10-11 March, Moscow

The first thing we noticed in Moscow was the milder weather – it couldn’t have been less than zero as we pulled into the railway station and located the driver who was waiting to pick us up. It took a while to locate our hotel, which had a particularly unassuming exterior, the entrance to which looked like nothing more than the back alley of a run-down apartment block. Walking up the four flights of stairs, we were both curious as to what we’d gotten ourselves into until we opened the door to the small, boutique hotel that was simple but …

8-9 March, Kazan and Train 1 to Moscow

We had chosen to stop over in Kazan to break up the long journey and to see the world-heritage listed Kremlin. At the end of our three-night train trip, we were glad to have made this choice, as another 12 hours on the train to Moscow probably would have been too much for us to endure.

4-7 March, Train 81 Irkutsk to Kazan

Train 81 bound for Moscow was much more closely aligned with our original expectations of a Trans-Siberian train – a comfortable but slightly grimy carriage with two shared bathrooms at either end.  This was our first time in a four-berth compartment and as we boarded at 11pm on Friday night, we found our new companion, a girl in her twenties sitting on lower berth Number 5. We never found out her name or what she did as she did her best to avoid making eye contact with us.

2-3 March, Train 263 and Irkutsk

Train 263 to Irkutsk was very different to our previous train but just as comfortable. This time we had a four-berth cabin to ourselves, but no private bathroom. On the train we had our first encounter with the Russian language but were not yet prepared with any phrases to talk to the provodnitsa. It took a while for everyone to get themselves and their luggage on the train. Some passengers were carrying not only their bags but also boxes of other things that they struggled to fit into the small luggage compartments. Once everyone had finally boarded we were on …

28 February – 1 March, Ulaanbaatar

As expected, the first thing that hit us as we stepped off the train was the temperature: -16°C. Wearing a jacket, thermals, thick pants, a woolen jumper, a scarf and a beanie, I was almost over-prepared and quickly realised that it wasn’t the cold itself that would get to me but the sweat from overheating, which rapidly turned cold. Despite the temperature, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and there was no breeze whatsoever so it wasn’t as unpleasant as we were expecting and was instantly refreshing after being in a stuffy train carriage.

26-27 February, Train K23 Beijing to Ulaanbaatar

We woke at 5.30am and peered outside at the snow-covered ground, on Beijing’s second day of snow for the winter. Down at the hotel lobby, with no taxis in sight, we tried to explain that we had booked a taxi the night before however our plea for assistance was met with deaf ears as we were told “it’s too early for taxis” and “that’s your problem”. Although we had left plenty of time to get to the station we both started to panic a little after waiting around for 15 minutes. The porter went out onto the road in the …