Hopefully, this will work on my third attempt! We set off at 1230am from a very cold Moscow station with no waiting room (!) and no English signs anywhere to be seen. I wasnt sure what the sleeping arrangements would be in our group of two couples, the tour guide and me. I discovered that the two couples had upgraded and I would be sharing with Ythan and two others - thought this was okay until I discovered the two others were Attila the Huns sister and Ghengis Khans brother - pretty scary - but just as I was telling myself to get on with it, the Swiss couple came along and said I could share with them - I tried to protest, but not too hard - so thats what I ended up doing for the first 4 nights, 5 days. The train was an experience thats for sure. We had a dining car though and spent some time there, but mostly we just read books, looked out of the window, was pretty relaxing. The toilet was closed 30 minutes before and after each stop so you had to time it. Restaurant car was semi okay - had my first Borscht - lovely! The carriage was filled with locals and it was pretty interesting to see them - they are all very stern and grumpy. There was one scary looking guy who exercised with a big elastic belt thing every morning in the corridor, tried to avoid him most of the time, but it turned out he was a Mongolian wrestling coach and was reaslly nice - he gave me his flag - after some translation from our tour guide, it turn out he is from Boryat, who are descendents of Mongolian nomads who settled in Russia. The Russians are funny, even if they know you dont understand they just keep talking and talking! The train is a good way to see the real people of Russian - most of which were short squat Mongolian types, the rich attractive Russians obviously travel by plane :) The stops were interesting with locals selling various things, but wasnt too sure about buying a chicken salad from a paper plate - dont think there would be many HSE checks here. We arrived in Irkutsk after 5 days into a lovely chalet and I have never been so pleased to have a shower - it was amazing! The day I arrived was the day of David's funeral, so I was thinking of everyone at the time and managed to skype in to speak to Erlend, my boys, Jenna, Kevin and my dad so felt better that everyone had coped with the day reasonably well. Woke up the next day to the most amazing views of Lake Baikal - the lake was frozen and the mountains were still snow capped - lovely. We were picked up by a local guide Mica, who showed us the sights, but more importantly liked to talk, so told us about how young russians live now - it was quite an eye opener with the corruption that is rife and even more interesting was when we talked about their gun laws and he pulled out his gun, which apparently everyone carries, is only for your own protection and only had rubber bullets - well thats okay then.....!? We took a hovercraft across the frozen lake and then took a cable car up to the top to see the view. We had lunch near the lake side and then went to see an open air museum of old Russian villages, it was really interesting and Mica was pretty good with his Russian history on the revolution etc. We were then picked up and taken to the station for the second leg of our journey to Mongolia. The Mongolian train is far better than the Russian one, especially the toilets - our carriage attendant cleaned day and night - she never stopped! No dining car this time, so it was noodles, noodles and more noodles all the way! The red tape at the border was extremely tedious - we waited 5 hours at the Russian border while they checked visas a million times, passports a million times, searched our cabin a million times and then let us go on our way. The same followed half an hour later ath the Mongolian border stop with checks, checks and more checks - had to get off the train and stand outside for half and hour in the freezing cold - was delighted to get back on board for some vodka, red wide and more cards to help us sleep! A 6am start and here we are in our Mongolian hotel waiting to be picked up to tour round Ulannbattar and we are off tomorrow again to stay in a Mongolian Ger for one night then back to the hotel. Next stop Beijing!!