Dec '09- Jan '10
Kind of travel:
me and my girlfriend Elisa in an independent travel
27th Dec09- 10th Jan10
I need a visa?
Yes, and it's the toughest part since you need patience and
is the procedure. Remember that most of the Russian consulates
(ie the one in Milan) does require the
booking by their site
beside flying with Aeroflot, the Trans-Siberian railway has
been the main mean, then minibuses, but we rode also snow-mobiles
It has been a real Siberian winter with temperatures
ranging between -25C and -35C, may I call it freezing?
Soviet style hotels usually completely empty. An average price
for a double room was around 40€, the cheaper option is
to travel overnight on the trains (1 berth in 3rd class for
a 3 days trip: 40€!). Moscow is outstandingly expensive
for everything: Youth Hostel is 50€ for a double.
the charm of the Siberian landscape in wintertime is amazing,
in particular dog sledging and snow mobiling nearby Lake Baikal
has been the top
What I disliked:
out of almost 80 countries I've visited, the Siberian food is
the worst I've ever experienced. Russians smoke everywhere,
so if you don't put up with it, you'll freak out soon.
Russia is not cheap! We spent each an average of 51€/day,
lowered by the long train trip (1
berth in 3rd class for a 3 days trip: 40€!), but
increased by the staying in the expensive Moscow
drunk people, expecially in the evening on the Trans-Siberian
they can bother you to join them in the toastings
you do need:
don't venture on without at least being able to read cyrillic
and learn in advance how to read a Russian railway timetable
(don't underrate it or you'll regret!)
THE TRAVEL IN SIBERIA
Our entry point in Siberia has been the Buriatia region: the
main centre of the Russian Buddhism of the whole country. We
flew to its capital Ulan-Ude from Moscow (140€), spending
there a couple of days getting acclimatized (-35 C) and visiting
the nice town with its Ice Parks. We had also a day trip by
minibus to the centre of the Russian Buddhism called Ivolginsk
Datsan, located 70 km southward of the town, where we got acquainted
with a monk showing us his house.
Our first leg of Trans-Siberian has been a 9h overnight in 3rd
class to Irkutsk (ticket: 15€ each), where we jumped on
a minibus reaching in 2h the town of Lystvianka, set on the
bank of the Lake Baikal. Here we settled down in cozy wooden
made private house for 40€ night. The view of the freezing
Lake was jaw-dropping and Lystvianka is a convenient hub for
any activity around the lake, in fact the first day we rented
a snow mobile (40€ for 1h for two people) and we had a
ride through the snowed Siberian taiga.
The next day we tried the dog sledge (40€ for 15min): at
first there has been the interesting preparation of the sledge
with the barking dogs then they unexpectedly let us standing
and steering the sledge.
We spent the New Years eve in Irkustk walking in downtown while
enjoying both the Russian fireworks and the Russian coldness
The 1st Jan we began our 3 days long Trans-Siberian journey
to Vladivostok staying in 3rd class (only 40€! each).
We were well prepared having our food, beverage and lots of
tea bags; on the train there's boiling water for free, so it's
possible to have tea and make soup easily. We spent the time
doing crosswords, reading Pushkin, practicing Russian and sipping
tea. Frankly the travel hasn't been that tiring, unless for
the smoke coming from smoking area at the end of the wagon making
the air quite stinky. On the toilet there's no shower but I
managed to wash my hairs in the sink, and there's a Restaurant
Wagon where once we had a dinner. (more
info on the Trans-Siberian).
Vladivostok, set on a bay overlooking the Ocean Pacific, is
known at first as of the last km of the Trans-Siberian (the
9.288th from Moscow), and then as the base of the Russian military
In wintertime temperatures are milder than inland (around -16C/
-20C), but freezing wind makes hanging around even more painful.
We stayed in a very Soviet Hotel not listed in the Lonely planet,
called Hotel Equator for 35€ a double room; don't expect
much cheaper options in downtown!
The first 3 km of the Ocean were frozen and we had a stroll
over the ice around the fishermen with their tiny fishing rod
and the hole. Moreover we visited a military submarine, we took
the funicular to the top of the town and we reached the Russky
Island by an ice-breaking rusty ferry (2h). Once there we didn't
get off since it was too cold, thus we headed back.
The last evening we got invited for a dinner by Daniel and Anastasia,
a Russian couple, we got acquainted on the train. Although only
Russian speakers, it has been a so pleasant company, also showing
us some movies and explaining the traditions of the Russian
SPACIBA DANIEL & ANASTACIA!!
The following day by a convenient (180€) flight with Aeroflot
we flew to Moscow; it's surprising to think that in the same
country there're towns 9.5h distant each others.
In the capital we got a train (4h) to one of the main 'Golden-Ring'
highlights: Vladimir. Here we hardly found a cheap (but veeeery
Soviet) accommodation (30€) in the outskirt of the town.
The next day, 7th Jan, it was Christmas and we visited the touristy
but charming Suzdal (a former monastic centre), characterized
by many horse-sledges outnumbered only by the colorful onion-like
Back in Moscow we found a tiny and unbearable hot double room
for 45€ in the Youth Hostel, but with a good backpacker
In the capital we enjoyed the most famous Russian circus,
called the Nikulin, the Ice-Sculptures Museum and an Opera at
the Bolshoy Theatre. Useless to say we didn't miss the must-to-be-seen
Kremlin, the Red Square and the almost disturbing Lenin embalmed