Friday, September 25, 2015

Back Home

Hello all.  Unfortunately, a health issue that I did not anticipate - as well as other factors - led me to decide that it would be best to return home, all too soon after my departure.  I flew home from Copenhagen after stops in London and Cologne, Germany.  My long-anticipated trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway will therefore have to wait until another, more opportune, time.

We still plan to travel through Japan in late November-early December, so check back in a couple of months for dispatches from the land of the rising sun.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Riding the rails through Siberia, Mongolia and beyond

Hello to anyone who has visited this blog since I first launched it in 2010, as well as new visitors.  I write this post on the eve of my latest adventure, a trip by train and ferry from London to Tokyo in the fall of 2015.

This will be my second around-the-world trip, following our family’s journey in 2005-06 through South America, Europe, India and Thailand.  Much has changed since then.  Our family has continued to travel, visiting Vietnam, Scotland, Ireland, South Africa, Brazil, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania, among others (our tally is now around 40 countries.)

My daughter, Salome, who turned 9 during our world trip, is about to start her second year of college at UC Santa Barbara.

And this trip - at least for the first two months - will be solo, a first for me.  (Later, my wife, Ava, will join me in Japan for the final leg of my journey.)

The spark for this trip was my desire to complete one of the world’s great train rides, the Trans-Siberian Railway.  I have long been fascinated by trains, and have enjoyed riding them in many countries and settings, from Mexico’s Copper Canyon to the rice paddies of Vietnam, to the mountains of Austria and the cities of India.

Traveling solo means I have complete freedom to do what I want when I want, but I will miss the security and camaraderie of traveling companions.  As I make my final preparations, I feel a mix of excitement and nervousness about what I will encounter.

My itinerary begins in London, from where I will travel by train to Copenhagen and Stockholm.  Next, I will board a ferry for St. Petersburg, Russia, with a stop in Talinn, Estonia.  From St. Petersburg, I will continue on to Moscow, and then on to the Trans-Siberian proper, stopping often along the way at such towns and cities as Suzdal, Yekaterinburg, Tomsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude.  I’ll visit Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest, whose crystal clear water is pure enough to drink.   I’ll detour for a couple of weeks through Mongolia, before returning to the Trans-Siberian for the ride to the end of the line at Vladivostok.  From there, I will hop a ferry to Japan, meet my wife and tour that country before we fly from Tokyo to LA on Dec. 15.

During the three-month trip I’ll add seven more notches to my list of countries visited, and traverse about 6,000 miles, not counting the airplane rides from LA to London or Tokyo to LA.

I plan to post stories, photos and videos on this blog as often as I can, so keep checking back for updates on topics ranging from the most fascinating sites I encounter to tidbits about life on the fabled railway.  I’ll also link to the blog posts from my Facebook page; please share with your friends and let me know what you think - I look forward to your feedback and comments as I travel!

Proshchaniyae for now.