Omsk

Brief History Omsk was founded as a fortress in 1716 by a cossack unit led by Ivan Buchholz, to protect the expanding Russian frontier along the Om and Irtysh rivers against the Kyrgyz and Dzungar nomads of the steppes, and by 1850 it had become the capital of Western Siberia. With the construction of the…

Novosibirsk

Brief History Novosibirsk, originally Novonikolayevsk in honor of both St. Nicholas and Tsar Nicholas II, was founded in 1893 and is now the third most populous city in Russia. During the Stalin period, it became a large industrial centre and its rapid industrialization earned it the nickname of the “Chicago of Siberia”. Why you should stop…

Krasnoyarsk

Brief History Located in Central Siberia, Krasnoyarsk was built along the Enisey river during the czarist period of the conquest of the “wild West”. A cossack fort was first built in the region in 1628 for defensive reasons. The fort enlarged and became a real town at the end of the century, when it started to acquire…

Irkutsk

Brief History Irkutsk was founded in 17th century and, during the early 19th century, it became a major center of intellectual and social life, as many Russian artists, nobles and officers were exiled to Siberia for their role in the Decembrist revolt against Tsar Nicholas I. Irkutsk’s large streets and ornate architecture led to it being called the “Paris of Siberia”. During the Russian Civil…

25 June: road to Ulaanbaatar

25 June. And…. we’ve just crossed the border into Mongolia! Our train advances for a while till it stops in the middle of nowhere and starts going backwards, who knows why. Finally the Mongolian custom authorities come in, distribute migration cards for us to fill in and take our passports away. About an hour later, or two, I…

26-29 June: Ulaanbaatar & Surroundings

26 June. Ulaanbaatar. 5 AM. The provodnitsa enters our cabin and wakes us up in the most tactless way possible. Welcome to Mongolia. The train is arriving in an hour, but she needs to gather the sheets, so we have to get up and gather our stuff. We sit down looking like three zombies till we…

Stop 1: Nizhny Novgorod

6 June. We are on board of the “Lastochka”, Nizhny Novgorod bound. It’s a gorgeous day: the sky is uncharacteristically blue and the sunbeams make the trees extra green, like splotches of color against the grayness of the khrushevy. The clouds all have the same weird shape, like an army of snails moving in synchrony across…

Stop 2: Yekaterinburg

10 June. We’re still on the train to Yekaterinburg and there’s about 5 more hours to go. The kids in the lower berths are reading and making bracelets. They’re going straight to Krasnoyarsk, so it’ll be another 3 days for them to arrive. They’re actually really well-behaved, I mean, if it were Italian kids it would…

30 June: The Gobi

It’s midnight and we’re on board of our “Limousine” minivan, desert bound. The road is pitch black and we can feel the vastness and emptiness around us, although we can see anything but darkness from our windows. Only a few sparkles twinkle in the distance. They’re probably fires in some ger camps. We’re about two hours…

Stop 3: Omsk

13 June. I wake up on the train, upper bed, again. It’s almost 8 AM, local time, and in less than a couple of hours we’ll arrive in Omsk. I climb down my berth using my incredibly graceful and refined technique, and take my seat. The man in front of me is already up. He’s…

1-2 July: Back to UB

1 July. Ulaanbaatar.  We finally manage to go see a traditional Mongolian dance and song show, at the National Song & Dance Academic Ensemble, on one of the corners of Chinggis Khan Square. The show is incredible, we get to see and hear the traditional throat singing, horse fiddle playing, as well as shaman, folk and…