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Individual Trans-Siberian packages
Moscow-Beijing along the Trans-Siberian railroad
Guided group journey from August 6-27, 2006, with stops in
In Mai of 1891, the construction of the World's longest and most difficult to build railway was started after years of controversy amongst the Czars: the Trans-Siberian railroad. The link between Moscow and Vladivostok, some 6000 miles apart, was completed 14 years later employing a labour force of over 90000. Ever since the rail service linking Europe with the Far East was established at the turn of last century, foreign travellers and adventurers have been fascinated by this great journey and crossed Siberia to reach the Pacific or China. Across the Ural mountains to Siberia, through towns that were built along the rails into the Mongolian steps and Gobi desert, the Trans-Siberian journey offers a great opportunity to experience an unforgettable journey. The guided tour on the train (a regular working service, not some 'tourist special' train) and many visits to our friends at each stop guarantees this journey to be unique. We will meet local people and learn about their culture and way of life, yet be part of it. You may find yourself draining a bottle of vodka with a Russian soldier in exchange to a piece of chocolate, or discussing business and politics with Mongolian traders on the train. Meeting point on the train is the dining car where borscht and fish with lots of potatoes and cabbage is served. On each station where the train stops, local peasants and traders offer their products for sale.
We invite you to join our small group: First station is Moscow, where we enjoy the life a city transformed to capitalism before boarding the Trans-Siberian train and passing by the Ural. Our journey will bring you to Irkutsk, the capital of Siberia, where we will spend a few days on the world's largest and cleanest lake ('Baikal'). Then we will continue to Ulan Bator, where we will experience the Nomadic life and sleep in gers, and finally the train will take us to Beijing, the capital of the Chinese empire, where our journey ends.
The journey will be guided by Mila Popova, who has been working with us since 2003. Mila speaks English, French and Russian, has studied in Switzerland and worked as a guide in Moscow and Petersburg. In addition to Mila, who will be with the group throuhout the journey from Moscow to Beijing, local guides in Irktusk, Ulan Bator and Beijing (natives from the respective cities) will explain you the details on culture, history, and the daily life of "their" cities. This is a unique opportunity to get to know Russia, Mongolia and China while travelling the Transsiberian with a small group. We are looking forward to have you on board!
You may also contact the guides and participants of our past journeys for more information or some personal experience:
Program 2006(subject to modifications)
Sun Aug 6
After arriving in Moscow, we will be transfered to the Hotel Belgrad. In the following four days, we will travel with the Moscow metro (some metro station themselves are worth a visit) to explore the city: Kremlin, Red Square, Pushkin house, Tretjakov Gallery, Lenin Library, Arbat Street, Kolomenskoe and much more. An excursion to Sergiev Posad (formerly Zagorsk, 50 miles from Moscow), the capital of the Russian orthodox church with an impressive array of churches and a still working abbey will be organized. Upon request, we will reserve tickets for a Russian ballet performance, the opera or the circus. For the rest, we will just enjoy the city of Moscow, which has undergone an incredible transformation from a grey and dark city to a modern metropolitan capital with bars, illuminated streets and luxurious supermarkets everywhere.
Thu Aug 10
Before leaving to Siberia, we will have time to make a few provisions on the Arbat street and the large shopping mall (GUM) next to the Red Square. In the afternoon, we will leave Moscow and board the Trans-Siberian express train Nr 10, called "Baikal" and one of the most luxurious regular trains on this route.
While we settle into our comfortable compartment and enjoy a cup of hot tea from the samovar, the first hours on the train take us past Vladimir, Nishni Novgorod, (previously called Gorki), and Perm, old Russian towns of which we will catch a glimps from the train station, where the train is stopping for a while.
Fri Aug 11 - Mon Aug 14
After a total of three days on the train past the Ural Mountains through forests, beside lakes and rushing rivers, swamps and remote villages of painted wooden houses, we will arrive at Irkutsk in the morning at 9am. Irkutsk is also called 'Paris' of Siberia for its pulsing street life and people's elegant clothes. Still a major trade center for furs, Irkutsk enjoys today a certain economic wealth. Short but hot summers and very cold winters, however, make life here a real challenge. We will transfer to the hotel Irkutsk in the city center, check-in early and enjoy the rich buffet breakfast. In the afternoon, a walking tour through the city of Irkutsk is on the program.
Tue Aug 15
We will depart for Listwjanka and Bolshie Koty, a small village on the shore of lake Baikal, which we will reach on a hydrofoil from the port of Irkutsk in about 90 min.
Lake Baikal is a unique biosphere, the World's deepest, largest (in terms of volume) and presumably oldest (25 million years) lake containing more than 20% of all running fresh-water on this earth. The threat of pollution by unregulated economic exploitation has led to the creation of the largest protected area to keep the cleaness of its water and uniqueness of its inhabitat for future generations. Lake Baikal is home to a fresh water seal (the Nerpa), and an incredibly rich flora and fauna. An other specimen found nowhere else in the world is a transparent fish called Golomyanka that lives in the lake's deepest waters. The lake is 400 miles long, 40 miles wide and about 1 mile deep. Unlike other deep lakes whose bottom waters are poisoned by hydrogen sulphide and other gases, Lake Baikal's water is saturated with oxygen from its surface to the deepest point and therefore, living organisms can be found at all levels. We will enjoy a bath in the 'Old Man', as local people call the lake. Its water is amazingly transparent: Stones and fish can be seen to a depth of about 50 m and they seem so close that a first-time visitor may be tempted to reach out and pick one up. One of the secrets is that there are millions of microorganisms living in the lake whose main purpose is to clean the water of all pollutants. We will learn about the lake from one of its true experts and 'native of the lake', Prof. Maximov (called Max), the director of the local limnological institute (a water watch institute) near Listwyanka. Our home is a wooden house near the lake where local food will be prepared by our host. We will have time to hike along the lake, explore small valleys where relicts of old (as rumors go still secretely working) gold-mines can be found, and enjoy relaxing on the shore and swimming in the lake. Those who are interested are also invited to join Max for a tour through the limnological museum. A Russian steam bath right on the shore of the lake invites to experience a typical Russian sauna.
Fri August 18
In the afternoon, we will return to Irkutsk and visit the Architecture museum on the way back, where typically old churches, shaman houses and a fortress has been rebuilt in original style. In the evening, we board the Trans-Monoglian train to Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia. The landscape gradually changes from wide forests and rivers to a uniform steppe, where the great Khans have been riding their heroe horses.
Sun August 20
After arrival in Ulan Bator, the capital city of Mongolia, we will transfer to hotel Bayangol in the city center and enjoy the breakfast buffet. After check-in, we are exploring the historic city with our guide from Ulan Bator. We will visit the palace of Bogdo Khan, the Gandan abbey, and the natural history museum with the remains of the biggest dinosaurs ever found on earth in the Mongolian desert.
Mon August 21
Our local guide will introduce us to the Nomadic way of life of still many mongolians today. On a jeep, we will travel to a Mountain Camp in a remote area, where we will sleep in gers and enjoy a hike on the hills by foot or on the back of a horse. On our way we will visit a Mongolian family living in gers at their Summer place, where we can taste mare's milk and eat delicious kebabs.
Wed August 23
We are returning to Ulan Bator to stay another night at hotel Bayangol and enjoy a Mongolian cultural performance in the evening.
Thu August 24
Our train leaves at 9am again in the morning towards the Chinese border through the Gobi Desert. Erlyan, the border town is nothing more than a military post. Since the Chinese railway operates on Standard Gauge and Russia/Mongolia on a narrower Five Foot Gauge, the boogies of all wagons are changed while hydraulic lifts raise the carriages. After a night in the train, we will find ourselves climbing on narrow serpentines into the Chinese mountains. The Great Wall is visible from many locations and frequent stops of the train.
Fri August 25Beijing, the capital of China, is the final destination of our railway journey, that has led us across two continents. With our local guide, we will visit the Forbidden City, the Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace of the Imperial family. Beijing is home to millions of small shops and street traders, the place to shop for souvenirs and bargains, and the last opportunity to taste the delicious Chinese food in all its variations. For those interested in the old-style culture, Opera, Theater or Comedy tickets are available from our local guide. In Peking, we will have ample time for our own exploration of the old and new town. We will stay at hotel Hademen within walking distance to the Tiananmen Square and the main shopping centers.
Sun August 27
Individual return flights back home or to wherever your journey takes you ...
PreparationA Trans-Siberian journey needs a lot of preparation, both physically and mentally. We are going to send you more details about what to pack and take with you. Backpacking is required, however, we will never need to walk more than a mile with all our luggage. Please check our list of essential things to take on the transsib. Good general physical health and fitness is required. However, the most important part is to be prepared mentally and culturally for the many different people and cultures we are going to meet. For that reason, we suggest reading about Russia, Mongolia or China in advance. We have a collection of titles in our bookstore that we can highly recommend. A must for all Trans-Siberian travellers is the Trans-Siberian Handbook.
The size of our group is limited to 14 persons. Participants must be physically fit and have a strong sense for team-work and communication. Travelling in Russia, Mongolia and China requires patience and a sense for adventure. We have encountered many anectodal problems during the journeys in the past 10 years we have been organizing guided tours in Russia. Two example may serve to illustrate that the unexpectable happens in Russia/Mongolia/China everyday. In one case, the train compartment was loaded with Mongolian rugs that made any access to our beds impossible. Talking to the Mongolian traders who owned the rugs finally helped to clear our well deserved beds. In another instant, a participant who was refused entry to Mongolia at the Russian/Mongolian border because of an outdated and unrecognizable picture in the passport. Talking to the military officers at 4 a.m. at night for about one hour finally helped us to continue the journey. The group however had decided that none was going to be left behind and that we would all get out of the train at the border. Eventhough the situation was bizarre and painful, only these experiences make such a journey truly unforgettable. More than 150 people have been with us on our tours so far, from 20 year old students to senior managing directors and even a retired 71 year-old lady made it safely. So, why don't you join us for this life-long experience?
Join us!Please use our online application form. Application deadline is May 27, 2006. After your application, we will send you a confirmation and further information. The number of applications is limited to 14 and places reserved on a 'first come, first served' basis.
Included are all train tickets (2nd class, 4-berth compartment), transportation in Moscow, Irkutsk, Lake Baikal and Mongolia, accommodation (double room occupation, single room upon special request), and full board at lake Baikal and during our excursion in Mongolia. We will stay in the following hotels:
Moscow: Hotel Belgrad*** (middle class, centrally located)
Included in the program are city tours in Moscow, Irkoutsk, Ulan Bator and Beijing, and all visits to sights and landmarks mentioned in the program including all entries to museums. Included are also all transfers from the airport/train station to the place of accommodation.
Not included in our prices are all personal meals (except at lake Baikal and in Mongolia where there are no restaurants or food shops available and full board is included), all extra cultural programs (theaters, cinema) and other evening programs. Our prices exclude airline tickets to Moscow and from Beijing, which you need to book individually according to your travel plans. We can offer a ticket with Lufthansa to/from Zurich or Frankfurt. Not included is health and travel insurance, and all consular fees for obtaining your visas (Russia, Mongolia, China). These fees differ by nationality and country. We recommend to take another USD 500 for personal expenses and shopping with you for the 3-week journey.
Our booking conditions (PDF) apply.
Costs for the journey (in US Dollar, per person):
Ziegler & Partner GmbH, MGU, Vorob'evy gory, Moscow, Tel./Fax +7-095-939-0980