Normally most people would apologise for not posting for a while, but I am not going to! Not because I feel like being a jerk but because the last couple of months has been an absolute whirlwind of travelling, adventures, new people, new sights, scenes and countries. For the best part of it I have been over indulging in the experiences that I have luckily been able to gain, and not spending the time to put pen to paper… so to speak.
So, rest assured the next few weeks of blog posts I am going to be playing catch up on everything I have been doing; from jumping into the ice cold waters of Lake Baikal straight out of a Russian sauna, seeing the New Year in in the middle of Mongolia with -30C temperatures and flying down the road like a lunatic on mopeds in Thailand!
Most of you will know that Suzie and I spent the summer travelling around Europe in our camper, but the next step of our plan was to travel overland to New Zealand. At the beginning of December we set out on a cold, wet morning from Bedford train station in England with the aim of taking various trains across Europe, the whole expanse of Asia and finally ending up in Hong Kong, A distance of some 8,840 miles and a LOT of hours on the train.
The original goal was to take on the Trans-Siberian Express (a name given to three separate train routes) the Trans-Siberian is from Moscow to Vladivostok (all in Russia), the Trans-Manchurian, which is from Moscow across Russia, then trailing into China down to Beijing. Or the route that we planned to take, and the most beautiful in terms of scenery, was the Trans-Mongolian; a straight shot from Moscow to Irkutsk at the bottom of Lake Baikal then down through Mongolia and the Gobi Desert straight into China and Beijing.
The more I set about planning the trip, the more I felt like I was cheating if we flew into Russia, I looked at Suzie one evening and said ‘Hey wouldn’t it be fun if we did the whole thing by train? All the way to the end of the line.’ All I can say is that it did not take long at all for her to say yes, she agreed it would be a hell of an adventure and I am sure that her fear of flying had nothing to do with it.
The first day we only went as far as London, spending the night with Suzie’s cousin whilst waiting for our early morning Eurostar… sounds anti-climactic but after all the emotional family goodbyes over the previous few days it was good to relax somewhere reasonably familiar without pressure and regroup ourselves for some tough travel and weather that lay ahead.
A bright and early start the next morning, well as bright as London can be in December, we passed through customs and on to the Eurostar. After convincing the customs officials that my Victorinox pen-knife was for the travel we were doing through Russia – the accompanying thermals, hiking boots and gear helped! (The irony is, when I did get to Russia the Russian customs asked what I expected to do with such a small knife, ‘barely big enough to cut meat with’ they said).
It was a pretty uneventful day unfortunately eating junk food, swapping trains at Brussels, then Cologne before eventually arriving at Berlin. We stopped for a few days with Preslava an old Bulgarian friend of Suzie’s who is working and living in Berlin with her other half.
Preslava was absolutely amazing letting us stay in our flat as if it was our own home, a brilliant base just outside of central Berlin, a city I have been looking forward to visiting a long time and I am not afraid to say that we ticked off all of the tourist boxes; The Victory Monument, Brandenburg Tor, Checkpoint Charlie, seeing a remaining chunk of the Berlin wall and luckily enough drinking hot apple cider around the Christmas markets! For anyone thinking of going, Berlin is definitely a great weekend spot, I wont go into to much detail on here about where to go or how to get there as it is well covered on the net. But my best advice is to get out there and explore!
My journey continues through Poland and Belarus, a blog post that I promise will be very soon.