…So I’m just wrapping things up in Tallinn, capital of Estonia (hitting the headlines this year after riots in the city, hosting the Eurovision and winning silver and gold in the Finnish Wife Carrying Contest!). Occupied for centuries by the Danes, Swedes, Russians and Nazis, it finally got independence in 1991 and is centred around a beautiful medieval old town dotted with spires and soviet housing projects. The girls here are so absurdly hot, it’s too intimidating to look them in the eye, let alone pretend to ask for directions… Unfortunately, the city has long been dubbed ‘the new Prague’ by hoards of horrid English stag/hen groups – they’ve particularly increased in number lately and I’ve been cringing at them, along with everyone else, since arrival.
Getting here was a game in itself, time and cost meant I had to fly and skip Europe, but I’d booked the flight to depart in the middle of the night. I ended up being awake for 32 hours and then sleeping for about 19, which all made me quite queasy. Annoyingly the weather when I landed was exactly the same grey dull drizzlyness I’d left behind at Stansted…
Click here for tips on taking the Trans-siberian Express across Europe, Russia and Mongolia.
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“[Moscow.] Early on the Sunday morning I set several alarms and sweated my way around the cryptic, but fantastically decorated Metro system. Much of the efficient, extensive and splendid underground network was bloodily constructed with forced labour, as was much of the roads, railways and infrastructure in Siberia. By deciphering the weird Cyrillic signage and pestering the occasional babushka, I managed to emerge in the correct train station, ready to board a sleeper train for 4 whole days…
Loaded with my two huge cursed backpacks and a ton of vegetarian food, I entered my 4-bed cabin to find I was sharing with what turned out to be a group of consistently drunk, but cool, Latvians and a friendly Russian chap whose English consisted of ‘I love you’, ‘bagel store’ and ‘London’. He was either demonstrating the limits of his vocabularyor was particularly keen on expressing his affection for a British-based bread retailer.
My tickets were booked on, or 1-3 days before departure either in person at the station or through my hostel. Tickets are generally cheaper during the off-peak season and for 3rd class (I generally travelled ‘kupe’ – 4-berth 2nd class). I had few problems travelling during the busy summer period, though a sleeper bus was necessary for the stretch from the Chinese border to Beijing, as the direct train was booked out for a week. Prices also vary depending on train number/speed. See seat61.com for more info.
Approx total distance travelled on train [Estonia to Hong Kong]:
*Tallin [Estonia] to St Petersburg [Russia] – 14/07/07
Seat – 6 hours – Approx 217 miles
*St Petersburg to Moscow – 18/07/07
‘Kupe’ 2nd class – 1 night – Approx 375 miles
*Moscow to Irkutsk – 22/07/07
Kupe 2nd’ class – 4 nights – Approx 4,735 miles from Moscow to Beijing
*Irkutsk to Ulaanbattaar [Mongolia] – 30/07/07
‘Kupe’ 2nd class – 1 night
*Ulaanbattaar to Chinese border – 09/08/07
‘Kupe’ 2nd class – 1 night
*[Direct train fully booked, sleeper bus from border to Beijing] – 10/08/07