UK to Australia by Train-Part 1

July/August 1996

Yes I travelled from my parent’s home in the UK to Australia by train( Well mostly).

We had flown the final stretch between Hong Kong and Australia.

It was 1996, not too long after the Iron Curtain had fallen and travelling freely between Eastern and Western Europe had become almost routine,

Source: Wikipedia

We had stopped off in Paris on the way, where my new husband(We were to spend our first wedding anniversary in Ulaanbatar in Mongolia(1996.)) had been accosted by a strange woman in a bar. She was fun. I still have her photo. We had then ventured across France and Germany travelling in the relative comfort of first and second class trains. Berlin had been our last stop before heading into Eastern Europe.

Source: Бидэнд тохиолдсон хүндхэн хөгтэй явдлууд According to Google translate this means:

We have had hard times.

I had been quite apprehensive, having lived through the Cold War and having heard the tales of people throwing themselves out of windows to escape East Berlin. In fact I had once been an avid listener of a radio series about people’s escapes from East. We had a very different view of people smugglers in those days, when they had almost been considered brave heroes.

Source: Moments of History

Berlin was interesting. At that time it had been regarded an island of The West, marooned in Eastern Europe. I had always imagined Eastern Europe to be grey and forbidding. Travelling on from Berlin, initially at least, that had appeared to be the case. However I remember noticing Poland and Belarus had appeared pretty.

The Trans-Siberian Railway


I will discuss Moscow in another post.

Somewhere in my brain I had confused romantic images of The Orient Express with The Trans-Siberian Railway. My shock had reverberated around the platform, when I had first seen the train, which was to be our home for the following few weeks. We were surrounded by traders loading their huge bundles of goods aboard the train. I had not reacted well. Our train appeared rough – crammed with goods and people, I had initially stalled and refused to get on. In my defence I had still been pretty upset about my trip, knowing it was one way as I was leaving my home and family behind.

Source: CBC–dpA

Not sure of the year in which the video was produced. The train appears more luxurious than ours. It also features another Anglo-Australian couple making their journey to Australia by train.

Eventually I had boarded reluctantly.

We had found ourselves in one of the less crammed carriages (after I had complained) with L ( a delightful Russian woman, travelling with a bag of apples.) Over the following weeks, we had shared our compartment with an assortment of people.

The two who are particularly ingrained in my thoughts, are two smartly dressed but dodgy, (or so it had seemed to me at the time ) Mongolian men. Finding myself stuck in a train carriage with three porn-viewing males (Yes my new husband had also been casting an eye over the magazines) had been more than a little unsettling. Possibly the thing which had made me most suspicious (of the two guys with the porn in our carriage) was the amount of money they had seemed to be carrying. They had told us that they were just gamblers but I was not convinced.

It was one occasion when I was glad I had studied languages, as the train was totally non English-speaking. Fortunately L the first Russian lady in our carriage, spoke German too, so I had chatted happily to her for days. I do remember the jovial Russian who had bounded in to our carriage with a bottle of vodka and carted off my husband. Russia and Eastern Europe had been less bleak than I had anticipated. My first impression – I remember thinking Belarus and Poland had seemed quite pretty from our vantage point on the train.

One of the travel guidebooks had recommended carrying a plug. I was particularly glad of mine on the train. It had meant I was able to make a reasonable attempt to wash in the understandably tiny bathroom.

After my difficult start, I had adapted to the basic conditions and steadily got to know our fellow travellers a little,

I had briefly left my plug with chain in the bathroom. It had disappeared but was finally returned, minus the chain, after I had protested vociferously.


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