Classic Routes

THE TRANS-SIBERIAN ROUTE One to Four Weeks Although this classic route can be done in either direction, we suggest going against the general flow by starting in Vladivostok (p230), at the far eastern end of Russia, so you can finish up with a grand party in either Moscow (p98) or, better yet, St Petersburg (p79). Vladivostok, situated on a stunning natural harbour, merits a couple of days of your time, and it's also worth taking a break at Khabarovsk (p224), a lively city on the banks of the...

Chita to Zabaikalsk

After Chita (6199km) the next major stop is Karymskaya (6293km), from where it's 12km down the line to Tarskaya, the official start of the Trans-Manchurian route here the train crosses the Ingoda River and heads southeast. There is a short stop at 6444km in Olovy-annaya, then the train crosses the Onon River, a tributary of the Ingoda. This area is said to be the birthplace of Chinggis (Genghis) Khaan (p54). The train makes another 10-minute stop at Borzya (6543km). There's little to see in...

Arts

From prehistoric oral epics to the latest movie from MongolKino film studios in Ulaanbaatar, the many arts of Mongolia convey the flavour of nomadic life and the spirit of the land. Traditional Mongolian music, which can be heard at concerts in Ulaanbaatar, is usually played on a morin khuur (horsehead fiddle), a two-stringed vertical violin and a lute. These instruments are also used by some of Mongolia's popular rock bands, including Hurd and Chinggis Khaan. There are also several unique...

A Guide To Banya Etiquette Steve Kokker

After stripping down in the sex-segregated changing room, wishing 'Lyogkogo (read as lyokh-kava) para' to their mates (meaning something like 'May your steam be easy '), bathers head off into the parilka (steam room). After the birch-branch thrashing (best experienced lying down on a bench, with someone else administering the 'beating'), bathers run outside and, depending on their nerve, plunge into the basseyn (ice-cold pool). With eyelids draped back over their skull, they stagger back into...

Snapshot

Coasting along on a wave of petrodollar profits, Russia is in far better economic shape than at any time in recent memory. Growth is running at over 7 per annum. Inflation is under control, with a consequent stabilisation of the rouble. Three-quarters of state enterprises have either fully or partly been privatised. In all the major cities you'll notice a burgeoning middle class with the commercial trappings that go with it. Despite these improvements, Russia's economy still has a way to go...

Before You Go

Prevention is the key to staying healthy while away. A little planning before departure, particularly for pre-existing illnesses, will save trouble later. See your dentist before a long trip, carry a spare pair of contact lenses and glasses, and take your optical prescription with you. Bring medications in their original, clearly labelled, containers. A signed and dated letter from your physician describing your medical conditions and medications, including generic names, is also a good idea....

Taltsy Museum of Wooden Architecture

My3eM (epeBHHHoro 3o HecTBa Tanbijbi About 47km east of Irkutsk, 23km before Listvyanka, Taltsy (foreigner local R80 20 plus camera fees S 10am-6pm summer, 10am-4pm winter) is an impressive outdoor collection of old Siberian buildings set in a delightful riverside forest. Amid the renovated farmsteads are two chapels, a church, a watermill, some Tungusi graves and the eye-catching 17th-century Iliminsk Ostrog watchtower. Listvyanka-Irkutsk buses stop on request at Taltsy's apparently deserted...

Irkutsk Hpkytck

3952 pop 591,000 S Moscow + Shr Though still 70km from its shores, Irkutsk is the nearest big city to glorious Lake Baikal and the easiest place from which to organise Baikal adventures if your Russian isn't up to much. With some fancifully rebuilt churches and patches of grand 19th-century architecture the city is well worth a day or two, though the streets can feel somewhat seedy at night. Beware that in summer accommodation can be stretched and relatively expensive by Siberian standards....

Mogocha to Khabarovsk

For about 700km, starting at around 7000km, the train line runs only about 50km north of the Amur River, the border with China. At one time, strategic sensitivity meant that carriages containing foreigners had their window blinds fastened down during this stretch - there's still not a whole lot to see with the blinds up At Amazar (7004km) there's a graveyard of steam locomotives - you'll have 15 minutes here to explore. The terrain now gets so rugged that roads stop and don't resume again until...

Hotel Pycb St Petersburg

After completing their terms of labour near Chita, many Decembrists settled in Irkutsk with their families, who had earlier followed them into exile (see pi94). Two of the homes (those of Prince Sergei Trubet-skoy and Count Sergei Volkonsky) are now touching museums, complete with furnishings and pictures of family and friends. The grey Volkonsky House Museum ( 207532 perVolkonskogo 10 admission R50 S 10am-6pmTue-Sun) is through big heavy gates, just a short walk behind the pretty pink...

Harbin to Beijing

South of Harbin, the train enters Jilin province, also part of the historic territory of the Manchus. The Japanese industrialised this region when they shaped it into the puppet state of Manchukuo (1931-45). The capital of Manchukuo, and today's provincial capital, is Changchun (1146km), where the train stops for 10 minutes. Home to China's first car-manufacturing plant (as well as 2.3 million people), it's also where the Japanese installed the last emperor Henry Puyi his former palace is the...

Mongolian Etiquette Dos Donts

When meeting Mongolians or visiting a ger (yurt), note the following customs and habits Avoid walking in front of an older person, or turning your back to the altar or religious objects (except when leaving). If someone offers you their snuff bottle, accept it with your right hand. If you don't take the snuff, at least sniff the top part of the bottle. Try to keep ger visits to less than two hours to avoid interrupting the family's work. Don't point a knife in any way at anyone when passing a...

Krasnoyarsk to Lake Baikal

By Trans-Siberian standards this route is just a short hop. But it offers several intriguing possible variants. Krasnoyarsk, whose grand new, spired station looks vaguely like a Prussian Helmet, is the most sensible point to switch onto the wild Baikal-Amur Mainline (Baikalo-Amurskaya Magistral BAM) for northern Lake Baikal and beyond. It's also where trains head south towards the fascinating Tuva Republic for throat singing or encounters with real-life shamans. You could even take one of the...

History of the Railroad

In the second half of the 19th century, the more advanced industrial states engaged in a worldwide contest for strategic advantage, economic fortune and imperial expansion. The competition took the form of continental conquest. Across Africa, Asia and the Americas, expeditions set off to explore hidden interiors, exploit material riches and tame 'uncivilised' natives. As industrial empires arose, railways became a means to, as well as a symbol of, great power and status. The number of miles of...

Routes Less Travelled

The 3400km Baikalo-Amurskaya Magistral (Baikal-Amur Mainline, or BAM) travels through some of the most rugged and unforgiving of Siberian landscapes. The line officially starts in the drab town of Tayshet (p242), but the closest big city, Krasnoyarsk (pl85), has international flight connections if you wish to skip all points further west. At Bratsk (p243) the train crosses a lkm-long dam. The town also has an excellent open-air ethnographic museum where you can see many of the traditional...

Gay Lesbian Travellers Russia

While girls holding hands and drunken men showing affection towards each other are common sights throughout Russia, open displays of same-sex love are not condoned. In general, however, the idea of homosexuality is tolerated (particularly by the urban younger generation), although overt gay behaviour is frowned upon. There is an active gay and lesbian scene in Moscow and St Petersburg, and newspapers such as the Moscow Times and St Petersburg Times feature articles and listings on gay and...

National Parks Nature Reserves Russia

Russia has 100 official zapovedniki (nature reserves) and 35 national parks. Along or close by the Trans-Siberian route you'll find several, including Russia's oldest protected reserve, the Barguzin National Reserve (p219) within the 269-sq-km Zabaikalsky National Park. These are areas set aside to protect fauna and flora, often habitats of endangered or unique species. Some reserves are open to visitors and, unlike in the old days when your ramblings were strictly controlled, today you can...

Arshan Apihah

30156 pop 900-3800 (seasonal) Moscow+ 5hr Sawtooth Sayan peaks rise spectacularly above the cute Buddhist villages of the wide, rural Tunka Valley. This area attracts wilderness hiker-climbers, but it's main draw is undoubtedly the little spa village of Arshan. It's nestled right at the foot of soaring forested mountains offering relaxing short walks to a series of rapids between sulphur-scented sips. There are plenty of longer, more challenging treks and climbs here, too. More detailed...

Russian

Russian is written in variants of the Cyrillic alphabet (see p345). It's easy to find English speakers in the big cities but not so easy in the smaller towns (sometimes not even in tourist hotels). For a more detailed guide to the language, get a copy of Lonely Planet's Russian Phrasebook. The 'voiced' consonants (ie when the vocal cords vibrate) 6, B, r, fl, > K, and 3 are not voiced at the end of words (eg X7ie6, 'bread', is pronounced khlyep) or before voiceless consonants. Two letters...

Getting There Away

The airport ( 393 758) offers domestic service to Irkutsk (R5800, three hours, daily), Magadan (R2630 to R3100, 2Vi hours, four weekly), Moscow (R11,500, 8Yi hours, daily), Nikolaevsk-na-Amure (R4100, l'A hours, daily), Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (R5975, 2Yi hours, six weekly), Vladivostok (R2500, 1 hours, daily), Yakutsk (R6200, three hours, six weekly) and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk (R4200, lVz hours, two daily). There are international flights to Harbin (US 170) and Guau (US 320) in China, Seoul (from...

Glossary

This glossary is a list of Russian (R), Chinese (C) and Mongolian (M) terms you may come across during your Trans-Siberian journey. See p73 for words that will help you while dining. aimag (M)- province or state within Mongolia airag (M) - fermented mare's milk apteka (R) - pharmacy arkhi (M) - the common word to describe homemade vodka avtostantsiya (R) - bus stop avtovokzal (R) - bus terminal BAM (R) - Balkalo-Amurskaya Magistral (Baikal-Amur bankomat (R) - ATM banya (R) - bathhouse bashnya...

In Russia China Mongolia

AVAILABILITY & COST OF HEALTH CARE Medical care is readily available across Russia but the quality can vary enormously. The biggest cities and towns have the widest choice of places, with both Moscow and St Petersburg well served by sparkling interna-tional-style clinics that charge handsomely for their admittedly generally excellent and professional service except to pay around US 50 for an initial consultation. Some foreigners (eg British) are theoretically entitled to free treatment in...

Tiananmen Square Around

The world's largest public square, Tiananmen Sq M Tiananmen XI, Tiananmen Dong orQIanmen is a vast slab of paving stones at the heart of Beijing and a poignant epitaph to China's hapless democracy movement. It may be a grandiose, Maoist tourist trap, but there's more than enough space to stretch your legs and the view can be breathtaking, especially on a clear day and at nightfall. Although the square is the symbolic centre of the Chinese universe, what you see today is a modern reconception by...

Religion

Chinese religion has been influenced by three streams of human thought Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. All three have been inextricably entwined in popular Chinese religion along with ancient animist beliefs. The founders of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism have been deified. The Chinese worship them and their disciples as fervently as they worship their own ancestors and a pantheon of gods and spirits. The Chinese communist government professes atheism. It considers religion to be base...

Mongolia

Kho-ni-ny makh shni-tsel khuur-ga khor-khog 6aHniTafi niejr fypHJTTaii niejr roHMOHTOH niejr HorooH 3yyni 6afirraaH 3yyni jryyBaHrHHH 3yyni hhhcjbji 3yyni xyypra xyyniyyp 6yy3 rryfiBaH 6n lt j niTeKC Max dumpling soup handmade noodle soup noodle soup vegetable salad cabbage salad carrot salad potato salad fried food fried meat and flour in sauce meat roasted from the inside with hot stones fried egg bread 78 FOOD amp DRINK Eat Your Words

Embassies Consulates Embassies Consulates Abroad

Check out www.russianembassy.net for a full list of overseas Russian embassies and consulates. Australia Canberra 02-6295 9033 rusemb dynamlte.com.au 78Canberra Ave, Griffith, ACT 2603 Sydney consulate 02-9326 1188 russcon ozemail .com.au Canada Ottawa 613-235 4341 rusemb intranet.ca 285 Charlotte St, Ottawa, Canada KIN 8J5 Montreal consulate 514-843 5901 consulat dsuper.net Toronto consulate 416-962 9911 rusconsul bellnet.ca France Paris 01 45 04 05 50 rusembfr dub-lnternet .fr 40-50 Blvd...

Around Khabarovsk Fuyuan China

From mid-May to mid-October, daily hydrofoils leave from Khabarovsk river station for Fuyuan one-way return R1400 2000, l' 2 hours at 8am and 10am, returning in the evening with tonnes of shopping bags from the small Chinese town on the Amur River. If you're planning to return to Russia, you'll need a Chinese visa and a double- multiple-entry Russian visa. There is a Chinese consulate in Khabarovsk see p304 for details . From Fuyuan you can take a bus to Jiamusi and then on to Harbin....

Disabled Travellers

Russia, China and Mongolia can be difficult places for disabled travellers. Most buildings, buses and trains are not wheelchair accessible. In China and Russia, crossing busy streets often requires using underground walkways with many steps. Uneven pavements in the cities and rough roads in the countryside make for uncomfortable and potentially dangerous travel. Travelling on Trans-Siberian trains, while not impossible for the disabled, will certainly be a challenge. People in wheelchairs will...

Gaivoron Lake Khanka

About 235km north of Vladivostok, near the 4000-sq-metre Lake Khanka that spans the Chinese border, Gaivoron is the location of the Russian Academy of Sciences biological research reserve, and the chance for a close-up view of a couple of rare Amur tigers see p275 . Dr Victor Yudin 42352-74 249 keeps the duo behind an electrified high-wire fence in a two-hectare compound. Nearby Lake Khanka is home to around 350 different species of birds every summer. The lake's shallow waters - 4m at the...

Slyudyanka Cjiiohka

39544 pop 18,800 S Moscow Shr Lacking any architectural charm, Slyudyanka rarely tempts Westerners off the train. Yet the drab, functional town has a great lakeside setting, is backed by mountains and is the best place to start Circumbai-kal train rides opposite . It's also an ideal launching point for reaching the splendid, peak-backed Tunka Valley and its popular spa-village Arshan opposite . Slyudyanka 1, the famously all-stone train station, is a mere five minutes' walk from Lake Baikal's...

Information

INTERNET ACCESS Iguana Cafe 481 367 ul Svetlanskaya 23 per hr R60 S lOam-midnight Behind the indoor flower market. Beer and coffee handy. Post office ul Aleutskaya per hr R50 S 8am-8pm Lightning-fast connection. Vladivostok News vn.vladnews.ru An online newspaper in English. To Lucky Tour 150m BSB 1.5km iAUZ Hospital No 1 2km Bus Station 3km Fort No 7 13km Vlad Motor Inn 20km Venice Hotel 50km Airport 50km Adm rala _Fokih 3 HI 31 I . 59 To US Consulate 1km...

Getting Around

For most, if not all, of your Trans-Siberian journey you're going to be getting around on the train, but sometimes you might need to take an internal flight or a bus. The following details apply mainly for getting around Russia, with significant differences mentioned for China and Mongolia. There's also some information for those thinking of driving or cycling through Russia see p329 . It's no problem buying a ticket, with aria kassy ticket offices all over most large towns and cities....

Eastern Lake Baikal

Sparsely scattered beach villages of old-fashioned log cottages dot the pretty East Baikal coast. A usefully practical Pribai-kalsky booklet is available for free download from www.tahoebaikal.org. Further north is the dramatic Barguzin Valley, from where Chinggis Ghengis Khaan's mother, Oilun-Ehe, is said to have originated. Access is across a forested pass from Ulan-Ude via tiny Baturino village with its elegantly renovated Sretenskaya Church. After about 2Yi hours' drive, the road first...

Getting Started

Given the number of options - which route to take, when to go, where to break the journey if at all , whether to DIY or use the services of a tour operator - a Trans-Siberian trip requires some forethought. This chapter will help you sort your priorities, plan ahead and whet your appetite for the travelling pleasures to come. WHEN TO GO See Climate Charts p300 rp c-u-n-i l l c for more information. Ihe main Irans-Siberian Railway tourist season runs from May to the end of September, with...