The Long Road Ahead

On the last day of February I left behind a slowly thawing Helsinki in exchange for a St. Petersburg, still very much being held in the grasp of winter. It’s been almost a year since my last major trip abroad, apart from the intermittent trips to Estonia to fill up my booze cabinet on the cheap. The good thing about starting a trip on a train, or boat, straight from my hometown is that one encounters virtually no culture shock at the start of the trip. Instead, culture shock is something that slowly creeps into you as the days go by, much like this Russian frost. The cold here is a dry and unforgiving kind. I don’t find my feet, fingers, or face getting cold at all, but my bones go sub-zero after a few hours spent outside.

But I’m rambling. Where am I headed, and why? A couple of weeks back I got the Babylonian stone of educational responsibilities off my shoulders, upon returning my thesis. As my next workday is in the middle of June, I decided to spend the spring getting an education on life and the world. Specifically the people and cultures of Eurasia.

I’ve been lucky enough to see most of Europe during multiple Interrail trips and visited some of the calmer, or previously calmer, parts of the Middle East. However I’ve never really ventured further easts on this vast continent. Russia, the great looming neighbour of Finland to the east, has always fascinated me but for whatever reason I’ve never gathered myself to cross the border. And Asia. The real Asia, or what my grandparents might have referred to as “the orient”. In my childhood, countries like China and Thailand seemed unreachable. Hong Kong crime films could have as easily been set in Narnia or the Forest Moon of Endor, all equally unattainable in my juvenile mind.

But as I grew older, read, watched, and played, I started to realize that these places are real and quite within my reach. In fact I could take a train from the railway station of my hometown, and reach China on a continuous set of silver-shining rails.

So that’s what I’m doing. On the 29th of February, I took the Allegro train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg, Russia. The plan ahead is to take trains through Russia and Siberia, probably to Ekaterinburg, Omsk, Irkutsk and Ulan Ude. From there I aim to get myself across the Mongolian border, to Ulan Bator and find a means to get to the countryside for a few days. After Mongolia, trains and busses will take me to Beijing, Shanghai and further south in China to cities like Guilin and Dali. The last leg of this approximately three month endeavour will take me through the South-East Asian states to the tropical islands if Thailand and finally to Singapore, the southernmost capital city of the Eurasian continent.

All of that seems quite distant to me at the moment, as my major running concern is finding a comfortable pair of trousers to buy and wear on the train to Ekaterinburg, as well as some slippers and a quality bottle of vodka.

I hope to update this blog as frequently as I can. Unfortunately, knowing the unreliable internet conditions outside of the internet haven that is Finland, it might often take several days before I can upload a single picture or slice of text.

Nevertheless, I hope that anyone finds anything I write or upload interesting in any way. I will not be dispensing with a lot of specific travel information, because there are much more experienced and well versed people out there doing such things. Instead I’m going to write down whatever the trip brings to my head.

Again, I ramble. So I’ll just stop here for now. Feel free to shoot questions and comments my way here, or through my socialist medias.

-Markus

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