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I’m just slightly concerned that I’m in Minsk illegally

We got one the train in Moscow and I fell asleep almost instantly. On every other train we’ve taken, the train attendant carefully scrutinized our passports before allowing us aboard, verifying our names there with the names on our tickets. This time, the train attendant didn’t even open our passports. She didn’t glance at our visas to ensure that we were entering Belarus legally. (And believe me there was no question we were Americans.) She just glanced at our tickets and waved us on the train. Read more

24 hours in Moscow

We had always planned a brief stop in Moscow. It’s one of the major cities along the Trans-Siberian route (obviously) and a highlight for many travelers, but it’s also a city that’s relatively easy to come back to. I’m far less likely to make my way back to Irkutsk, or Kazan, than to Moscow. So in the initial planning Moscow got only about 12 hours; off the train from Vladimir in the morning, and back on the train to Minsk the same night.

But one of the nice things about buying our tickets as we go is that we get to change plans. And so we decided to spend Monday night in Moscow rather than Vladimir. That gave us a full 24 hours (really more like 28) in Moscow, although not all were waking hours. Read more

Suzdal is beautiful but unreal

Once upon a time, Suzdal was the center of Russia. It was the capital when Moscow was a tiny backwater town, and for a while Suzdal had all the wealth and power….and then it didn’t. Suzdal was left out during much of the growth and prosperity of the last several hundred years, failing even to get its own railway line. To reach Suzdal, we had to take a bus from Vladimir. For a while, Suzdal became a sort of craftsman center. Then it reinvented itself as at center for tourism. Read more

A morning in Vladimir

Vladimir was a very pleasant, lovely city. It felt lived-in and comfortable, and I greatly enjoyed walking its tree-lined streets. The weather is still warm–hot even–but leaves are falling and paths are yellow with them. Autumn is my favorite time of year, and the morning in Vladimir was a perfect autumn morning. Read more

Nizhny Novgorod and fancy trains

We took a night train from Kazan to Nizhny Novgorod, getting on the train around 9:30 and arriving in Nizhny Novgorod around 8:00 the next morning. This didn’t give us a lot of time to appreciate the full fanciness of the train we were on. (A TV! Working temperature control! Snazzy fold-up seats/beds! Practically modern bathrooms!) It also didn’t give us much time to ruminate on the amazing experience that was Kazan, which really was too bad for Nizhny Novgorod. (This city would have been much more enjoyable had it followed the three-day train ride from Irkutsk.) Read more