Thursday, February 12, 2009

Passport pirouette: Trip of a lifetime on the Trans-Siberian

I don't remember when I first heard that it was possible to ride a train right the way across Russia, but for many, many years I dreamt of riding the Trans-Siberian. Paul Theroux certainly inspired me with his mentions of the train in his great book The Great Railway Bazaar and I'd long had a fascination with great train journeys.

In any case, moving from a teaching job in Japan to another one in Slovakia led me to the obvious conclusion that the best way to get there would be overland, and that meant taking the Trans-Siberian from Vladivostok to Moscow, with stops at Irkutsk/Lake Baikal and Yekaterinburg along the way. Getting the Russian visa that would allow us to do this wasn't the simplest thing in the world and involved several trips to a part of Osaka I'd never seen and a bit of a shock that the Russians inside the consulate weren't quite as friendly as the Japanese people outside it - although to be fair, I think they let us come back after closing time with the required photographs.

Landing in Vladivostok - on an Air Vladivostok flight from Osaka - turned out to be much less problematic than I'd expected. We got waved through with barely a glance, and the agent who organised our homestay registered our passports the next day. Easy. And then the real adventures began ... but that's a story for another day.

2 comments:

  1. Amanda! Found your site through the guest post on Vagabondish. I was in Yekaterinburg a few months ago - what a neat city. It may be cold this time of year, but plan on walking around: lots of great statues, markets, impressive architecture all around.

    Enjoy your trip!

    Alan

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  2. Hi Alan, Glad you agree with me that Yekaterinburg's a great city - we went on that trip a couple of years back (I'm looking back on my old passport stamps - with wistfulness!). I always remember that when we left Irkutsk, a Russian guy who had driven us to the station from our homestay was flabbergasted that our next stop was Yekaterinburg - he just kept saying there was no reason to stop there at all!! We definitely proved him wrong.

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