Bribing for a Train Ride to Mongolia

Well, I ended up spending a little more time in Russia than anticipated, but not as much as I would have if I didn’t scream and bribe.

Imagine this: Thursday after we got back from Lake Baikal, Sharon and I checked our email and decided to separate to get to the train. She decided to walk part of the way and I had the bulk of the groceries (since we would be on the train for 2.5 days), so I was going to take the tram. Unfortunately, no tram came for over 35 minutes and I was past the point of worrying. By tram, I could be at the train station in 5-7 minutes and they were supposed to run every 10 minutes. After noticing the time ticking away, I started trying to furiously flag down any passing vehicle. Perhaps fortunately in many ways, no one would stop. Finally, the tram came at 20:55, only 10 minutes before I would miss the once a day train to Ulan Bator, Mongolia. I got to the station and booked it and then ran under a very long underpass, to the platform the screen said the train was on. I tried 4 […read more…]

A Really Deep Lake

Whenever I hike in mountains, I feel this incredible spiritual connection to everything around me. Today, as we climbed the Primorsky mountains, I couldn’t help but think about how tiny I am and how these mountains and lake could just swallow me up, but I kept thinking about the love I have for so many people in my life and the love I feel from them and how significant I am even in these majestic mountains. I also noticed something about myself — I was very wary of certain steps I took while climbing and was more unsure of each step. I compared that to my life. When we are children, we are so certain of ourselves so confident of every step we take. As we get older, we have experiences that make us doubt ourselves, trust less and think twice before making a decision. Although the climb was only a few hours, the steps were challenging for me and I don’t think it all had to do with the tight jeans I was wearing! I found myself not trusting my footholds, especially where the dirt was wet and the slope went straight down into Lake Baikal.

Mountains are […read more…]

Irkutsk

Today, we arrived in the early morning in Irkutsk. I was surprised as to how cold it is here! Even though it’s Siberia, it should not be this cold in the summer. Luckily, I had some long pants and a jacket with me. Today was another one of those days on my trip where I had many spiritual experiences. We walked around a lot and were very exhausted from days of very little sleep, so I think we’ll sleep quite well tonight! We came upon a Polish Catholic church built here in 1883 by Polish exiles, which is apparently Siberia’s only neo-gothic church. Later we walked across a crazy traffic circle and went to the Znamensky Monastery. I was excited to go here because the monastery has the casket containing the body of St. Innokent, a Siberian missionary. There have been numerous incidents of miracles and the body is incorruptible.

The casket happened to be behind a rope, but a woman let me through to it after I smiled and asked if that was St. Innokent. I had a wonderful moment of prayer, meanwhile a regular service was being held and the experience brought me to tears.

I felt […read more…]

Moving on to Siberia

We have yet another change of plans, which is not surprising considering we’re going the “backpacker way,” with a very loose itinerary. As it turns out, there are no trains from Moscow to Irkutsk for another few days, meaning we wouldn’t be in Irkutsk for another 5 to 6 days. Knowing that time is ticking away, we booked a flight this morning, which ended up costing less than the train ticket!

After this crazed morning of trying to get to the S7 gate at the local Domodovo airport, which was an hour out of town. We had a lunch at this cute little restaurant where I had a delicious cold fruit soup made of mangoes, strawberries and a scoop of ice cream. Sharon and I walked around a great big disappointing park and then separated ways for the rest of the day. First I saw this enormous Peter the Great Monument. I’m usually not awed by monuments. In many ways, I can’t really understand them and with most, it seems the history tends to fade away. However, this was one Russian monument that made me gasp. The work that must have gone into this and then the amount of […read more…]

Suzdal

Today, we went to Suzdal, which is one of the Golden Ring towns. This is one of the most ancient towns in Russia and has the most churches per capita in Russia. There is one church for every 12 people. It is such an adorable tiny town, with babuszkas sitting on benches in their gardens drinking tea.

We made this a day trip, which it really shouldn’t be because the buses ended up being super slow and our trip there took five hours. I got some great shots and went to a tiny little church, where women in outfits akin to a burka were singing psalms and I got a chance to light a candle in prayer for my family and friends. It was a beautiful day.

Our plan has changed now because we have decided to go to Irkutsk and Lake Baikal and the train there only leaves on odd days. The time here is going by SO fast, especially when you include train rides For example, tomorrow when we leave for irkutsk and lake baikal, the train ride takes 77 hours. So hopefully we’ll get on the 23:00 train to Irkutsk tomorrow and make it by Saturday […read more…]

Russian Wooden Banya

These past few days in Moscow were very interesting, but I have to say that my Sunday was another big step in my Transiberian pilgrimage. On Sunday morning, I woke up early to go to a Polish Mass in a Russian Catholic Church, one of two Catholic Churches in Moscow. Another thing I love about the Catholic Church is that the Mass is always the same, in any language, but it was definitely pleasant to hear a language I spoke and to feel the familiarity of my Polish culture. At the end of the Mass, I found a woman who was from Belarus and had a Polish mother show me where the metro was. She was so wonderful and it would have taken me twice as long if I had tried to find it myself, since it was around a 25 minute walk.

Later, I looked for the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, which a hostel worker told me was in this far off suburb of Russia. I followed his directions and ended up in some random town or towns outside of Moscow. Then I got out and walked for 2.5 hours looking for this cathedral. I thought […read more…]

mockba

I took a 23:00 overnight train from St. Petersburg to Moscow on Thursday evening. I had a second class coupe and met an Italian family. We chatted long into the night, so I got very little sleep, but it was worth getting to know Gea, Antonio and Zia Anna. My toothbrush was mint gum in the evening and my shower was a baby wipe.

Sharon met me as I got off the train and we to the Napoleon Hostel to drop off my things. The Italian family decided to come along and I actually ended up spending a large part of my day with them, visiting the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral, the tomb of the unknown soldier and walking around the Red Square. I was happy that Lenin’s Mausoleum was closed because I wasn’t really interested in seeing his preserved body or paying any types of respects to him! One of the nicest things yesterday was heading into a church were musicians began singing hymns in Russian. It brought tears to my eyes as I stood in a beautiful church, looking at icons of saints and listening to heavenly music.

Later in the day, we met Sharon for a […read more…]

Holy Mother Russia

Yesterday afternoon I arrived in St. Petersburg. Upon my arrival, I kissed the ground to pay my respects to Pope John Paul II who loved Holy Mother Russia. As providence would have it, I met a Seminarian at the JFK airport. He had a different seat than me, but providence again gave an empty seat next to me, so we were able to chat for hours about God, religion and Russia. How appropriate it is to be in Russia now, when my parents are going to Portugal in the fall to visit Fatima, where our Lady prayed for the conversion of Russia. The Seminarian, Mark, told me he was going to visit with the Archbishop of Moscow, to discuss further progress between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. He plans on living in Russia in the future to help with the revival of faith in Russia. It amazes me that there is a dialogue between the two religions that parted 1000 years ago, but I am grateful for it and I believe that soon we will be united. Both groups could stand to benefit from one another. We are extremely similar in our beliefs and there […read more…]

Top 13 Reasons I'm Taking the Transiberian Railway.

Today I’m headed to St. Petersburg, Russia, where I begin my estimated 5,000 mile tour of Russia, Mongolia and China for one month. This trip will span 8 times zones. I will attempt to keep this blog updated throughout my travels!

I’ve listed out some of the reasons for the trip below:

Because I needed something to look forward to after cramming for the NY bar. Because my grandfather escaped from a Siberian concentration camp. Because I don’t know when the next opportunity like this will come. Because I’ve been craving cabbage and vodka. Because I’ve been wanting to see the two largest communist utopias. Because I have had major withdrawl from not living out of a backpack for years. Because I made some of my very closest friends while traveling. Because it’s about time I learned Cyrillic. Because it’s just a really exciting trip! Because my parents have implanted the travel bug in me from the womb. Because I want to console a weeping camel. Because I’ve never been beaten at chess by a Russian…in Russia! Because in the very wise words of some traveling ladies, sometimes you need to get lost to get found. […read more…]