cat_rusya


The Curse of Lake Baikal
Wednesday, 08 September 2010 05:38
DSC_0253Me... Telling about Turkey and Ramadan to 2 Chilean, 2 German, 1 Czech and 1 Spanish guy. All are listening to me and asking questions. Besides we are talking about Palestine and Israel. In the east of Russia, Siberia, in the Olkhon Island on Lake Baikal... No,no, it must be a dream. It has been a long time since I had such a dream lately. Today is not saturday, when the alarm will ring ? I want to sleep more, I don't want to go to work...

The clock on the station wall was 22:30 when we completed our 81 hours trip and arrived to Irkutsk. Just like our body clock. In fact the local time was 03:30. We had changed 5 time zones during the trip. It was the reason and the result of shortening days in the train. There are some whispers about the wall clock in the train station, let me explain; all the trains in Russia use Moscow time. That's why all train stations have Moscow time on walls.

We met four people with backpacks right after we got off the train and went to the train station. The time between greeting, getting acquatinted and traveling together is so short anymore. We went to bus station all together and bought tickets for Olkhon Island on Lake Baikal. We had the first problem out of all we had in Baikal, here. We were impatient to get on the bus and have some sleep since we couldn't sleep because of the time zone change and it was so cold outside. But  what we saw were 3 minibuses instead of a bus. Russians who can't speak English were insisting on trying to tell something in Russian as always. I guess they believe that we can start to understand RUssian after some while if they insist so much.

DSC_0280We hardly got on the minibuses. The trip to Khuzhir, the center town in the Olkhon Island was around 7 hours, sometimes on  paved roads sometimes on unimproved road with the Russian disco songs in the minibus. We were sleeples and very tired when we reached the island. We just spend some time watching the sunset and eating something, slept quickly afterwards.

Fortunately we would have a nice weekend in Lake Baikal. It is known as the oldest and the deepest lake in the world, besides it has various endemic species including the only seal leaving in fresh water, nerpa. By the way endemic is an interesting word, I should write it somewhere. I can use it again.

Furthermore the island is a special place for shamanic religion. We heard that there are still some shamans living hidden in the island. I also experienced a shamanic ritual. I woke up in the middle of the night and saw a shaman having a ritual in lights when I looked out of our terrace. I went back to bed quickly since I didn't want to disturb him. Ok, I understood that what I saw was the lights of a bulding when I wanted to see him again next night but no matter it was a very special moment.

Dark clouds and wind met us on Saturday morning. We were wearing coats although it was so hot the day before. It must be special to Siberia that the temperature changes so quickly. We decided to check our messages while waiting for the weather to get better. One of the messages I received was telling that the information we had from the Mongolian consulate in Russia was incorrect and Turkish citizens need visa. The source of the information was Turkish Ministry of Foreing Affairs. But the consulate in Moscow said we don't require ? Which one was true ? Our Russian visa was to expire on September 7. This means we may got stuck in the border since we cant go back to Russia and go into Mongolia either.

We tried to have some information on SUnday morning after sleeping only a few hours on Saturday night. We called Mongolian Consulate in Moscow, Ulan Ude and Irkutsk, Turkish consulate in Ulaan Bataar, Mongolian Consulate in Ankara even Turkish Airlines office... But noone could give exact information since it was Sunday. There was no other way, we had to go to Mongolian Consulate in Irkuts on monday morning which means that we have to leave island quickly. We couldn't even see the most part of Lake Baikal.

DSC_0642The trip back to Irkutsk took 12 hours since the car we got on waited for 5 hours in the ferry queue. It was 02:00 when we arrived. We went to consulate early in the morning. The officed could speak only a few words of English and told that we don't require a visa. Something must have been wrong. They checked again and again after we insisted and finally the situation was clear. Both the officers in Moscow and İrkutsk tought that we are from Turkmenistan after they saw the flag on our passports and thats why they kept telling no visa was required. Actually we needed a visa for Mongolia and we had onlt 1 day to obtain it. Fortunately we could get it in 2 hours but the fee that we had to pay for it created a little hole in our budget. Our objections didn't help. We left the consulate with Mongolian visas on our passports and telling bad words.

Since our Russian visa was about to expire, we took the night train to Ulan Ude for 8 hours, then a minibus to the border for 4 hours and arrived to Mongolian border. We spent another 2 hours while passing through the fences in the border and another 4 hours in the car go to Ulaan Bataar . We were extremely tired when we came to Ulaan Bataar. We haven't slept for days and spent hours, even days on the road. We were hungry as well but fortunately Mongolian cuisine was great.

To summarize everything is not perfect while traveling, this is a tough period both physically and mentally but we don't complain. I am fine mom...I am really fine...Ok, I will eat a lot...Ok, I will eat fruits as well... Ok Ok I will wear warm clothes as well...

By the way, I was told off that I am out of the country again on Özlem's birthday like last year. That's why I will not make any plans for next September. Meanwhile it's a good time to celebrate her again, happy birthday Özos...
Özcan
 
The Endless Trip, Trans Siberian Express
Saturday, 04 September 2010 18:00

DSC_0123I woke up with some Russian voices, some people were whispering. A door was opened time to time and I felt some people were passing by me. It was hard to breathe and I could smell garlic. But who was swinging my bed like a cradle ? Where was I ? I opened my eyes and understood afterwards. I was there, in Trans Siberia...

 

 

Day 1

We had many preparations after the wet and cold days we spent in Moscow. The train would be our home for four days that's why we had to obtain all our requirements such as food and drink before the trip. Because the train would not stop so long, the breaks would be around 10-30 minutes and we were suggested not to buy anything from these stations since they may be out of date or expensive. That is why we bought everything we need before the trip. Canned food, bread, 8 litres of water, chocolate, biscuits and tea. Besides we bought liquid soap, wet tissues and napkins as well. Our backpacks already weigh around 17 kgs, as we got these food with us it became really funny to get to the Kazanskiy station where our train would take off.

 

DSC_0124I felt anxious as soon as I saw the people waiting in fron of the train with their huge number of luggages, even higher than the number of people. Would we all travel in the same wagon? In the end the door of the wagon was opened and the people started getting inside where we would travel for 81 hours. It was our turn and we found our beds after moving along the corridor full of people and luggages. But there were already some bags on our beds. The bags belonged to the guy just next to us whom we first thought to be a Mongolian and later learned that he was a Buriatian. He said "moment moment" and finally took back his bags and we were able to settle down.

It was such a mess inside the wagon. People were moving around and trying to put their luggages on the shelfs. The foreign couple next to us were just biting their nails, I guess it is a good example to express the situation. On the other hand we were much more comfortable. We even started to help other people settle down.

DSC_0358The wagon we were in is known as plaskart or 3rd class, the cheapest one. In this vagon there are no compartments, no doors, no privacy. Everyone is sleeping, eating and talking to each other in the same place, that's why it is very social. Most of the people are from Buryatia, the east part of Russia. There are only four foreigners in total in the wagon. After  the train moved and everyone settled down, we realized that some curious eyes are looking at us, obviously they want to know about us. After smiling to each other, first words come. "Where are you from ?" After they learnt that we are from Turkey, they had a surprised look on their face or it may be their ordinary face expression. Probably this was the first time they ever meet a Turk in this train. The curious eyes who have been replied by us receive smiliar question by other curious eyes. Everyone wonders where we are coming from. The grup which we thought was a family was actually a folk dance group returning home after joining a fest in Italy. We had more questions;

- Where are you going to ?
- Irkutsk, Lake Baikal, you ?
- Lake Baikal too, home...

Trans Siberia was an extra ordinary trip for us, but it was a regular trip back home for them.

After this conversation our talk went on including serving to each other all the night. We were suddenly friends with Michael, Sancho, his father and Konstantin. The other foreigners in the wagon, Pablo and Hanna joined the conversation as well and we kept talking until midnight. Afterwards everyone went to sleep to spend the first night in Trans Siberia

Day 2

I don't know what time it was when I woke up. Because I didn't turn on my mobile, actually I wasn't even curious. But it must have been early, everyone was sleeping. The train stopped in Kazan at night but I didn't realize. I turned my bed into 2 seats and a table and ate some. Afterwards Ozcan woke up and had his breakfast with Michael. One guy from Karabuk and one guy from Buryatia was having breakfast together in a Siberian train heading to east.

DSC_0454People around were reading books, listening to music, playing card games. The girls were dealing with their nails, the little kids were busy with their toys. This is so similar to an ordinary house. Everyone is wearing pijamas ans sleepers. You can even visit your neighbours. We also read books, listened to music and watched around through the window all the day. The train stopped in several stations, everyone was getting out, having some fresh air and buying their needs from local sales people. In the evening we all watched the show of the group in Italy. Everyone who heard the voices joined us.  We watched Buryatia national folk dances all together. I also showed them the Turkish national folk dance, zeybek...

Russia, Trans Siberia. And the third is definitely vodka. When it's night time we can smell vodka everywhere. The talk we had with our neighbours went on the second day as well. They invited us to their home in Ulan-Ude. Our visa to Russia is about to expire, but if we have time we definitely want to go.

Day 3

It's very weird, but the time is passing so quickly. I am even afraid that this trip would finish soon. Since we are heading to east it is easily becoming evening. We have to change the time zone. We were so tired in Moscow and St Petersburg so this is a godd chance to rest. The weather has started to get warmer and warmer. It feels like summer and its hard to sleep. We had a long break in Novosibirsk and that made everyone feel much better. The days are getting shorter and shorter, I feel weird about it.

Day 4



DSC_0195We decided to stay awake last night. Because we would get down around 03:30 local time. During our last hours we played card games with Pablo. Michael and Sancho wanted to say goodbye to us that's why they didn't sleep.

When we arrived to Irkutsk all the people in the wagon got down. This was an unforgettable moment. All the people in the wagon were in got down from the train just to say good bye to us. They were all hugging to us and wishing good luck. The people we didn't even know 81 hours ago, we will not forget you.

Pablo and Hanna have a similar route to ours. They will first head to Mongolia and then China. That's why we decided to go to China together. Now we will wait for the morning in the train station and we will take the first bus to Irkutsk.

ismail

I woke up with some Russian voices, some people were whispering. A door was opened time to time and I felt some people

were passing by me. It was hard to breathe and I could smell garlic. But who was swinging my bed like a cradle ? Where was

I ? I opened my eyes and understood afterwards. I was there, in Trans Siberia...
 
Time for Trans-Siberian, Moscow
Monday, 30 August 2010 07:54
DSC_0036It is 10 degrees outside and has been raining a lot now as for the last few days. Tomorrow (August 30, Monday) we will have a tough journey. Actually not only tomorrow, we will be on the road on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as well. Its time to head to east...

After leaving St. Petersburg in an interesting way, we arrived Moscow after a 10 hours train trip. We heard a lot about Moscow before coming, thats why we couldn't decide what to expect. Our host was close to city center, we arrived home in a short time with metro. We didn't have much time because we should have applied to Mongolian visa immediately. Hence we left our backpacks at home and went to Mongolian consulate with our host. Previously we had some research on the internet about the visa but couldn't find anything so the only thing we could do was to expect to obtain the visa in a short time. But we had the good news in Mongolian consulate, Mongolia doesn't require visa for Turkish citizens.

We decided to celebrate this good news by having a lunch in a Turkish restaurant on Moscow's famous street, Arbat but when we had the bill we were not happy anymore. That's how we met the expensive Moscow. Moscow has a history of 700 years. It has a huge history for years and now it is the capital of Russia with its political, sociological and economical importance. The population is around 13 million. The city is designed as 2 circles, one in inside and one is outside. The bigger circle has a diameter of 60 kilometres and the neigbourhoods out of this circle as known as suburbs. Metro is designed in a similar way but Moscow metro deserves much more explanation.
DSC_0071

Moscow metro currently has 11 lines and over 250 stations. 8 million passengers travel in the metro daily. The trains are so frequent and it has a huge importance for the city. But what makes metro special is its architectural and historical value. It symbolizes the peoples undeground life against the huge palaces of Russian history. There are many arcihtectural beauties on stations. That's why it is also known as "Palaces of people" We had some pictures under the Travel Notes section but more information can be found on http://www.mosmetro.ru. It is also the third oldest metro in the world. On the second place, there is a familiar one, Istanbul Tunnel Metro.  

Except metro, the famous places in Moscow are of course Red Square and Kremlin palace. We spent most of our time around these. Lİfe on the squares are always nice as always. There are many Lenin monuments around the city. He is very important for Russian history. On the other hand, Stalin has 7 skyscrappers. Same skyscrappers also exist in Riga and Warsaw and these are known as Stalin's gifts.

My friend from university, Rustam and his girlfriend Jenya has joined us in Moscow as well as Engin. It's a good time to thank them again. It was great to see old friends in some other city, in some other country.

Trans-Siberian time


We are leaving Moscow as of tomorrow, its time to head to İrkutsk and Lake Baikal. Trans-Siberian is one of the most important steps of our travel. The trip will last around 4 days and we will go through 5200 kilometres. We will change 5 time zones, this means we will have a 6 hours time difference at the end of our trip. We dont plan to get down from the train during the journey. We bought many things to eat. It will be an interesting journey. Hope to write again near Lake Baikal (if we have access to internet...)

Özcan
 
Capital Born in Swamp, St. Petersburg
Thursday, 26 August 2010 14:01

DSC_0917It was already morning and our bus arrived St.Petersburg when I opened my eyes. I checked the time, it was almost 6 in the morning. While we were waiting our host at the bus station we had the chance to observe this unfamiliar country. Apperantly we were inside of a culture that is quite different from Europe. Because we were in the city which became capital of Russian Empire for more than 200 years, called as Petrograd and Leningrad, Peter the Great's city, St.Petersburg.


Our host came and took us from the station. As we got to home and she introduced our room mates. Two cats, one turtle and a free hedgehog. We left our bags at home and went out to explore the city. We were first impressed and tempted by the St.Petersburg metro. Well, it is better to call it life under the ground. This metro network has 59 stations and it is the most deep metro we have ever seen. It is so deep because the city was founded on a swamp. The Russian Czar who is called as Crazy Petro by Turks and Peter the Great by Europeans had already proved how crazy or how great he is by founding a excellent city on the swamp by the Baltic Sea. The architects invited from Italy affected the architecture of the city much. May be that is why St.Petersburg is the only city taht looks like European. Nevskiy is the main street of the city and intersects with the channels of the Neva River. In the end of the street there is a monument in the name of the victory against Germans during 2. world war. On one of the side buildings' top it is written "hero city Leningrad" in Russian.

Glorius cathedrals of the city are pretty different than the ones in Europe. Kazan Cathedral, St.Isaac Cathedral are among these city cathedrals. The castle called Peter and Paul Fortress is the first place where St.Petersburg was founded. We had the chance to visit all these places during our stay in St.Petersburg. The museum is called as Hermitage which is located on the biggest square named Dvortsovaya. It is the biggest museum of Russia and more than 3 millions of items are exhibited inside. In fact this building used to be Peter the Great's winter palace. Definitely he used to have one more which was a summer palace. This summer palace is called as Petergof and is located by the Baltic Sea. We are really impressed by the garden and the fountains of this palace. I wish I have the similar one day.


DSC_0004The Neva river that passes from the center of the city splits to several channels before reaching the sea. That created small islands on the river. These islands are connected to the land by the bridges which are opened every summer night when the time is 1.30 am. As the bridges open the ships which come from the sea have the opportunity go through the river inside the city. We also have been there that time to watch this event. Even some people brought champaign while watching it. Tour agencies arrange boat trips for this event and they provide a very close sight of the bridge. Tens of boats were lined up in front of the bridge before it opened. The excited people on the both side of the river were ready to watch it as well. I supposed that night Russia was sending another Yuri Gagarin to the space but I was mistaken. Just the bridges opened and the ships passed by!

Transportation is provided mostly by the metro but metro does not serve after midnight. That created a opportunity for some people to earn money.Since the taxi prices are relatively high in Russia, you can get on a regular car by negotiating the price. The cars that parked on Nevskiy are waiting for you to ask price. We stay somewhere close to Nevskiy street so we mostly walked. But if you live on the other side of Neva and the time is already 01:30 then that's bad news because you will have to use the only closed bridge which is far away to city center. In a such a case you can talk to the drivers parked on Nevskiy and waiting for you or you can enjoy the city by singing on the streets with drunk people who even cant walk. The city is very entertaining at nights. By the way we experienced a debut in St Petersburg history and some of the metro stations didnt work because of an electricity problem. It was a sign that the metro is an important part of the daily life in St Petersburg because this caused a huge mess in city center.

One of the most important things we completed in St Petersburg was to buy tickets for Trans Siberia train. Its a very busy line. That's why so few tickets were left but we managed to buy 2 tickets out of last 4 in the 3rd class, also known as Plaskart. There are no rooms in the 3rd class wagons, only beds. Out Trans Siberia trip will start in Moscow on August 30 and end in Irkutsk. By the way did I mention that it will take 4 days ?


DSC_1144In every city we visit, we somehow meet Turkish effects. When we tell people that we are from Turkey, most of the people can speak some Turkish words depending on the country. Some of them only include bad words though. Our host also had another guest. Igor from Slovenia also knows some Turkish but the reason is very interesting. As he told us that he worked as babysitter in Assos at Turkey we were surprised. Igor, me and Ozcan randomly met in an apartment in St.Petersburg. In addition to this Turkey is a popular country in Russia. It is at the top of the list of the places that people choose for vacation. If you get acquainted with Russians and if they tell you "tekeşşürler" (which is incorrect pronounciation in Turkish) or you see a man wearing a t-shirt including Turkish flag, that means they just arrived from Antalya. We also met these people when we were in Belarus.

Russia has a registration law for foreigners. A visitor is supposed to register within 3 days in the migritaion office as he/she steps in the country. It is difficult and takes too much time if you want to deal with this stuff yourself. We wanted to do it through a hostel. Özcan had already got the new biometric passport before the trip but I started the trip with my old version, blue passport. Hostel was unable to figure out the information fields on my passport hence they sent missing details to migration office. Thats why my registration was delayed. It wouldn't be nice to face a police without a registraiton, fortunately issue was solved.

Engin McFly, Back to the Future

If you are in a foreign country it is possible to miss speaking your native language. We are lucky because we travel together with Özcan. During the days we were in St.Petersburg Özcan's friend whom he met when he was completing his military service joined us and we spent days talking more Turkish which means more fun. Engin has already spent a year in Moscow when he was studying here. That is why he speaks Russian. We felt lucky because it was very easy to buy train tickets to Moscow. Ok, we were already in the train and we realized that the date of the tickets were for the previous day. It is no problem that the time was 1.30 am even the train was moving in few minutes. No worries. God bless his Russian. Anyway we were able to find seats on the next train and we moved to Moscow slowly by listening the sound of the train as a lullaby...

 

PS: Do you know that the first song sang in the space was by Yuri Gagarin?

{audio}mp3/rodinasl.mp3{/audio}

ismail

 
Milestones
Saturday, 21 August 2010 02:11
As of today it has been 1 month since we started our trip. It is time to share some statistics;

-We have traveled 6 countries, 10 cities.
-2350 km has been travelled (according to some resources it is around 3950 km).
-We have traveled either by trains or buses.
-We have been hosted by other people's houses for 28 nights, We spent 2 nights on the buses/trains, 1 night in a hostel.
-We met with tens of people, we took hundreds of pictures.


What we missed?
-Dönerci Celal Usta, Konyalılar Etli Ekmek, (Turkish Restaurants) Aycan

What didn't we miss?
-KCK:)

What made us happy?
-Ramadan dinner at Tallinn
-Crossing Russian border in 3 minutes
-Hospitability we met

Which difficulties we met?
-Registration problem in Russia
-Getting lost in Minsk underground due to Cyril alphabet
-Weak free internet signal in some McDonalds
-Some parts of our backpack is torn.
-Gushing out of the water on us which was bought as non-sparkling.
-Deletion of videos by ismail, some on purpose and some not, after this Özcan's attack on him.