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Somewhere in Siberia

Hong Kong to UK by train: Day 12

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Station kiosk on the Trans-Siberian Railway

What day is this? Is this our second or our third day? What time is it? Is that Moscow time, Beijing time or local time? It’s almost eight o’clock by my watch. Outside it’s as bright as if it were four. Maybe it is four. But it can’t be. In Moscow it’s four. And we’re still two Trans-Siberian days away. Maybe it’s six o’clock now, here, in Siberia, as we travel through what seems like the same forest of birch we’ve been travelling through for the past 2000 miles.

All day the scenery hasn’t changed. The only change has been in the weather, sometimes rain, sometimes not, occasionally a little sun. But still the same birch trees, in the early stages of turning through their autumn colours, flecks of yellow in between the green.

It’s our third day of Trans-Siberian travelling according to the calendar. But our actual travel time is only about 54 hours. Only! This is already twelve hours longer than the longest train journey I’ve done before. And we’ve got almost 38 hours still to go. A day and a half, give or take. Not too long at all, when you think of it like that.

I had thought my problems were over. But when writing about my Mongolian visa issues of a few days previous, I realized I would still have to get a Belarus visa when I arrived in Moscow. “What day do I arrive in Moscow?” Fuck!

I arrive in Moscow on Saturday and I’d planned to catch the train from Moscow to Berlin on Monday morning. I will only be able to get a Belarus visa from the embassy in Moscow on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Did I actually plan this trip or did I just get on the first train I saw in Hong Kong and hope for the best? I wanted a nice leisurely jaunt back home, taking in the sights of some of Europe and Asia’s most engaging cities along the way. I had days in Beijing, Moscow and Ulaanbaatar to look forward to. Now I’m spending most of my time trying to rescue a journey continually on the brink of failure. But through my own oversights and the unhelpful opening hours of the world’s embassies, that’s the way it is. I just have to deal with it.

I’ve got time when I get to Moscow. I’ll have almost two days in hand to find a way to get a train from either Moscow to Warsaw or Moscow to Berlin in order to catch my connecting train to Paris. It’ll leave me at least one less day in Moscow, and I’ll likely take a bit of a hit to the wallet, but what else to do?

With Belarus lying quite inconveniently in the middle of any direct route west, the only other option without a Belarus visa is to go round, either north to Saint Petersburg or south to Ukraine. If I go north it’ll be a 12 hour overnight train to Saint Petersburg with a 30 hour journey to Berlin to follow. If I go south, I can get from Moscow to Kiev in nine hours, then hopefully go from Kiev to Berlin in another twenty-three. And each depends on being able to get tickets.

There’s no reason at this point to think that I can’t do it. The latter is probably the preferred option in terms of travel time and train availability, but until I get to Moscow and I can check out the Moscow to Berlin train timetables, there’s just no way to know for sure.

We arrive in Novosibirsk in an hour. After that there are 11 stops and 3343km of our Trans-Siberian Railway adventure to go.

Onward!

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You’ve gotta keep hydrated!

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