I was a child the first time I heard of the trans-siberian railway. I remember it was a documentary on TV and although the journey took place during the winter, (which is far from my favourite season of the year), it planted a tiny travelling seed in my head. One day, I will take that trip. So here I am today,one day before it all starts. I can’t even begin to describe the excitement.
I started organising the trip back in January and spent most of the in between, booking accommodation, train tickets, sending e-mails to embassies and populating spreadsheets on Google Drive with things to do, where to eat, essentials, documents necessary to acquire our visas.
We have chosen the transmongolian route to Beijing, leaving every Tuesday from Moscow, which is the first place, I’m going to see. If any of you read my post at some point last year on St. Petersburg, I can’t say I was a happy bunny during my visit. I mean I nearly lost my sight there among other things.
Mother Russia didn’t disappoint me this time either, as when it comes to Russian and their visas, there’s bound to be a problem. No offence dear Russians out there. What happens when you don’t pay great attention to the tips in The Man in Seat Sixty-One? Well, you end up with a visa that allows you to stay in Russia, only for the days you will be in Moscow. What about the days you will be on the train going through Moscow until it reaches the Mongolian border? The answer is fuck, fuck, fuck… I felt a bit like Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral, bugger, bugger.
I immediately contacted someone at the Visa Application Centre in London, who advised me to do another visa application, including the dates I would be on the train. That meant going through the whole process again and paying another visa fee. Within a day of sending off my visa, I got a telephone call from another employee at the application centre, advising me that as I didn’t have visa support documents for the days I would be on the train, I needed to get another set of documents stating the new dates. They didn’t care, I didn’t have accommodation for the extra dates. The annoying bit was that to get to that solution, we ended up talking on the phone for at least half an hour, during which the lovely otherwise Russian, was never sure about what he was advising me to do and to my every “are you sure” question, he answered with, “I’m not sure let me check.” Luckily, I got my visa back with the correct dates the second time round hurrah.
From Russia the train reaches Mongolia and from there it goes to Beijing. And here comes the other painful visa. If you work in publishing, they will make you suffer. In addition to the normal documents, I had to provide them with a letter stating, I will be there only on holidays, a letter from my employer stating the same, full itinerary, with inbound and outbound tickets, as well as hotel bookings, tour bookings and every possible piece of paper I had to prove I was going there on holidays only. The correspondence with Real Russia was really nerve-wracking. Argh! It all paid off, as I got my visa, for 30 days of stay as opposed to my boyfriend’s who provided the same documents, working also in publishing, which is for only 5 days. We will be in China for 7. Do I need to repeat, bugger, bugger? No time to do something about it now, so that will definitely ensure an element of adventure.
Since I started writing this our pile of paper has somehow doubled in size
Did you spot the little craft title I put in there? 3 1/2 days on the train, there will certainly be some time to learn how to crochet, hehe, especially if one of these days, I will be by myself due to the short Chinese visa of my co-traveler.
In addition to that, there’s some food and other supplies
And of course my clothes that need to fit in the infamous purple suitcase, which had its fair share of adventure already.