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Posted 02 Sep, 2013 | 13 Comments
Posted in: Our Story, Russia, Travel Blogs

Even though Russia is an amazing country to backpack through, and the largest country in the world, not many people travel here partly due to the bureaucratic nightmare of getting a visa. Luckily, we were able to get our visa in Shanghai without any issues and are so glad we made the effort!

russian visa in shanghai
The Russian Embassy in Shanghai

Russia is a country that blew away any expectations we had. Basically, we were imagining very unfriendly, serious people, everything made of metal and free-flowing vodka.

irkutsk russia
Our first stop in Russia, Irkutsk – Whoo Hooo!

Although we did find lots of vodka, the people of Russia were outstanding and not everything was made of cold steel. In fact, most of the homes and buildings in Siberia were made from wood.

lake baikal
A wooden home on Lake Baikal

The food was delicious, the outdoors were fantastic, the hostels were some of the best and the scenery was awesome.

olkhon island hiking
Enjoying some views during our hike on Olkhon Island

Even though we only had 8 days in this massive country, we’re glad we made the decision to stop off along the Trans-Siberian Train route and explore the Siberian region of Russia. We definitely want to return to Russia one day and visit the cities and sights that we missed. In particular, the stunning cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow, as there are endless things to see and do there!

Here’s a quick round-up of our 8 days of backpacking through Russia

We travelled by train, bus, marshuka, old Soviet vans, tram and boat. We’ve taken some interesting modes of transportation during our travels, and the transport in Russia was an awesome addition to our list.

modes of transportation russia
Some of our modes of transport in Russia – the most comfortable being the train, the most interesting being the old Soviet vans!

Taking The Trans-Siberian Train Video:

We learned a bit about the strong Russian Orthodox faith while gazing up at gorgeous cathedrals.

russian church
Frescos inside one of the Russian Orthodox Cathedrals in Irkutsk

We sun-tanned, swam and hiked around an island in the middle of the deepest lake in the world, Lake Baikal.

lake baikal russia
Enjoying the views on the shores of Lake Baikal 

Borsh, sausage, potatoes, smoked braided cheese and fish became our favourite foods for 8 days…and we gained a new appreciation for dill-seasoned foods.

food in russia
Delicious food in Russia: Borsh soup and chicken soup with dill, mashed potatoes, fried Lake Baikal fish, sausage and smoked cheese that has been braided – so good! 

We camped on a beach, stayed in immaculate dorm rooms and in a quaint private room made from wood in Siberia.

camping lake baikal
Enjoying sunset from our camping spot on the beach at Lake Baikal 

We thrashed ourselves with birch branches and eucalyptus leaves before sweating out our toxins in the sauna. A visit to a traditional Russian banya is a must.

russian banya
Getting ready for a thrashing at the banya! 

 

We enjoyed a small, local cultural show with traditional instruments and song.

russian cultural show
Enjoying a cultural show on Olkhon Island 

We made many new friends over many shots of vodka!

people in russia
We made lots of new friends in Russia – the people were really friendly

We also learned that Russians chase their shots of vodka with food of some sort – cucumbers, apples, bread and smoked cheese being the popular choices. They’re smarter drinkers than us! It makes more sense to be consistently eating while consuming copious amounts of booze.

drinking in russia
Russians chase their shots of vodka with foods…potatoes, cucumbers, bread and tomatoes being a good choice 

We didn’t speak any Russian (except for hello, thank-you, yes and no) and the Russians didn’t speak any English, at all. It’s amazing how charades and hand gestures can really get a point across!

fruit vendor
He didn’t understand us, we didn’t understand him…but we had a great conversation!

After a wonderful 8 days filled with shattered stereotypes of Russia and its people, we were off to our next country, Kazakhstan! Instead of getting on yet another train, we opted for the overnight bus from Omsk to Astana. Although trains are much more comfortable than buses, the cost of the train for this leg was 50% more than the bus. We sucked it up, prepared ourselves for a 15 hour bus journey and waved goodbye to Russia.

Have you ever been to Russia? What did you think? Tell us below!

More Russia Posts:

Travelling On The Trans-Siberian Train: Ulan Bator to Irkutsk

Olkhon Island: A Little Piece Of Paradise In Russia (with Video)

Trans-Siberian Train Journey: Irkutsk to Omsk

Travelling On The Trans-Mongolian Train: All You Need To Know

More Travel Videos (Goat Shows)

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Rushing Through Russia – An 8 Day Round-Up

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Goats On The Road

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13 thoughts on “Rushing Through Russia – An 8 Day Round-Up

    1. Hey Charlie,
      We really want to go back one day soon, but on this trip it’ll be through the “Stans” and into Iran. Maybe next year we’ll do the Mongol Rally from London to UB!
      Crazy trip that would be.
      Thanks for the comment!

  1. Just watching the Sochi Winter Olympics right now and decided to look up “how to backpack across Russia.” Most sites point to Moscow and St. Petersburg or the Trans-Mongolian Railway. But, so glad you two got to visit Siberia! Never realized how difficult it was to travel within Russia until now seeing as most of these Olympic venues in Sochi appear empty.

    Thanks for sharing your travels! What you did is beyond unique and “off the beaten” path. And I will have to resort back to this blog later on when I have the time and money to head to Mother Russia myself. 😉

    1. So cool! I love that you were watching the Olympics in Russia and just decided to look up backpacking there. I hope you make it to Mother Russia one day, it’s such an interesting country! Hopefully you’ll speak more Russian than we did…there were a lot of hand gestures and charades on our part 🙂

      Cheers and thanks for the comment!

  2. Very NICE! i do really enjoy your videos. It is amazing. This August, I will go to Moscow as well. Hope that I can also experience like yours.

  3. Thank you for your great post. Russia is very diverse country and definitely very beautiful. Ukraine is very similar , come to it and share your emotions.

  4. I’m thinking of applying for a Russia tourist visa in Bangkok since I’m traveling long term currently. Did you have to show proof of entry and exit tickets out of Russia when you applied for the visa in person in Shanghai? and if so, can you provide some insight? I’m stuck on how I should go about booking to show proof of tickets in and out of Russia. I’ll be starting in Beijing then to ulan batur Mongolia by train. Spend 3 weeks in Mongolia then take the train to Russia and ending in Moscow. I haven’t booked anything since I hate to book things in advanced. I don’t even know how to book a ticket from Ulan Bator to Russia. Not sure if it’s possible. Thanks

  5. Hi there,

    I may be missing something on your post, but what was the route you took through Russia?
    I want to do about the same time you did there

    Cheers
    Katie

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