Uzbekistan

July 21. Chimkent, Kazakhstan. It’s 4 AM and it’s pitch dark. We get off the train and, despite the early hours, Chimkent train station is already buzzing with people engaged in all type of things, old ladies pushing carts filled with packaged food, taxi drivers smoking by their cars, little kids running around and passengers…

Stop 1: Beijing

I have to admit that I was not exactly enthusiastic about going to China. Especially after the calm of Lake Baikal and a week spent in Mongolia, an immersion into the urbanized, crowded and highly-industrialized world scared me. Still, contrary to my expectations, China was the country that most impressed me, for its interesting history, culture and traditions that are so far from the stereotypes…

Stop 2 – Xi’an

July 10: Biking on the Walls We arrived to Xian after those terrible 13 hours and we took a taxi for our hostel. It was a nice place, very typical, with these Chinese colored masks on the walls and full of Chinese people that – useless to tell – stared at us. Our friend Mathieu…

Saint Petersburg

Brief History Saint Petersburg was founded by tsar Peter the Great in 1703, soon becoming the imperial capital of Russia, till  the central government bodies were moved to Moscow in 1918. Built from nothing by westward-looking Peter the Great, St Petersburg was from its very beginning meant to be a display of imperial Russia’s growing status in…

Moscow

Moscow is the capital of Russia, the vibrant and electric heart of this amazing country, and the starting point of most Transsiberian trips. Brief History Moscow was founded in 1147 by Yury Dolgoruky, a general that stopped on the Moskva river on his way to Vladimir. In the XIV century, it became the capital of the Great…

Nizhny Novgorod

Brief History Founded in 1221 by Grand Duke Yuri II of Vladimir at the confluence of two rivers, the Volga and the Oka, Nizhny Novgorod is today Russia’s 5th largest city by population. As one of the few cities that managed to escape Mongol devastation, Nizhny Novgorod became an important political hub during the Tatar period, competing with…

Recommended Readings

Travelling on the Transsiberian means having A LOT of time to kill and, since you can only play cards, enjoy the landscapes, eat and write your journal so much, you should definitely bring a couple of books with you. Here is a list of recommended readings: A fortune-teller told me – Tiziano Terzani Warned by a…

Kazan

Brief history Unlike other Russian cities, Kazan has a long history that dates back to at least a millennium. In 1000 AD Kazan was founded in the Volga Bulgaria, and soon became the capital of the region. Then, it was incorporated by the Golden Horde to become an independent khanate in 1438. The city later collapsed under…

Perm

Brief History Perm was founded by Peter the Great in 1723 and during the Soviet period it became an important military center under the name of Molotov. This city inspired – in a not properly positive sense – both Chekhov and Pasternak. Why you should stop there The city itself is nothing special, a usual Soviet-style city,…

Yekaterinburg

Brief History Lying at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, east of the Ural mountains, Yekaterinburg was founded in 1723 by Tsar Peter the Great, who named it after his wife Catherine I. Described as “the window on Asia”, the city was one of Russia’s first industrial hubs, prompted by its rich mines and abundant natural resources, including precious…