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Adventures with John & Nina – The Trip of a Lifetime

by Nina Sabin - Travel

It wasn’t long after our trip to Iran that we are off again. We would travel at least three to four times a year and our trips would last anywhere from three days (when we had a long weekend), to nine days for our Eid holiday vacation time, to our repats that lasted anywhere from 30 – 40 days.

One of the benefits of working overseas is if we didn’t use all our holiday time (or L days as it was referred to); those days would accumulate and we could use them later to be able to expand our repat vacations. We had the opportunity on one or more trips to take advantage of this policy.

We always felt like each trip was a blessing and the trip of a lifetime.

Just to give you a reference in our time at this point of living overseas in Saudi Arabia; this was our sixth repat and we had been to 31 countries and that is only after six years of living overseas.

To be able to travel three to four times a year is indescribable. Every Repat, Eid Holiday, and long weekend seemed to be just around the corner. John would spend most of his time outside of work planning for our next trip. All I can say was the experience was AMAZING!

On this repat we traveled from Saudi Arabia, to Russia where we took the Trans-Siberian Railway across the country from St. Petersburg to Moscow to Irkutsk to Ulan Ude to Mongolia and then to China where we switched railways as we traveled around China.

Being in Russia felt like a dream. As a kid growing up in the 70’s and 80’s I could remember so much political unrest between the US and Russia. Concerns about nuclear war and what that meant. So to actually be standing on the ground of Russia felt pretty surreal. Almost like a dream.

Our first stop on this journey was St. Peterburg. The buildings have so much character when you are traveling around Russia. There is so much to see in this historical city.

St. Petersburg is known as Russia’s city of canals or also referred to as the Venice of the North. We visited the world famous Hermitage and the Gardens of Pushkin. We traveled to Petrodvorets to see the spectacular palace, built by Peter the Great and famed for its avenue of fountains. Which were definitely breathtaking.

St Isaac's Cathedral, richly filled palaces and museums, wide boulevards and canals. The gilded halls of the Hermitage Museum hung with the works of Da Vinci, Rembrandt and many other great masters, and beyond the city lie the incomparable summer palaces of the tsars at Petrodvorets. Yet for all this, St. Petersburg remains one of Europe's best kept secrets.

St. Petersburg is an easy city to get around by walking. Except for further distances, the best way to get around the city was using the metro. However, everything is written in Cyrillic. We would have to figure out each stop by matching they symbols for each letter. On top of that, the name of the station would be along the inside wall as the metro train would drive by, so you would have to be able to decipher quickly to make sure if get off on the right stop. I think we had a few wrong stops, but the good news is you can hop on the next train which was only a few minutes later.

The church of the Church of Spilled Blood was our favorite sight to visit while we were in St. Petersburg. In fact, years later, when we went back to St. Petersburg via a Baltic Sea cruise, we made it a priority to see the Church of the Spilled Blood again along with a family picture in the same place as years before.

This uniquely Russian church was built over the spot beside the Gribedoyedova Canal where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated. It took 24 years, from 1883 to 1907 to build the church, which is 81 meters high. The church does not have a single painting; all icons are done in mosaic.

What truly makes this building unique and amazing is the sea green, turquoise and white towers that appear to be twirled like a triple-flavor soft ice cream cone. It is truly an impressive place to see and brings such vibrant colors to this city.

Our next city on our tour of Russia was Moscow. Getting there was an interesting experience. As I mentioned we traveled through Russia by the Siberian Railway. The adventure began with getting six people with six plus pieces of luggage through one crowded door at the train station. There was more than one door on the building, however, only one door was being used to go in. We had to fight the crowd of people to squeeze through the door and keep everyone in our party together – a pretty stressful experience.

In my previous travel blogs, I mentioned, most of our repats, my in-laws would join us for the adventures. At this point they traveled throughout Asia with us, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and now Russia. They have done close to fifteen around the world trips. So exciting!

Once settled on the train, we could relax and get a restful sleep on the overnight train from St. Petersburg to Moscow. The train cars have enough room for four people and luggage. The seats lifted up so you can put your luggage inside, as well as, there is storage for luggage next to the top bunks.

Since we were six people we had two cabins, and my in-laws would share with another couple. That was the interesting part of the trip; there were so many different people to meet.

More on our train experience in my next travel blog. Stay-tuned for the unbelievable experiences we take you through in the city of Moscow and on the Siberian Railway.

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