So what's the scoop? It seems that a few years ago at my Uncle's yearly Easter bash, I casually asked him: "So, Uncle - when are we all going to go to Russia?" You see, our Uncle had been regaling the crowd with tales of his previous trips to the Ukraine and Russia, and I'd always wanted to go to Russia. So, too, did my mother, brother, and sister. And so, a plan was born. We were supposed to have gone in little more than a year's time - but events conspired to make us miss that time frame. But time passed, and the plan was resurrected. I was skeptical at first, but it gathered momentum...and then one day, tickets were bought. A couple of months later, the trip began on August 31st.
You will note that when I suggested that we go, I said "to Russia." Somehow along the way, a few extra countries were tacked on: Poland, Ukraine, and China. A large potion of that would be covered by train - and much of that portion would be on the famous Trans-Siberian Railroad. It all sounded like quite an odyssey!
While I was in Russia, I thought I'd swing down to Sterlitamak to visit a guy I'd met on the Internet. I know, some of you sickos are thinking, what's this, some kind of kinky homosexual Internet romance? I assure you - that's not my bag, baby! No, Vener is a 4D guy in Sterlitamak, a town tucked away in a little corner of Russia, near Ufa, by the Ural mountains. So I made arrangements to fly down there independently of the rest of my companions, to meet him and check out the scene there.
My mother, Uncle, and myself flew out of San Francisco on August 31st. My sister Amy had been on holiday in England, and she met us at the airport in Warsaw. My brother had blown most of his vacation days earlier in the year on a trip to Argentina, so he ended up spending just a week combined in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Also in Moscow, we had arranged to meet up Jack Horner, the big guy you'll see in a bunch of photos of Eastern Russia. He left Irkutsk a day before we did, taking the train to Mongolia.