Mentally I divided my trip on the train into two parts. The first part of our trip was particularly challenging, as we sought to become adjusted to our new environment.
From Lake Baikal on, we were no longer the only Westerners on the train and we had become more adjusted to the routine.
Lake Baikal was like an oasis in the desert. It was huge and a particularly vivid blue.
I found the sight of this beautiful body of water somewhat comforting, after our trek through Siberia.
A couple of Dutch guys had climbed aboard and much to our relief, they spoke English. I had been able to relay a certain amount in German to our Russian companion – the lady in the same carriage. She in turn had talked to others about us. We had learned that they were all astonished that two people from opposite sides of the planet could both meet and marry.
However with the arrival of the two Dutch backpackers, we had enjoyed our opportunity to communicate in English once more.
Stranded in Mongolia
For me the high point of this whole experience was visiting Mongolia.
It had not started well. We had understood we were to be picked up from the station in Ulaanbaatar. Perhaps we could be forgiven, but we had actually followed the first friendly-looking person carrying a banner. We had found ourselves, sharing a vehicle with a German couple. After a short conversation, we realised that we had followed the wrong guide and had headed back to the station. I was quite nervous and grumpy. Mongolia was so unfamiliar and I had feared we were now stranded. My new husband located a phone and made contact with our guide. Having been unable to find us, she had taken another couple to the hostel. She had said she would return and pick us up later.
Museum in Ulaanbatar
Mongolia was an amazing experience. Mongolia had intrigued me since my parents had first bought me a globe for Christmas, when I was little. It had seemed so remote. Our guide (when we had eventually caught up with her.) was amazing. One excursion I vividly remember, was the trip to the museum. I have never seen a more spectacular display of dinosaur skeletons, anywhere in the world. Particularly fascinating were the fossilised dinosaur eggs.
We had also made a day trip out to visit a yurt.
My new husband had made the mistake of trying some of the local tipple – fermented horse’s milk and was sick for a couple of days. He had also ridden off on one of the Mongolian horses, an opportunity I had politely declined, preferring instead to enjoy the relative comfort of the yurt.
Whilst I secretly admired Genghis Khan, I was relieved to discover that Mongolians appeared to be a peaceful and gentle people whose diet seemed to consist largely of mutton.
We had spent our first wedding anniversary in Mongolia. I had produced a handmade anniversary card. My new husband had amazingly managed to buy anniversary cards, from several countries along our route. I had found this amazingly romantic.
If you want to visit a country where they still wear traditional costume, I would suggest Mongolia. At that time (1996) it was still widely worn.
My son has recently introduced me to this Mongolian band. I really enjoy some of their music. It brings back happy memories.
Source: Alexandre Vartanian https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdPD66wZtXdS2oRNpciFaIg
I realise I have skipped China. I will save our Chinese adventures for another day.