Berlin: East and West

Time is flying by – Berlin is our penultimate stop before getting back to London after this crazy trip!

We’ve wanted to take a weekend trip to Berlin for years … and we were happy to be there. ..But speaking for myself, I’m getting so tired at this late stage of our trip that I’m finding it hard to motivate to sightsee! So I was playing some mental games with myself trying to psych myself up for visiting a new city.

Also – it felt really cold! It was around freezing (0c / 32F) but because of the damp weather, Berlin felt much colder to me than most of Siberia. Yes, it’s the humidity in the air, but also the lack of sunshine. Even in -20 temperatures in Siberia, there was clear blue sky and bright sun bouncing off the snow. Berlin is more European, with a gentle gray layer of clouds across the sky most of the time. So it’s dreary, and damp, and oh man, I was FREEZING! But when are we going to be in Berlin next?! Have to make the most of it. Onwards! Continue reading “Berlin: East and West”

Warsaw Old Town (+ the train to Berlin!)

After an all-day bus ride from Vilnius, we arrived in Warsaw. We’d both been here before on business trips and hadn’t seen much beyond conference rooms and generic hotels. I have to be honest that our impression of Warsaw was not great, so we only planned one day stopover. We decided to stay in the center of the Old Town to see the ‘most scenic’ (and most touristy!) part of the city.

Unlike all the other cities on this European part of our trip, Poland doesn’t use the Euro. We didn’t want to take out local currency (called “Zloty”) for only 24 hours, so we challenged ourselves to only pay by card. It wasn’t a challenge at all. Every place took cards, some even used the ‘touch only’ feature (which doesn’t always work with international cards) so you don’t even need a PIN or to sign. Too easy! Let the eating + drinking begin!

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Rediscovering Vilnius (with heaping spoonfuls of sour cream!)

We’re a bit behind on our blogging at this point in the trip. The travel’s starting to wear us down. Our energy is lagging. We spend more and more time relaxing in the hotel, and intersperse our sightseeing with more frequent cafe and pub stops. I think we’re getting ready to be home! (Or at least, ready to stop carrying our suitcases everywhere!) BUT, onwards! The trip isn’t finished quite yet … and we have some interesting cities to visit still in Europe…

From Tallinn, our next stop was Vilnius, but there wasn’t a train available. So for the first time since Hong Kong, we have to take a <gasp!> BUS to our next destination. (Actually you can take a series of three connecting train from Tallinn to Riga, but then you have to take a bus from Riga to Vilnius. So we decided to save time and energy and just take the bus the entire way.)

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Tallinn, Estonia: OMG, It’s So Cute!

And just like that, we enter the European Union!

After our four days in St. Petersburg, we took an 8-hour train ride across the Russian border into Estonia.

St. Petersburg train station, 6:30AM. Waiting for our train across the border to Tallinn. Leaving Russia, entering The European Union!

I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Tallinn from friends, and we were really looking forward to visiting this city. We’ve previously visited Riga, Latvia and Vilnius, Lithuania, and were curious to complete our visit of the Baltics and see how Tallinn compared.

The last time we felt like we’d stepped back in time on this trip, was in ancient Pingyao, China. If you remember, we loved Pingyao, but it was in desperate need to ‘coziness’. Somewhere to sit in a warm cafe or pub and soak up the historic atmosphere. Well, Tallinn has Cozy in spades! It was cuteness overload. It’s like entering a perfectly preserved medieval fairytale.

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Art and Culture in St. Petersburg

We arrived in St. Petersburg at 8:30AM.  Oh how thrilled we were to:

1) be finished with our long train journeys for the trip, and
2) spend time in a city filled with art, culture and food! (And a lovely historic hotel with fluffy bathrobes, a hot shower and comfy bed!)

St. Petersburg is gorgeous. Still below freezing, and strangely enough felt colder than many previous cities we’d visited because of the humidity. Yes it was -30c in Mongolia, but -12c in St. Petersburg felt much colder – the damp cold would seep through your jacket into your bones.

St Petersburg is on the coast, so the humidity in the air makes it feel a lot colder than it is!

But wow, wow, wow.

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Yekaterinburg and Our Final Trans-Siberian Train

After 48 hours on the train across Siberia, we arrived for a quick 24 hour stopover in Yekaterinburg, just past the halfway point of our trip across Siberia.

If your following along with the route of our journey, we’re now at Yekaterinburg indicated by the star. Halfway across Siberia and almost back to Europe!

In Yekaterinburg it was snowing. A lot.

We haven’t had above-freezing temperatures in well over a month. But most of the trip so far has been really dry, so this is the first time we encountered real snowfall.

Snow in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Zak was very excited. I was like – “yeah, it’s snow.” It really just felt like New Hampshire after a snowstorm – fluffy snow everywhere, slushy boots, watching where you walk so you don’t slip, stepping over snowbanks…

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First Class on the Trans-Siberian Train

48 hours on the train across Russia from Irkutsk in Siberia, to Yekaterinburg right on the border of Asia and Europe.

We’d been looking forward to this leg of the journey – our longest train ride. (So far we’d done 33 hours from Hong Kong to Xining, and 22 hours from Xining to Lhasa Tibet, but this would be the longest!)

Prior to leaving Hong Kong, we’d seen Murder on the Orient Express at the movie theater, and I think we were both secretly hoping that our Trans-Siberian train would also have white-gloved waiters shaking up cold martinis before dinner…

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Irkutsk: Cuteness and Dog Sledding in Siberia

A quick 8-hour train ride around Lake Baikal, and we arrived in Irkutsk.

We fell in love with this little city (one of the largest cities in Siberia, population just over 500,000)! It was a total surprise. We were expecting a backwater, boring town in the middle of nowhere … instead we got gorgeous scenery, lots of sunshine and show, super cute wooden houses with elaborate wooden edging, good restaurants and nature just a few minutes drive away.


Irkutsk, Russia indicated by the star. Still very much in Asia, but it feels like Europe!

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Amanda’s Natural Health Kit for Travel

You might know I’m kind of into herbs and natural health 🙂
I always travel with a standard first aid kit, but I also like to bring a selection of natural health items and remedies. They’re useful if we get sick, but I prefer to use them in advance to support our immune systems and to keep us in balance as we travel.
I don’t usually bring quite this much – but this is a 10 week trip in extremely dry cold weather in winter, so I assumed we’ll be exposed to lots of new germs and probably get at least one cold along the way. Plus at least one upset stomach.
I set aside all the items I’d like to bring, and then packed what I could fit into one gallon-sized Ziploc bag. So it IS a lot that I brought, but I like having it and I imagine I’ll be using these things regularly, so for me it’s worth the space. Some of the items I would not have brought, except I already had them in Hong Kong — so brought them along to finish up (like the bottle of Elderberry tincture!) I’ll be curious to see what we use and what I throw out en route to save space. Will update this post with the results when we’re back in London!

Herbal Teas

 I use herbal teas a lot to support wellness. At home I have a big stash of loose individual herbs which I blend depending on what I need that day. Of course that’s not practical for travel. So I tried to reduce the tea selection to teas I already owned and that would be multi-purpose for a variety of issues we might face while traveling. The beauty of these teas is that we can drink any of them anytime … so we don’t need to save them for the specific ailment. They all taste nice too. I brought a full box of Sleepytime and Belly Tamer, the rest I only brought a few bags each.
  • Sleepytime Tea – Relaxing blend for evenings but also just to keep me chilled out on long journeys.
  • Belly Tamer Tea – Peppermint/Ginger/Fennel, for stomach upsets.
  • Throat Coat – for dry or sore throats
  • Breathe Ease – for chest colds
  • Moon Time – for PMS
  • Teeccino – roasted herbal coffee substitute. Yeah, it’s not the same as coffee. But I get really wired if I have more than 1 cup of coffee per day, and decaf doesn’t seem to exist in Asia, so I brought these…

Supplements / Herbs:

  • Probiotics!! I always travel with probiotics, and it’s the one supplement I insist that Zak takes before any travel as well. We start several days before travel and take one daily the entire trip. Builds up your gut biome with good bacteria to help you deal with different food, water etc. This is the only medication we brought a 60 day supply each of. We each brought a different kind of probiotic, and we’re alternating, to diversify the bacteria we’re getting.
  • Activated Charcoal – This is my key food poisoning remedy. Brought a lot of these.
  • Triphala – an Ayurvedic blend which tones your digestive system, to use after food poisoning or diarrhoea to reset your digestive system. Love this! Works very well.

Things I only brought because I already had them, and thought they might be useful. Repackaged in individual labelled Ziploc bags to save space.

  • Milk Thistle – liver support to process any toxins, especially helpful if you’ve had too much to drink or think you might have a night of heavy drinking ahead (vodka train, anyone??)
  • Turmeric – general anti-inflammatory
  • Multi-vitamin – brought about 20 of these, to take every couple days.
  • Vitamin D – only brought a few of these, to take once a week or so.
  • Digestive Enzyme – only brought a few of these, only use them when eating something I think will be hard to digest, like a lot of milk/cheese or heavy meat etc.
  • Biocidin – natural antibiotic drops – only to use with food poisoning or bad chest colds etc.

Essential Oils

  • Lavender – ESSENTIAL – This is always with me, everyday. Good for relaxing, disinfecting, baths in hotels, headaches.
  • Peppermint – for headaches, digestion
  • Anti-infective Blend – DoTerra OnGuard. To use in crowded spaces, and throughout trip to boost immunity and eliminate germs.
  • Breathing Blend – DoTerra Breathe – in case we get a cold, feel stuffy
  • Digestive Blend – DoTerra DigestZen – stomach problems
  • Clary Sage diluted in a roller ball – for menstrual cramps
  • Small muscle rub blend – DoTerra Deep Blue, only brought 1ml of this, don’t think we’ll use it. Just in case.
  • Small bottle of almond oil
  • Small spray bottle – currently filled with OnGuard and water as a disinfectant spray to use on my scarf and face mask in crowded places.


  • Manuka Honey – A client gave me a jar of amazing Manuka honey shortly before we left Hong Kong and I couldn’t bear to throw it out, so I brought it along! We’re adding it to our tea.
  • Digestive Bitters – ESSENTIAL – I’m using Neals Yard Remedies Dandelion and Burdock – I’ve always got a bottle of this with me, everyday. (I decant it into a small 10ml bottle to take in my handbag). Good for upset stomachs but I try to take it before meals to boost my digestion before eating, when I think the meal might be heavy or possibly dodgy.
  • Elderberry Tincture – LOVE LOVE LOVE this! I made a batch in Hong Kong and brought the rest of the bottle with me. It’s hugely supportive for your immune system and tastes delicious. We’ll take a spoonful a day until it’s gone.
  • Magnesium Spray – the theory is it helps you sleep. I got a brand new bottle before I left HK, so I decanted some into a small spray bottle and brought it along. Not totally convinced it works yet…
To save space for travel, I took most of the pills out of bottles and put them in labeled ziploc bags.  The herbal teas are also in small ziploc bags by flavour. The essential oils all fit into a small zippered pouch. Will update this post later with what we used, and what got tossed out to save space halfway through the trip…

Ulan Ude: Russian Mongolian Fusion

From Ulan Baatar, Mongolia we took an overnight train across the border into Russia.

It’s hard to believe that we’re leaving Asia, and that we’re just past the halfway point of our journey! We have been so curious to see when we’d notice the ‘shift’ and feel like we were in Europe… would we notice it immediately once we’d crossed the border into Russia? Could it be that different that quickly?

Prior to this trip, I’d only been on international train journeys around Europe, where you either don’t need to go through customs and immigration checks, or where (like the Eurostar from London to Paris), they do the immigration at the departure station, so the ride itself is uninterrupted. It’s very different taking international trains in Asia!

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