Wicked Winterfrost

32 Days & 10000 Km Later – Goodbye Asia

Posted in China, Mongolia, Russia, Trans-Siberian by talikas on July 5, 2009

monsters

Tallinn (Brussels)-Beijing 2009

Juliette

Maria

Best moment

Seeing the vast Mongolian steppes and taking the first shower in UB after Gobi

A hot shower after Gobi, galloping in the steppes with Mongolian semi-wild horses

Worst moment

Just before my departure in Brussels, when I thought I would miss my plane, and my 52 mosquito bites after Ikh Bogd mountains

The end of the trip and leaving Beijing

Scariest moment

When we thought that ninjas are attacking our tent

Crossing the streets in UB, being afraid of ninjas in the tent

Weirdest moment

The really intensive Chinese massage

The Chinese massage for sure!

Funniest moment

The Artist and his comedy

Too many. Endless joking with Juliette and Tseigi in UAZ , naked Artist, Russian men obsessed with Juliette

Most ridiculous moment

In the Beijing-Berlin plane a little boy asked from Maria if she is travelling with her mother

Washing my own sheets in the tiny toilet of the UB-Beijing train. Honestly, it was just tea!

Best sound

Baby camel crying and our “Huleele” hymn

Strong wind and rain drumming outside the ger

Best food

Anything NOT SPICY (after Beijing)

Fresh fruits in Beijing, hot pot in UB and everything spicy J

Best drink

Hot water in Gobi

Gobi water, salty Mongolian milk tea

First thing to do when back at home

Eat a baguette with really old and stinky camembert

Hugs’n’kissing; try to stop thinking in French

Best night

In the tent during our first great sandstorm in Gobi

The “Lost in Translation” techno party in UB, and eating duck brains with Hannes, Juliette, Thomas

Most aching part of the body

Abdono after our crazy laughing

My knees, and my eyes after the last Gobi sandstorm

Best kiss

A Mongolian feminist girl in the toilets of a UB nightclub

Hera

Something you missed the most during your trip

French food, “Dr House”, my Russian tea

My boyfriend and Läike house-chill (feat. DJ Artur&Karl)

Most bizarre tradition

Shaking a person’s hand after accidentally touching his/her foot

Smelling small children’s genitals and doing some weird movements with hands in the air

Sexiest man & woman

“Hannes” for sure, Maria

Huntushe and Juliette

What did you discover about Juliette/Maria

I discovered everything about Maria, and I will miss her a lot. And that she has friends everywhere…

Hehehe, many things, e.g. I found out that Juliette is a true scout and a queen of camping, and that she adores Bordeaux white (not)

What did you discover about yourself?

I can not sleep without Maria anymore besides me

I can stand on my head (thanks, Artist) and I really don’t like people who talk too much

What are you going to change in your life after the trip?

No mutton!

I promise to appreciate vegetables

 

And finally, greetings to all the people we met during our trip. Starting from the beginning (and sorry for not remembering all the names): Irina, Natasha, weird Israel guy, Anja and her mom, Babushka, Anton and her mom, Paulina, her brother and father, Stjopa, Maksim, Oksana, James, the funny British tourist ladies, Misha, Katja, Ira, Danish vodka family, Aleksei, Sandõk, Tseigi and her mom, Birgit, Roy, Kiwa, Rick, Tseren, numerous very hospitable Mongolian families during our UAZ trip, the cute Mongolian girl on a horse wearing a tennis outfit, all the ninjas, Huntushe (Von Swan), his mom, sister, brother, nephew, Gunbilegt (G aka Deep-Wise), his grandfather, grandmother, and other relatives, Gansukh (Simba), Biggie, the flower-shirt-guy,  the-feminist-in-the-toilet-girl, the oh-damn-my-sandals-guy, the UB Krishna community, Tumro (Ironman) and his family, Beatrice, Malin, Gustav, French mec on the train, Hannes, Sigrid&kids, the merry UB officials, all the provadnitsas, Tomo and his brother, Thomas, the helpful Beijing map guy, Simon. Did I forget someone, Juliette?

On The Train Again

Posted in Mongolia, Russia, Trans-Siberian by talikas on June 10, 2009

james

Even though we were dead tired after the Baikal adventures, it was hard to fall asleep because both of us were overexcited about finally seeing Mongolia. Even in the morning at 5 AM on our Irkutsk-Ulanbaator train, we were lying on our bunkbeds in wagon number 5 with eyes wide open and dreaming about vast green steppes, wild horses and distant mountains. We happened to share our train with our English friend James whom we had met earlier in the Moscow-Irkutsk train. Despite getting no fish from Baikal and losing both his tent and sleeping bag on the way, James was glowing positive energy and proved once again to be a great travelling companion.

The train ride took about 26 hours, 6 hours of which we spent on the Russian-Mongolian border filling out tens and tens of different papers. Compared to the Moscow-Irkutsk train, where we saw only 3 tourists, this train was rather popular with Belgian, French, English and Australian travellers. Juliette managed successfully to hide her nationality and not become buddies with the (snobbish looking :P) French backpackers even though we glued a French flag on our kupé door. Instead, we played cards with Mongolian children, learnt their hkhkhkh-sounding language and got to know a bit more the philosophy of the harsh-looking-but-goodhearted Russian people.

And then, suddenly, it was dark, the French wine turned out to be Moldovian again, Aleksander reminded us “not to put salt on the sugar” and we tried to sleep, sleep, sleep although we were both kind of nervous about the next day…

Baikal !

Posted in Russia, Trans-Siberian by talikas on June 8, 2009

baikal, katel ja lihakonservid

juliette_socks

misha_bk

We just came back from a fantastic 3-day hiking trip near Lake Baikal, that fully deserves its nickname the Fifth Ocean. The lake is so big that you can not see the other shore and has such clean and blue water that one can just drink it out from the lake. Baikal is the world’s deepest lake and becomes 2 cm deeper every year, so eventually, in the far far future, it will divide the whole Eurasian continent into two.

The three days spent on the shores of Baikal were wonderful and can be briefly described by such keywords as: Taltsy wooden architecture museum, hitchhiking with a 150 km/h driving Russian car, swimming in the +6 degree Baikal lake (bbbbbrrrrrrr… and drinking Saaremaa vodka to Baikal’s and our health), eating the endemic Baikal fish omul, hiking 25 km in steep mountains, getting lost, finding our way again, temperature changes from +25 to +4, hot sunshine and two days of cold rain, sleeping in a tent with no roof, freezing in our summer-sleepingbags, being wet allllll the time, being afraid of bears and Russian men, seeing real rural Siberian villages, a 2 hour boat trip on Baikal and Angara river, vodka tasting with other campers, etc. Now, after reaching Irkutsk and eating a big bowl of fresh cabbage soup, we are  so tired that we will just fall asleep. In 4 hours we will have to wake up to catch the 5 AM train to Ulan-Baator. Yey! Vive la vie!

**
V2ike loodusnurk:
Meie matk kulges järskudest küngastest üles ja alla, säravrohelises Siberi taigas, söestunud puudega mäetippudel, Shotimaad meenutavatel udustel kaljudel ja kiviklibusel järverannal. Loodus Baikali ääres meenutab tugevalt Eestit, sest mets koosneb tuttavatest puudest nagu mänd, kask, kuusk, haab jne. Küllap oli see meelepete, aga Siberi taigas tundub rohi rohelisem kui kodus ja kogu loodus on kuidagi lopsakam. Ma pole küll eriline taimetark, aga tundsin ära kevadistelt mäenõlvadelt ja puudesalust vastu piiluvad tuttavad taimed nagu hiirhernes, tulikas, ülane, osi, sõnajalg, kellukesed, kullerkupp, nurmenukk, karukellad, võililled jne – tihtipeale on need Eestis levivate taimede bioloogilised paralleelvormid ja seega justkui väikese kiiksuga. Nii on ülasel ühe õie asemel viis, nurmenukk lillaõieline ja kullerkupp oranzh ning palju suurema nupuga (Siberi taiga endeemiline sharki). Samasugune sarnasus on ka Baikalis leiduva kala “sig” ja Eestis väga hinnatud siia vahel.

kullerkupp

Privet, Irkutsk!

Posted in Russia, Trans-Siberian by talikas on June 4, 2009

irkutsk

Irkutsk is a nice colorful Russian city with orthodox churches, Soviet buildings, young schoolchildren guarding the Eternal Fire and crazy traffic. We Couchsurfed in the appartment of a young Russian family – Katja, Misha, Ira – and had a great time. We also met a local Estonian Mirjam who showed us around and introduced us to the wonders of Russian culture.

But as the Lake Baikal is only 70 km away,  it is quite hard to stay put in the city, so we  quickly  decided to go hiking in the mountains in the south-western part of Baikal, and  Misha gladly joined us.

me trying to hitchhike a boat on Angara River

Trans-Siberian Zen-Express

Posted in China, Mongolia, Russia, Trans-Siberian by talikas on June 3, 2009

pravadnik

You may think that you can imagine what’s going on in the wagons of the Transsiberian Express. You may say you have read books, heard stories, seen the movie, travelled a bit yourself, and can guess more or less the atmosphere and possible events. But, seriously, whatever you come up with, you will be wrong. The experience on the train will be different from whatever you have dreamed about, and not necessarily in a bad way.

First of all, it is a train of rules. These rules are known to everyone, except the first-time-traveller of course. And the rules, all 102 of them, are enforced by the King/Queen of the train – pravodnik/pravodnitsa (on the photo).  These are hardworking very very very serious- (if not mean-) looking people who have to take care of up to 54 people (the number of people in one 3rd class, platskaart, wagon) for x days in a row. I still haven’t figured out how they to it, but they keep everything under control, the wagon and the toilets clean, hot water running, give out sheets and sell dry noodles, turn the lights off at 23 and like magic… there is no-one in the wagon who is shouting or disturbing anyone. The oh-so-macho Russian men suddenly become obedient elementary school pupils and either start whispering or leave the wagon.

Secondly, one completely loses track of time. After travelling through 5 time zones, and spending more that 100 hours on the train, guessing the right time and even the day becomes a kind of a sport. It seems that the whole train operates on a secret code that one has to crack: my watch was on Estonian time, the clock on the wall always shows Moscow time, the lights are shut according to the local time, and the restoranwagon doesn’t care about time. This complete disorientated floating of hours-minutes-seconds gives way to constant sleeping, dreaming, longing, and eventually, a kind of zen meditation. There is only the train, the drumming sound of the wheels, the flying-by steppe and taiga… And no clue whatsoever where or when we are.

aser-tyrk
Then, there is the people. All the colorfully random people stuck together in one wagon who seamlessly become like old friends before the journey finishes. Everything happens: we shared our food, they offered theirs, this weird man with 2 children just didn’t stop giving us candies, we saw family pictures, heard intimate stories, witnessed severe Russian parenting, were offered advice on trekking around Baikal, some people invited us to their homes, wrote down phone numbers to call in case of help needed, etc. The weirdest things, of course, happen when bottles are opened, and so we met a guy who, as a token of his friendship and a symbol of good luck, first gave us a number of his wagon and kupe, and after our firm refusal, a big golden key of his apartment. Unfortunately he never told us the address.

kaardid

paulina

Mmm, and the food and drink. We, as budget travellers, were eating mostly quick noodles and Estonian sandwiches, but all the different things we tasted on the train, and the marvellous Russian traditional samplings (piroshki, plemeny, vareniki, ogurtsy etc) offered during the train stops by numerous babushkas seemed like an endless trip to an affordable Russian restaurant. Juliette, our dear French gourmande, adored Russian cuisine, approved the Russian sparkling wine but completely disregarded the fake-French (actually Moldavian, the restoranwagon waitress said) horribly sweet wine.

peatusjatoit
All in all (of course I can not tell you all the details because Juliette’s parents are reading the blog) it is the best trainride I have ever taken and I’m curiously looking forward to the Irkutsk-Ulaanbator bit.

restoranvagun

Moscow!

Posted in Russia, Trans-Siberian by talikas on May 30, 2009

moskva_turistid

Moskva on puhas klassika, t6eline nostalgia. Viimase piirini yles l88dud tikkontsade ja k6lisevate ehetega naised oma myhakate suitsetavate ja 6llepurkidega meestega jalutavad laisalt ja enesekindlalt p2ikeselistel promenaadidel. Kurjakuulutavate n2gudega rongisaatjad ennem neelavad oma m2rkmiku alla, kui reisijatele naeratavad ja rongijaamades j6lguvad lugematutest rassidest kahtlased tyybid.

P6rutasime rongijaamast kohe Punasele V2ljakule ja peale kohustuslikku turismipilti vedelesime kogu p2eva kirevaid venelasi, tiigreid, l6visid ja taevast vahtides Kultuuripargis. Nyyd superv2sinud ja seame aegsasti sammud Moskva-Irkutsk rongile, kus kavatseme 4 p2eva jooksul manustada v2hemalt poole mu vanemate poolt kaasa surutud toidumoonast (hehehe…. te oleksite pidanud n2gema, kuidas me oma saja kotiga Mokva rongile tuigerdasime). Suitsuvorstikang, n2ib, et peab Pekingini vastu.

**

Moscow is full of sun, tourists, pretty women and their dangerous-looking boyfriends. We spent the whole day sunbathing and chilling out in a big park and now we are on our way to catch the train to Irkutsk. During the 4 days on the train we are doing our best to eat at least half of the food my parents gave us to take along, but it seems that the smoked-ham-thing will last till Beijing… ;)