were all three with us for the rest of our journey to Ulan-Ude (more than two days), so we thought we would better get to know them a little bit.
The grandpa and the Russian girl spoke only Russian, so Gitte opened the conversation with the only full Russian phrase she knows, and that way we learned their names: Anna and Ginadii (Гинадий). And from that moment we just became best friends forever on the train 😃 We got to taste all their food, we played Bonanza, Old Maid (Black Peter), and a card game that Ginadii and Anna tried to teach us. In those two days we learned more Russian than Gitte learned in one year on Duolingo 😉 With our best Russian, Google Translate, sign language, and what not we actually managed to learn quite a bit about each other, and we were full of new energy around our Russian language capabilities when we left the train.
After three nights and two full days on the train we finally arrived in Ulan-Ude in the south-eastern part of Siberia. We were welcomed by -20 °C, which made us find our hostel very quickly!
For those interested in trains we have put in a few pictures and descriptions of the more technical details on running a train through Siberia in winter 😉