Along the long way, it is impossible not to get lost in the wilderness and vast emptiness of the Siberian landscape while looking out the window.
View from the Train Window
At each new look, the seemingly lifeless environment first amazes and then quickly blends into a blurred image of snow and trees.
The scattered wooden houses break the frozen monotony making it an interesting exercise to imagine how such a lifestyle must be. What comes to mind are a mix of western movies, old photographs, and snow.
And, even with all those imagined adventures playing out, the train carries on.
Being confined to a train, and often just to a small bed, for days and days sounds daunting and boring, but usually twice a day the train has a longer stop at a station.
So, for about 25 minutes, it is possible to get out, breath in the gelid fresh air, walk around and buy some food and water.
Station of Новосибирск (Novosibirsk)
It doesn’t sound like much but it is truly refreshing and each station tends to have its own personality: either because of the style of the station or just thanks to the presence (or lack) of babushkas (grandmas) who sell homemade meals to the hungry travelers.
Given the long distance, after a few stops, faces become familiar, exchanging a smile or chit-chatting about the ongoing experience.
At some stations, one can feel a bit more adventurous and try to explore a bit farther than usual but that needs to be done cautiously as the train waits for no one. As promptly as it stopped, the train departs once more into the endless frozen land.
If someone wants to get to the other side of Russia, there are only a few feasible options available: either flying, the most obvious and fastest one, or taking the train, the slowest but more interesting one.
I picked the latter as it would give me not only the chance to see a bit of Siberia in winter but also to experience the famous Transiberian Train: “At a Moscow-Vladivostok track length of 9,289 kilometers (5,772 miles), it spans a record eight time zones. Taking eight days to complete the journey, it is the third-longest single continuous service in the world.”
Wanting to head to Mongolia, I would stop at Ulan-Ude (roughly 3/5 of the complete route), after 4 and a half days of train.
Preparing the Train
The train, to me, seemed very “Soviet-style”, both imposing and experienced, you could almost feel it had done the route many times before and this was just yet another day of work, nothing special. But to me, and certainly many others before, this precise moment felt historic, at least on a personal level.
As the train arrived in the early morning, Moscow welcomed me with the first (but definitely not the last) snow of the journey.
The city was as bustling as I thought it would be, but it still had its charm, especially outside the Red Square.
Saint Basil’s Cathedral
Together with the common attractions, all the area near the Museum of Cosmonautics (brilliant museum by the way) was a mix of majesty and beauty: beauty when strolling around the snow-covered gardens and majesty when surprised by VDNKh (Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy) which had a pavilion for each of the Soviet “regions” (e.g. Ukraine, Moldova, Kazakhstan, etc.).
After a few days of sightseeing and preparation (both mental and physical), I was ready to leave Moscow and hop on the Transiberian train to Ulan-Ude.
After so much dreaming and planning, I am excited to finally be able to present my next world trip: From Finland to New Zealand!
I grew up with all kinds of pictures, documentaries and trinkets from Southeast Asia, so this adventure is quite personal, as this was my dream since I was a clueless young boy.
I believe showing is better than telling, so here is the rough idea of the trip:
As a fellow traveller once told me: “Dude, we are travelling in slow motion”. Back then I smiled but also realized why it is often so hard to tell people about my plan. Most people travel for a short amount of time and then go back home.
This journey will take years to complete but it will not be just travelling, there will be trips and tours of course but it would mainly be “normal” life just in different locations. Otherwise it would certainly burn anyone out, and all the places would just start to slowly blend together and lose their unique flavour.
As the name implies, I will be leaving from Finland and head all the way down to New Zealand (and the little tiny islands), passing through all the countries in-between (way too many to list them all). The plan is much more detailed for the first part (until Taiwan) but then it get a bit fuzzier as, honestly, I both can’t and don’t want to plan that far ahead.
So, if you think there are some unusual places or things to do in one of the countries I will be visiting, please feel free to suggest! 🙂
For the first few days in the Lapland, the weather went against all my hopes of seeing either the stars or the northern lights; the sky was completely covered in clouds, day and night.
On the third day, walking back from the center of Inari, I experienced almost a déjà vu of my first adventure here. Again pitch dark and again trying to survive the cold and the passing cars on the side of the road.
It was just 4 o’clock in the afternoon but already as dark as it gets.
Just moments before being rescued (once again) by Jussa’s father, I noticed a light in the sky. At first excited, I quickly realized it must just be a small hole in the clouds, from which a small spot of light was coming through – nothing like the clear sky I was hoping for.
It was just after dinner that the single spot was joined by a multitude of other lights.
Taking this as a sign, I started checking aurora forecasts regularly to keep an eye on the solar wind gauges. (Funny thing about the aurora forecast service: every day, a single guy, in Finland, checks the solar data, the sky and his gut feeling and updates the website with the forecast of the night.)
Dropped off at the nearest bus stop, I headed to the husky camp by foot.
It was just 3.30PM but, in Inari, it was already pitch black, especially because there were no streetlights in that part of the road.
Equipped with my massive backpack and phone/flashlight, I started my 2.5km walk. It was an interesting experience: walking in the middle of the forest, the path only dimly light, snow falling; it was thrilling. The darkness and the trees surrounded me in a chilling embrace, which is how I imagine it would have been before electricity.
While all these thoughts stormed through my head, one of the rare passing cars stopped by and a voice called my name.
It was Jussa, the owner of the sled dog camp, and his family, coming to rescue me.
We had a quick dinner and headed to the camp so that I could get settled.