Russia or Bust!!

Naushki Travel Blog

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Early morning light from the train approaching the Mongolia/Russia border (4:30 AM)
I had an alarm set for around 4 AM. Why? Well we were informed that we would reach the border sometime between 5:00-6:00 AM and as with all the trains, the toilets would be locked once we stopped. At the same time we would also be stuck in the train carriage until the station opened at 8:00 AM, so if I woke up later having to "go" it would have been a challenge to find the means to do so. Had to wait in line at the toilet as a few others were up doing the same.

Before falling back asleep I opened the shade and looked out on the Mongolian sunrise. Not a great sunrise but picturesque nonetheless. The good thing was I managed to get back asleep and when I awoke we were at the Mongolian side of the border shortly before 8 AM.

About 20 minutes later we were let out of the carriage to move around and get off the train.
Early morning sunrise from the train approaching the Mongolia/Russia border (4:30 AM)
Getting off the train was a bit of a surprise because there really wasn't any train to speak of - just the one carriage that we were on was left at the platform. We were the only carriage heading through into Russia, the remaining carriages had emptied at other points during the trip north to the border.

At 9:00 AM immigration showed up and it was back onto the train while they collected our passports and checked to make sure that we were good to go. There was one small mishap that our group encountered when Jon who had both US and Australian passports was using his US passport for the benefit of visa-free entry into Mongolia but had his Russian visa in his Australian passport. The Mongolian immigration officials were questioning how he was going to get into Russia without a visa at first.
How we were left at the border...
Thankfully it was easily sorted and after an hour or so it was time to go. An engine came along, picked us up and we headed across the border.

I snapped one photo as we approached the border but we were quickly motioned to put our cameras away by some Russian guards standing along the tracks. Ooops! We filled in our Customs forms - made more difficult by the fact that they were only in Russian. I could at least make out the alphabet from my high school Russian classes 15+ years ago but the vocabulary was a bit on the difficult side. We got some help from some Russian speakers and managed to spread the word to everyone to fill out the forms. Immigration came to collect our paperwork, customs came and searched the berths. It was a thorough but not too demanding search.
Approaching the Russian border - shortly after taking this photo (with the camera still around my neck) passed some Russian Border Patrol types who gave a stern motion for me to put the camera away.
I did get to empty out my day pack, but that was the only item that they searched from the four of us in the compartment.

Getting our passports back took a couple of hours on this side of the border. Even then when we got them back shortly before 1:00 PM, the train wasn't scheduled to depart until nearly 4:00 PM, so we had some time to go out and explore Naushki, the small border town where we were stopped.

Naushki is in some ways what one might expect of Russia from many of the stories one hears. A small utilitarian town on the frontier of Russia, there wasn't much of Naushki to speak of. A small talent show among school-aged children was taking place at the end of the small park that abutted the railway station added some degree of life to the town.
A "talent show" type event taking place in Naushki
Walking around I could hear the sounds of music and children's voices being played through a small sound system set up where they were performing.

In the park was a small memorial to those of Naushki that had perished in the Great Patriotic War (World War II) The names of all Naushki's dead were carved into the granite rock of the memorial. One thing I would learn journeying through Russia is that this conflict scarred and marked Russians to a much greater extent than it did the US and indeed possibly much of Europe as well.

Turning around and heading back toward the railway station (didn't want to get left behind in Siberia), I crossed paths with a mother and young son along the road. I offered my briefest touch of the Russian I had left behind in high school 15+ years ago, "Здравствуйте".
Naushki - memorial to the dead of the Great Patriotic War (World War II)
I received the same in return and a smile. I would be surprised at the bits and pieces that came back to me after not really thinking about it much in a long time. I couldn't hold a conversation with someone, but I could hold my own in a store and restaurant, and just being able to understand the Cyrillic alphabet was helpful in getting around.

After a quick stop in my first store to practice my counting a bit more and spend a first handful of rubles it was back to the train before the provodnitsa would start to get upset. Our single carriage was now attached to others - it was a train again. Four o'clock came and we were off into the wild bounds of Siberian Russia.
vances says:
Have you read Paul Theroux's "Ghost Train to the Eastern Star"? It would have been perfect during this excursion!
Posted on: Jun 03, 2010
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Early morning light from the train…
Early morning light from the trai…
Early morning sunrise from the tra…
Early morning sunrise from the tr…
How we were left at the border...
How we were left at the border...
Approaching the Russian border - s…
Approaching the Russian border - …
A talent show type event taking …
A "talent show" type event taking…
Naushki - memorial to the dead of …
Naushki - memorial to the dead of…
Early morning light from the train…
Early morning light from the trai…
Early morning sunrise from the tra…
Early morning sunrise from the tr…
Final shots on the Mongolia side o…
Final shots on the Mongolia side …
First steps in Russia (Naushki)
First steps in Russia (Naushki)
Naushki
photo by: coolguy