Killing fields or 10th Anniversary Chapter
In August 1998 a dream became that reality with Cordon Noir's 10th anniversary in Beijing.
The Club has grown from a membership of 3 to 300 in 10 years ! Great!
Elmar Pichorner made the
festivities in Beijing possible. 69 Cordon Noirian in a fantastic
venue, the biggest bottle of champagne ever in Beijing
and Friends ..Friends ... Friends.
Elmar (left) helps me by opening the 10th Anniversary Bottle
New Member induction and a lot of fun.. really something fantastic shows me that I achieved some thing great..Cordon Noir is grown to something very Special. a Gourmet Club under Friends or a Frienship club for peoples who like enjoyment and Caviar bzw. good Food and good companie. We made it and for sure been proud of it!
Explaining the fun of 10 years Cordon Noir to (l-r) Elmar Pichorner, Dieter Abele and Rolf Kanning
at the Beijing Swissotel in China
after that fantastic
days in Beijing with the summer palast and great wall gathering
with high light of the swiss hotel's gala dinner and final 10
course beijing duck dinner menu was all good- or better spoken
fantastic time with friends togheter.
real Spirit like here by Paolo E. Fill and Cordon Noirian Chou Chou from Beijing
showed that the Cordon Noir Spirit was real Birthday mooth
We traveled back to old Germany by Trans. Siberia Train via Mongolia-Russia-Poland and finally Germany.
Planning for this trip was done by Joachim the Chef from Singapore Mandarin Hotel , and looked really fantastic but then came this border station to Russia at a village called Naushki on the border Mongolia and South Siberia, the totally disaster time and for sure absolute disruption of my 10 anniversary happiness.
It started .....
Guards entering the train and guiding my wife and two of my friends - all Singaporean - out of the train, returning a short wile after by escorting my friends and wife with baggage out to an military jeep. Gone..............?
I don't know what
actually happen, can not understand language and what the reason
for there action was , no body know what is going on! The train
start moving and made my decision clear, I have to stay to help
my wife and the other two Cordon Noirian. When the train left,
the whole town switched the light off. I felt lonely, really
lonely in that South Siberia, no hotel, no police and no cover
for that dark night - just equipped with a hand phone which don't
work, a rolex submariner wrist watch and 4000 US dollar in my
Jeans normaly beside my passport, a light jacket and a shirt
which cover my body. The first night or better spoken first place
were I can not communicate - not communicate at all.
I felt Lost !!!!
One man - a drunken seaman at this station in Naushki was my only help, he spoke a little English , saw me at this train station. I was lucky!?!?
I showed him my wedding ring and explained by sign language that I was searching for an answer on what happened to my wife and friends. He understood and ask for some money which was no problem. Two hundred dollar bills changed the hands. He guided me over muddy roads through the pitz dark Naushki town till a momentum of scare- don't move - I stand like a stone-carving and felt that sniffing of dogs at my legs. A nearly silent word from this Russian changed the scene when light came on and a man opened a house in front of us, called the blood -guard dogs away. The two Russian talked and I believed that the discussion clarify the were about my friends, but actually just exchanged money and two bottle vodka before the door closed and that light switch folded in a spit of a second Naushki back in that same black cover. There I am in the dark with one happy Russian and two bottle of vodka. Where is my wife ...no problem...we strolled to a small forest, sitting on a young birch three in front of a little lighted door securing a army camp. Entering at night is impossible - must wait till morning - what is happened to my lovely wife Dolly and my friends ? Was that deep inside waiting for answer burning request. Terrible to be so help less like in that situation , a drunken Russian next to you , no talk, no chance. The first time that I really feeled hopeless or maybe useless I don't know. Bad.??.
After just one hour was the bottled Vodka finish and the drunken man moved with my helping hands to the other side of town - offered me a room in a girl friend apartment - nothing to say with my desperate heart... just "thank you" and sleep. Next morning wake up and 2000 US dollar missing but how can you complain in that situation, just accept what happen. Any how money is nothing compare to the feelings you have to stand -
please god don't let me break !
I not sure you may follow my writing -which is just possible now after one year that this happened- since feelings of hopelessness are so strong and in my life never experience the same before ever. The morning after awake starts with cleaning an unbelievable mess up apartment, the girl friend was wounded, seems beaten up maybe there had a discussion about US Dollar distribution? We walked down from the seven story building were the stairs was a mud walk not steps, maybe to expensive in that lost, poor, system with really missing communism -visual at all ranges!
The man purchased vodka and horrible sweet soft drink, he was drinking. We walked to the army camp side. Entered the main gate with the result of been direct kicked out. Lucky, I have seen a glimmer of my Dolly, David and Peter. Dolly only said honey and showed that sparkle, like by that first love we enjoyed 25 Years ago. I was standing outside the camp, in front of the jail door. A little satisfaction in my soul-at least there looked OK. One hour lather 3 soldiers started painting the main gate and second entrance gate with green paint. Non professional painter which I as a cook can do much better. I joined and showed the Russian army how to paint. The idealistic fun, singing karlinika and painting gave me sympathy by that soldiers who later, after finishing the job, permitted me to speak to my wife and friends. That Afternoon when I purchase food for the prisoner who despaired of water and anything to eat, finding an US$ 500 translator for the protocol and hoping and waiting for results, waiting, waiting and waiting a horrible thing . Time runs so slow when you wait! The again drunken Russian friend pushed me in a van and we drove with driver to the mountain, visiting a church were I purchased candles for his grand mother, his grand father and finally "thank you" for my wife. After two hours return to the jail -------- but no result. Tomorrow is an other day. Wait.
The Russian friend introduced me to the biggest man in town ( something like a khan or chief ) who, like he told me will be the only man able to help in releasing my wife. Dark already we meet at a forest, one candle and a few bottles of vodka, shining Russian eyes sitting around a small candle, covered by birches and seen me -that milk-able capital. I like your watch, when can I get my wife back? But i like your watch...give him the watch or your wife never come back...please you like my watch take it ... no please no but if you insist then we exchange my 1 dollar army watch with your beautiful rolex. Thanks a lot.
Two hours later that Russian meeting at the Siberian forest was over, all Russian knocked out by vodka and not movable any more. I left them and walked back that 2 kilometer to the army barracks were I found the only illuminate place closest to my wife. Just resting at the floor when a young man approached my location, asking with a handgun pointed to my head for American dollars, no way for discussions I hand a 100 dollar note over-not satisfied followed by a second note and the man disappeared with lout laughter about his new capital. At 2 am Noise at the near bushes and small birches waked my attention to full awareness. Surprising two young drunken man came with wooden fence planks still remaining huge nails and beat en my head, thanks god that that old-time Kong Foo Experience from 26 Years ago still last a little and we were fighting through the night. I loosed my hand-phone and we tree beaten each other like crazy. Help screams from my side had no effect at all, the guard just behind the fresh painted Steel door made no move for my release. The morning arrived with the first light and the two drunks gave up. A long night with a result of been bruised all over, Mosquito bitten from top to bottom ( the biggest , I ever seen ) blood at my hands and small cuts from that wooden fence planks nails. When the officer saw my condition immediately permitted me to join my wife and our two friends in jail. I was done, known one more night in this town and I would be finish, dead.
By surprise the army could now speak English and a little German, there know the business was over, no more funds or other income. He helped me out with an Officer to change
US $ 100 into Rubels for purchase a Train Ticket to Irkutsk , were I supposed meet our other four friends who left me alone in Naushki and carried my Baggage. The same 5 Star Officer guaranty that the tree prisoner would be released that same day to Ulan Batur Mongolia. Ulan Batur was for me as a German Passport holder without Visa not possible to enter. But for the rejected Singaporean no problem. Two Hours later I left at lunch time with an Russian sleeper train the Russian Border station village Naushki. Non able to sleep 63 Station and 18 Hours later I arrived in Irkutsk at the Balkan lake, dirty, damaged, without moral. hate in my eyes and heart -- entered the tourist hotel and lucky able to pay with visa card that room, looked the door and showered. Release when friends visit me 4 Hours later, safe. Survived the deepest down ever happened to me. A few days later by train to Moscow were with help of the Singapore Embassy a telephone conversation with my wife could be established and the peace entered my life again, actually not so fast but now one year later 90 % already , don't expect wonders from your body and soul.
Healing needs time! But it is the only way to feel better.
carved Signs of distress still visable in Moscow
My feelings over that volks tere in Russia was printed in Cordon Noir Winter News 1998
THE WORD FROM THE FOUNDER
I believe that every human being is good, having something good inside, is form-able to be good and I believe, believe and believe. Call me a dreamer or a blinded person; I do not think so. Maybe I am too open and believe that different people can be judged equally and actually are nearly the same, the same special being, but with that little or big personality difference. And now after 49 years, the past Russian experience has changed my mind! Maybe not all human being has this little bit of "good" inside, maybe the alcohol consumed daily by this Russian changed the human into a drunken monster, without control over himself and worst, without that very important part - feelings. People without feelings have shown me the dangerous animal instinct, not controllable and not able to see or justify good or bad. What was the reason causing this young man in South Russia such uncontrollable behavior, forgotten humanity? How come we are so shaky in our mind; how come I am so trustful of human? It must be the previous good experience. Till now, it was only good or well-spoken human in good condition that built my trust. Experience with friends from the entire world and in my mothers words believing - you will be treated like you behave - was surely till this summer my guideline, openness and trust! But now a third factor has come into my life, a second kind of human, which for sure existed the whole time, only not in my life! Luckily, not known before, otherwise Cordon Noir would not be possible.
A club like Cordon Noir is only possible as it is built by trust on human. This TRUST hopefully is returned by all the members of this super community as shown at this year participation in China! I believe Cordon Noirian are people able to build a world and be trusted, friends helpful to each other and respected plus respect giving individuals. I wish and pray from the deepest corner of my heart that I am right!
Be proud to be Cordon Noirian, been able giving fun to the world.
Singapore 10. November 1998
here is a short Summary from our Cordon Noir Web Page http://cordonnoir.com
News from the Cordon
10th Birthday Extravaganza in Beijing
69 Cordon Noirian
meet at Swissotel in Beijing
from 14th -18th August 1998
by Executive Gourmet for China Elmar Pichorner
Cordon Noirian from all the world enjoyed the Friendship build over the past decate
Fierz Deligation from Jordan , Paolo E. Fill from Bali , Richard
Monaghan Group from Malaysia , Rolf Kanning from Russia, Thomas
Kassemek Group from Germany ,
Peter Armitage Group from Australia , my Group from Singapore and the Chinese deligation, Heinz Kohler from Saudi Arabia
the Vice Chairman Dieter Abele and Elmar Pichorner
prepared an unbeatable program in and out of the hotel
Like a welcome Cocktail at the
boats on the summer palace
Gala Buffet with a marble Opera Performance at the Summer Palace Villa
the great wall
excursion with champagne at the top of an
old great wall tower and delishes picknick lunch
cordon noir at the great wall
Dinner in Emerors Dresses for that Gala Night with the largest
Bottle of champagne ever served in China , a 9 Ltr. Moet Chandon,
7 Induction , 58 pcs.
10 Year Diploma Distribution and a 20 Person Chineses Orchestra.
spectacular Caviar Brunch with Sevruga Russian , Beluga Chinese
and Norwegian Keta Caviar
The Forbidden City of the last emperror excursion
Thomas Kassemek in mao look at the forbidden city
Tritsha Drive through the oldest part of Beijing the wu tong
Followed by an Traditional Chinese Dinner at the imperial restaurant at Beihai Park
our group here Fritz, David and Peter at the Beijing Station
the whole terain of China follows the great wall, the gigantic landmark !
after this mountain , wheel change and in to the Mongolei
Dolly and myself at the Chinese Boarder / Change of wheels -see the wohle carrage is lifted up !
the first lovely Mongolian Faces
The Train rite from beijing - moscow looses fun after 3 of our friends including my wife were stopped at the russian boarder Town of Naushki, I followed them with our cordon noir $ in the pocket , handphone and my passport only.
After pay that armie , gangsters
and translaters I was nearly blanko with an inventoury of loosing
US$ 4000.00 , my handphone and my beloved Rolex watch
Joachim Textor got local just after purchase a Mongolian doghead
but neverless after three days
our friends were free , the russian Andrew after all made at
least that conection for me , money is not the most importend if
you think that our three singaporean was looked up in a cell
without water , food or toilet.
i was rubbed by drunk russian with wooden and steal wapen who try to kill me blank point for my dollarie, no help from any peoples that night - even my scream of help gave non response
from militare behind the iron door 20 cm away ( My resting place , the steps to jail )
Joachim Textor , Mamutshka , Peter Armitage and Tony Rogalski at the Lunch Purchaise
1 bread , 3 tomato , 1 cucumber , smitane , dry fish and so on...
long time ago since I fight for my survival, but tere were only the full kongfu fighting choice in that town without shelter..
next day after been sure that
our friends would be free and deportet back to mongolia
I purchased a ticket to Irkutsk witch was only 22 Hours and 61 station away!
And meet finaly the so missing other 4 cordon Noirian.
Peter Armitage farmost Tomato-cucumber sandwich
Tony Rogalski and Fritz Erhard cooking the first meal at the trans Sibiria train
we proceed to moscow - a just
three day train rite- and were welcome by cordon Noirian Sonja
who already aranged the whole three day stop to perfecktion , but first we meet the Singapore Embassador and reported that spoiling or bether spoken distroing incident at the russian boarder.
the red square with catedrale at the kremlin in Moscow
A fax from Ulan Batur gave me the satisfaction of my wifes, david cheong and peter lams safty arrival in Mongolia.
Moscow was that different russia
, good looking compared to the brokenVillages and factories we
seen the past 690 km at the train.
we slept at the art sport hotel , seen the city including kremel , armourie , local market street , huge moscow super market , metropol hotel , farmost sub train, the monastry ,1000 of broken mercedes , the zaar buildings and Chirches , the biggest cannon who never shoot and the bell who never rings.
eaten at the zaars hunting lodge , sitting on life styrgeon by enjoy caviarf , smoked sturgeon and sashlik , inducted 4 cordon noirian at a grand gala with 25 partissipating person and enjoyed the dring in executiev gourmet rolf kannings haus.
now read the story from
A Culinary journey from the Middle Kingdom over Mongolia to Siberia and Moscow
Dear Culinary friends and aficionados,
There is a saying in my mother language " Wenn einer eine Reise tut kann er was erzaehlen. " After my last journey, which was another big adventure in my life, I definitely can tell some story.
Seven other fellow colleagues were adventurous enough in joining me for a quite unique culinary expedition (emphasized a bit on all about caviar)! With the Trans Mongolian and Trans Siberian Train (which became exactly 100 years old whilst we were travelling on these trains through 7 time zones) .
The route went from Beijing over Mongolia to Irkutsk / Siberia towards Moscow and Berlin. It was a nearly 10.000 Km train ride within 11 days.
It all started in Beijing on August 14 , 1998 with a cruise on the lake at the Summer Palace and moonlight dinner with Chinese singing Pavarotti in the background ( all arranged from our good friend Elmar Pichhorner in the Swissotel ) .
We furthermore had also an Induction dinner with a Chinese acrobats for new members of the " Cordon Noir Gourmet Club " whereby 60 persons gathered from all parts of the world.
Having also enjoyed a 14 course Dinner menu at the Imperial Palace with Camel s Paw as a highlight, we had also a mythical Rickshaw ride through the old traditional part of Beijing which is called Hutongs.
Our final evening in Beijing before departing towards Gobi Desert we enjoyed in one of the best " Beijing Duck " restaurants in town. They ve
served us all kind of ways from the Duck it can be served. I think it were about 8 different courses from the Duckliver to the filled Duck kneck , Duck Soup and so on.
Than after a day and a half on the rail leaving the great wall many Kilometers of sunflowers, wheat, cornfields and dusty bustling Beijing behind us passing through the wideness of Mongolia we approached the
Station " Erlyan " ( China ).
It is there were also the Bogie changing takes place. This is quite a unique thing to watch.
The Chinese railway system operates on standard gauges ( like in Europe and North America ) .And this is 3.5 inches narrower than five foot gauge.
used in CIS and Mongolia. It was interesting to see like giant hydraulic lifts
raise the carriages and the bogies are rolled out and replaced, which took about 2 hours.
Finally we continued our ride again through the wilderness of The Gobi Dessert. As a matter of fact most of the part crossed by the railway is not desert of the sandy Saharan type but rolling grassy steppes. It is impressive for its emptiness: a very few town and just the occasional collection of yurts herds of stocky Mongolian Horses and small groups of camels or gazelles.
It was also up there in the nowhere land from where we have transmitted via e mail our first picture > one of the first Digital picture which ever has been send to Singapore and friends around the globe from that part of the world.
Joachim Textor & David Cheong / the first electgronic mobile office e mail from a train just before the Russia entry !
After another 500 km on wheels
we stopped for 30. Min in Ulan Bator. From there another 8 hours
and we reached the Border station to Russia at a village called
Naushki . By that time it was about midnight .It was a pretty
weird place in the middle of nowhere where the locals still have
a kind of own law like in the good old Wild West movies.
Mongolian Herdsman Fun
a fast rite through the Goby Desert
But for us it became reality. Here the trouble started: The Russian border guards and secret service took 3 companions with Singapore passport into custody claiming " faked passport problems ". My friend Jochen Kern who is also the husband of one of the Singaporeans decided to leave the train, to search for his wife and assist from outside the goal. This turned out to be not such a good idea as while outside the jail at the first night he where beaten and robbed of from his handy and Rolex from drunken vodka bodies and was bashed with fence palings. No help from the warders.
In the meantime the remaining 4
of us continued on the train for another 18 hours to Irkutsk /
Siberia.( which is the second biggest city in Siberia with a
population of 650.000 habitants ) .
David at one of the Mongolian station
It is here in the vicinity where the local Butyat and Tungus tribes of Siberia settled already many thousands of years earlier before later in 1652 it was founded as a military outpost which was followed by Cossacks and even many exiled nobles from Western Russia.
Tea caravans from China passed through, fur-traders sold their pelts here and the town quickly developed even more in the early 1800s, with the discovery of gold in the area into a cosmopolitan city ( the Paris of Siberia > it was also called ! ? ) .
About 500 km from Irkutsk lies also one of the largest dams in the world. The enormous hydro electric power station at Bratsk.
We had then 2 nights booked
homestay in a small tiny village called Listvyanka located direct
at the Lake Baikal about 70 km south of Irkutsk. It was a kind of
relief for all of us after the past few days on the train
enjoying a natural kind of shower and a real Siberian Sauna with
a blooming pure nature around us.
Fritz cooking a fantastic Sibirian Mushroom stew with Swiss Roesti
at the Trans Sibiria Train
The Lake Baikal world s deepest lake with 1637 m. Located at the Selanga Delta. 6oo km long and up to 90 km wide. It is estimated to contain more than 20 % of the world s fresh water supplies. If all the rest of the world s drinking water ran out tomorrow, Lake Baikal could supply the entire
Population of the planet for the next 40 years .It is completely safe to drink owing to the filtering action of numerous types of sponge, algae and mosses which live its depths, along with hundreds of other species found nowhere else. Another thing, which was also to hear of, is a tiny unique Baikal fish the " golomyanka " composed almost entirely of transparent fat, and lives at depths up to 1.5 km.
If mankind hold it in his hand, the fish is melting away within minutes and leaves only the bone carcass behind!
The Lake is also mostly frozen from December to Mai and the traffic is re scheduled than as a short cut over the frozen Lake.
Having BBQ style and Freshly smoked Omul (which is a kind of Salmon trout and only available at the Baikal Lake) and its own caviar as well for a Dinner picnic in a Siberian wooden holiday house located direct at the Lake with typical other Russian specialties like Bortsch , Pelminies and Phiroskies and for Dessert even handpicked wild strawberries and raspberries from behind the garden > macerated with a lot of vodka and topped with home made smetana was definitely an unforgettable evening under the thousands of stars > which I have not seen in any of my earlier endeavors travelling through more than 100 countries in the past. Truly to say just assume.
Our newly found friends in Siberia made sure that we were also not running out of Drinks which was of course Russian Vodka, local Beer, Crimes Sparkling Wine and Moldavian Red Wine.
We visited also the Eco -
Limnolocical museum and learned about the history of the Lake and
its nature around.
a typical view of a Town we passed through Russia
tons of iron garbage !
The day before we were due to continue to Moscow our friend Jochen arrived by local train in a not good conditional shape, but we were terribly relieved to see him even so when I ve seen his dozens of mosquito bits (which had apparently the size nearly like butterflies.)
He informed us that the Singaporeans were deported back to Mongolia and were safe and that they would fly back to Singapore as soon as the flights are available. (We later heard that this took 6 days.)
After we had brought by now 3800 km behind us, we continued from Irkutsk for another 3 days (and 5191 Km) now on the best train called " The Baikal " first class towards Moscow . Again we were passing by 100 and 100 for miles on mainly Birch Trees and young Pine wood through the wideness of the Taiga and Tundra.
Passing by at towns and cities like well-known Ekaterinburg located on the eastern slope of the Ural Mountains. It is the Birthplace of Boris Jelzin and was founded in 1721 by Tsar Peter 1. The Great Siberian Highway is also passing through. Also it was in this city where the later Czar family were murdered in 1912.
Another 1000 km further towards Moscow we passed the white stone Obelisk just beside the railway. It is the Europe Asian Border.
Than 289 km before arrival in Moscow we were crossing the longest river in Europe the Volga River .The River is about 1 km wide at this point and flows down to the Caspian Sea.
Finally we reached Moscow Yaroslavski station were we had another few days of interest .Our guide took us to the Kremlin and in The Armoury museum which hold many jewels, gifts, carriages, coronations gowns of the Tsars as well a enigmatic Faberge collection. It was the best I have ever seen. Moscow is beautiful but truly a mess. We saw line ups at antique stores where people wanted to buy to protect their rubles.
Shops were deserted and no one wanted credit cards or Traveler checks, as they were afraid the banks (if they were open) would honor them. Also saw the red square, strolled around in the Arbat street, 2 Art Deco metro stations, the Art gallery and a couple of Cathedrals and monasteries.
We went also to an amazing extraordinary restaurant with a glass floor under which young sturgeons was swimming. Had there a interesting Luncheon with 4 types of caviar and sturgeon shaslick.
Furthermore we also had another " Cordon Noir " formal induction Dinner in the Renaissance Penta Hotel.
Finally we departure towards Berlin another 1873 km. Whilst we were crossing the Bellarus / Poland Border our two Australian passport holders encountered some difficulties with the polish border guards. Apparently they needed some Transit visa for Poland which they did not have, because the travel agent told them no need. Anyhow, They were again taken out of the train and send back to Russia for application purposes. (Where they were also send for 1 day in custody).
Last but not least after our 10.000 km trip behind us and more than 60 train stops by an average speed of 69 km, we finally reached Berlin with 3 persons remaining out of 8 as of the adventurous starting point in the middle kingdom. And it was a real relief for all 3 of us to can say back in a normal reality life
From there I continued my journey to my last stop over to the cosmopolitan city of Paris where I have stayed for another three days and enjoyed a few
great meals in top notch Bistros and at the raved Allan Duchasse Restaurant.
Also visited early in the morning the Rungis market as well have got the possibility to see the Astara caviar food laboratory (which is one of the biggest one in Europe) where I had an interesting tasting which included even the just freshly arrived catch of the Iranian Albino " Golden Caviar " where the tin of 1. 6 Kg in this season is selling for more than 10.000.U.S. Dollar.
From there I made my final flight back to Singapore.
September 19, 1998
(The writer of this story was also the organizer for this culinary expedition and can be reached via e mail > firstname.lastname@example.org for further questions pictures or inquiries).
the Colum which devide Asia from Europe
and a summary from
To my Friends
Have just had the biggest adventure of my life. Great time in PEK with
tons of caviar. Started with moonlight dinner and cruise on the lake at
the Summer Palace with Chinese singing Pavaroti. Induction dinner for new
members with Chinese acrobats at Swiss Hotel. Rickshaw ride through the
Hutongs and dinner at Imperial Palace etc. On Wed 19, 8 of us set of for
the big ride to Moscow. After a day and a half travelling through the
Gobi Desert we reached the Mongolia/Siberia border at a town called
Naushki. Here the the trouble started!! The Russian border guards took 3
Singaporians into custody claiming "passport problems". The husband of
one of the Singaporians - a German National -decided to leave the train
to be with his wife and assist from outside the gaol. This turn out to be
not such a good idea as while outside the gaol he was robbed of $US3000,
his cellphone and Rolex and was bashed with fence pailings. No help from
the warders. In the meantime the 4 of us continued on the train for
another 18 hours to Irkutsk. At Irkutsk I telephoned the Singapore
Embassy in Moscow and alerted them to "an International Incident" for
which they were grateful but may have been the start of my problem. We
stayed at Irkutsk for 3 nights as planned and swam in Lake Baikal and
generally had a good time. The day before we were due to continue to
Moscow our German friend arrived by local train from Naushki in a really
bad state but we were terribly relieved to see him. We had also alerted
our friends in Moscow who were at the Moscow station to meet us with news
that the Singapore Ambassador wanted to see the German and myself
immediately. (Back a bit) After our friends had been taken at Naushki I
had sat down with the other 3 guys and written a cronological list of how
we each remembered the incident. I gave the ambassador a copy and he
informed us that the Singaporians were deported to Mongolia and were safe
and that they would fly to Singapore as soon as flights were available -
we since heard that this took 5 days. He also informed us that he wished
us to give this occurrence wide publicity and that the Singapore Prime
Minister may cancell a planned visit to Moscow. My friend Tony Rogalsky
left Moscow for Italy so now we were 4. Our guide took us to the Kremlin
and The Armoury which holds many jewels, gifts, carriages,coronation
gowns of the Tsars as well as 10 faberge eggs. It was the best I have
ever seen. Moscow is beautiful but truely a mess. We saw line ups at
antique stores where people wanted to buy to protect their roubles. Shops
were deserted and no-one wanted credit cards as their were afraid the
banks would not honour them. Also saw Red Square, 2 Art Deco metro
stations, the Art Gallery and a couple of cathederals. Went to an amazing
restaurant with a glass floor under which sturgeon were swimming. It had
an Italian chef and we ate 3 types of caviar and sturgeon shaslick. Had a
formal induction dinner on Sat for new Moscow members at the Penta Hotel.
Left Moscow on Sunday morning enroute to Berlin. At about 1AM we reached
the Bellarus/Poland border. The Russian border guards took my Russian
Visa and the train proceeded about 2kms to the Polish guards. On
inspection of my passport they requested that I collect my baggage and
alight the train. ( Then there were 3 ) There was also another young guy
from Adelaide who had the same request. So there we are 2 lonely
Australians on the pitch black platform not being able to communicate ( a
guy on the train had interpreted previously) surrounded by guards with
side arms and machine guns. We were escorted to a holding cell for about
30 mins then put on a train back to Bellarus with a guard holding our
passports. We were then given our passports and our Russian visas. By
means of sign language and part English, French, Spanish, German,Polish
and Russian we gathered that we had to attend the Polish Embassy in Brest
to obtain a transit visa. Not an easy ask at 4.30 am on a station full of
drunks. I think we were reasonably conspicuous - maybe because we were
sober - and a middle aged woman sort of understood what we wanted and
changed some $US for me, grabbed a taxi and drove us to the Embassy. She
wanted to ring the bell but I disuaded her as I presumed that an
Ambassador awoken at 5am would not help our plight. Anyway from the dark
an Embassy guard appeared. There was much discussion and the numbers 9-12
were written down. I then made "head on pillow" signs and she took us to
the Intourist Hotel. Asleep at 5.50 and awake at 6.55. We arrived at the
Embassy at 9am but only allowed inside at 11.45 which delay made us quite
nervous. Certain cash changed hands and we had our visas by 1pm. We then
made our way to the station to await the 2am train and purchase our
tickets. You might think that we were a tad early!! but to get a ticket
and work out a station that had 2 platforms No,1 we only had just enough
time. Arrived safely in Berlin met up with the German guy previously
mentioned who was most relieved to see me then took the next plane out.
And here I am in London - What an adventure!!???
In spite of all this I want to thank you for the adventure and all the
fun. Your support and friendship mean a lot to me as I truely believe we
are kindred spirits of the 1st. degree.
I will write about Fritz's lunch, the glass floor and my day in custody
when I am a little bit more settled.
Hope your house was OK in Berlin and that you are safely back in Singapore.
Best regards in adversity and fun p.
Joachims exact travel data
through Russia by Trans Mongolia Train
finaly we made it to Berlin / the Brandenburg Gate !
Joachim Textor complied Travel plan
Departure Beijing on
August 19 , 1998
Arrival in Berlin August 31 , 1998
Leaving the middle kingdom towards our mythical adventurous journey trough Mongolia and Siberia.
Km 0 : Beijing
Km 53 : Nankou
Km 70 : Qinglongqiao
After passing through a few tunnels you can see a few wild marijuana plants which flourish near the tracks in this area.
Km : 193 Zhangjiakou
Founded 2000 years ago , this city used to be known by its Mongolian name Kalgan ( meaning gate of frontier ). It stands at the point where the old caravan route between Peking and Russia crossed the Great Wall.
It is today an industrial city with more than one million people .
Km : 371 Datong
Datong is a major coal mining and rail center that manufactures railroad equipment , agricultural machinery , cement , processed food and wine.
Wheat , sesame , millet , soybeans , corn , tobacco and peanuts are grown .
The nearby Yunkang caves are famous for Buddhist art carved into a hillside.It is the second biggest city in the Shanxi province in the northern China. Whereby it is also the largest producer in cotton. It has also titanium and vanadium deposit. Since ancient times , Shanxi has held a strategic location between China and the Mongolian and central steppes. It came under Japanese occupation during the Sino Japanese war of 1937 45
Population 32.000 people.
Km : 498 Jining
The bulky white station buildings here has also at the side some extensive steam engines in good condition.Travelling due to the south the train leaves the province of Inner Mongolia and enters Shanxi Province.
Km : 842 Erlyan
Passport control and changing of the Bogies by a giant hydraulic lift , which might take up to 4 6 hours .
Km : 1113 Dzamyn Ude ( until the border to Russia Sukhbataar )
Mongolian Border Town
Km : 876 Sayn Shand
This is the largest town between the capital and Dzamyn Ude on the southern border. Main industries here include food processing and coal mining. Inner Mongolia > capital is Hohpot , which is the leading industrial centre of Baotou.
Just for Info : The country is divided into 18 districts.And the railway line is passing through 3 of these ( Selanga , Tov and Dornogov ) .
The Gobi Desert :
This vast wilderness extends for 1000 km north to south and 2400 km west to east. Most of the part crossed by the railway is not desert of the sandy Saharan type but rolling grassy steppes. It is impressive for its emptiness :
Very few towns and just the occasional collection of yurts , herds of stocky Mongolian horses and small groups of camels or gazelles.
There are large reserves of coal , copper , gold ,uranium and other valuable exports. It s estimated that up to 10 billion tons of coal exist beneath the Gobi.
Km : 649 Choyr
Just behind the station is a statue of Mongolian cosmonaut VVT Ertvuntz .
Crossing wide open grassland with only the occasional yurt to break the monotony, the line begins to descend into the valley where Ulan Bator is situated.
Km : 404 Ulan Bator ( means Red Hero in Mongolian language )
Population 2.4 million people. It became independent from China in 1921. Formerly also known as Urga ( founded 1649 ) . After World War 2 the city expanded greatly. > Largely with the help and aid of the previous USSR.
Almost 90 % is either pasture ( Weideland ) or desert. Located 1310 meters above sea level.
The Train Line between Ulan Bator and Beijing was begun in 1953 with a mixed work force of Russians , Mongolians and Chinese. By the beginning of 1956 the work was completed and a regular rail service began between Ulan Ude and Beijing.
Km : 123 Darhan
Founded in 1961 and is now the second most important industrial center
Km : 21 Sukhbaatar
18.000 Inhabitants , situated at the confluence of the Selanga and Orhon Rivers.
At this Mongolian border town the immigration process might still be a fairly nerve racking affair. Whole compartments are sometime rigorously searched .
Kyahta and Ulan Ude :
The Russian port town of Ulan Ude is located at the Uda and Selanga rivers
In southern Siberia. It is a major freight and passenger stop for the longest train route in the world.
Founded in 1666 as winter quarters for the Cossacks , it grew in importance following the construction of the railroad in the late 19th century.
Info about Siberia :
From 1891 1904 settlers in Siberia were mainly criminals and political refugees.
Did you know ? Siberia has the largest temperature on the earth > winter as
low as 68 C and summer up to 37 C . ( We were lucky , whilst we stayed at the Lake Baikal / in Listvianka August 21 24 , 1998 we had 30 C. , and I even catched a sun burn. ) . no joke
Several rare animals live in the proximity of Siberia. Like > Hazel Grouse , Lemmings ( Biber ) , Pine marten squirrels , snow owl , musk deer , Wolverine ( weasel family ) weighting up to 20 Kg and capable of bringing down a reindeer .
From here it is until Moscow Km : 5895
Km : 5895 Naushki ( Russian Border )
The border is marked by a menacing looking electrified fence , about five kilometers beyond the Russian border post. The train may stop for 2 4 hours for custom officials > visa and currency declaration forms.
Most trains are time tabled to cross this border at night , which is unfortunate since the landscape is attractive.
For further info and Happenings whilst we were passing this place in the middle of nowhere look in the column 3 Singaporeans jailed in Naushki .
Km : 5312 Slyudyanka
Pop 20.000. The station is only about 500 m from the Lake Baikal. From here the train runs along the shore of Lake Baikal about 94 km .
Also it starts here that people are selling you fresh smoked Omul Salmon or boiled potatoes , raspberries etc. between the short stops at the stations.
Km : 5185 Irkutsk / Siberia
Population : 650000
Irkutsk was found in the 16. century as Cossack outpost . It is located at the Siberian Taiga. 65 km away from the Lake Baikal .( Also once known as the Paris of Siberia !? whereby I have my doubts. ) Is near the mouth of Angara River at Lake Baikal > which is estimated that the lake contains about one fifth of the earth fresh surface water. ) It is 1667 m deep 650 km long and up to 90 km in the width. All rivers together in the world would require one year to fill it up ! It is frozen mostly between January Mai . At that time the ice crust gets as thick as 8 10 m .And the traffic is relocated over the Lake !
Nowhere else the Omul salmon are found in the world. Animals like Bears , Elks , Lynx and sables Zobel are still found in the surrounding forests.
Irkutsk is also known for it s wooden houses. Furthermore it has a beautiful newly painted Railway station.
A small village at the Lake Baikal called Listvianka
Beautifully located and so natural. There is a small church which is also visited from a lot of young people with families on Saturdays and Sundays.
A few kilometers behind the outskirt of Listvianka the mainstreet also ends.
The only way to get along further up the Lake is in renting a small Boat. To get once around the Lake it takes 7 days. There are even small islands located within the Lake where animals are still living.
The Limnological Museum is worth a visit too.
History: The Huns moved into the region south of Lake Baikal in the third century BC where the Buryats , their descendants , now life .Their move west continued slowly over the next five centuries when their infamous leader Attila , the " Scourge of God "
Having pillaged his way across Europe reached Paris where he was defeated in 452 AD.
Km : 5178 Irkutsk Sortirovka
The Tsar stopped here on his tour of Siberia in 1891
Km : 5160 Angarsk
Pop.268.000 , although primarily an industrial city. Oil is pumped here by pipeline from West Siberian ,Tatarstan and Basikir oil fields. This pipeline can also occasionally be spotted running beside the railway.
The city has a river port and from here hydrofoils travel downstream to Bratsk. Ferries also run between Irkutsk and Angarask.
Km: 5124 Usole Sibirskoe
Pop. 106.900 This city , sitting on the left bank of the Angara River , is the salt capital of Siberia.
Km: 5027 Kutulik
Ust Orda Buryats are still related the Buryats of the Lake Baikal and even to the Mongolians.Popular in the summer for wrestling.
Km: 4940 Zima
Zima means winter , and this was a place of exile at the beginning of the 19th century for members of the sectarian sect.
Km: 4875 Kuytun
There are cold springs in the area.
Tulun sits at the road junction of the M 55 Moskow Irkutsk Highway
Km: 4680 Nizhneudinsk
Here we have reached about the half-way point between Moscow and Vladivostok
Km: 4516 Taiset
The Train snakes around the foothill s of the Eastern Sayan Mountains. This place is also famous in Soviet Gulag literature. It was also a transit camp for Stalin area prisoners heading east
Km: 4375 Ilanskaya
The site of the town was selected in 1734 by the Dutch born Russian naval explorer V Bering (of Bering Straits fame ) during the second Kamchatski Expedition to explore the coast of America.
It is also here the next 600 km where is one of the biggest Logs area. This section of the line is very scenic as the train is constantly climbing and descending as it crosses numerous rivers and deep ravines.
Km: 4343 Kansk Yeniseiski
Evenki National Okrug > About nine hundred kilometers due north of here
Lies the town of Tura , the capital of the Evenki National Okrug.745,000 square Km of permanently frozen land , specially reserved for the indigenous population. The Evenkis belong to the Tungus group of people , and they were originally nomadic herders and hunters. After the Buryats
And the Yakuts , they form the next largest ethnic group in Siberia but they are scattered into small groups.They used to live in wigwams or tents and survived off berries and reindeer meat ( a great delicacy being the raw marrow sucked straight from the bone , preferably while it was still warm ) .
They discovered the Christianity fitted in well with their own Shamanistic religion and worshipped St. Nicholas as a deputy to the Master Spirit of the Underworld. After the revolution they were organized into collective farms and although most of the population is now settled ,there are still some reindeer herders in the extreme north of the region.
Km : 4272 Zaozernaya
There is a big space center around in the vicinity , as well huge open cut coal mine at the track.
Km : 4126 Yenisei River
The train crosses the great river that bisects Siberia. The Yenisei ( meaning wide water ) rises in Mongolia and flows into the Arctic Ocean 5200 km north of its source.
The bridge , which is almost a kilometer in length , dates back from the 1890s and had to be built on heavy granite piers to withstand the huge icebergs which steamroller their way down the river for a few weeks each year. The cement was shipped from St. Petersburg,the steel bearings from Warsaw.
Km: 4098 Krasnoyarsk
This major industrial city was founded in 1628 beside the Yenisei river / Siberia as a cossack fortress .Many years ago Gold has been discovered there. Population of 748.000 people. The city has shipyards , a huge hydroelectric facility , chemicals ,forest products, aluminum, cement and textiles.
Km : 3932 33 Half way point on the line from Moscow to Beijing ( via Mongolia ). There s a white Obelisk to mark it on the south side of the line but it is difficult to see.
Km: 3917 Achinsk
Pop 122.00 ,There is a giant aluminum production complex.
Km: 3849 Bogotol
This railway town has a museum in its locomotive depot .The town was founded in 1893 as a station on the Trans-Siberian.
Km: 3715 Mariinsk
Between 1828 to 1917 , more than 50 tons of gold were extracted from the region. The town was renamed Mariinsk in 1857 after the German wife of Tsar Alexander 2 , Maria Alexandrovna.
Km: 3602 Anzherskaya
Just an ugly coal mining town , which contains a massive 600 billion tons of high quality low sulphur coal.
Km : 3565 Taiga
It is located 79 km in the vicinity of Tomsk.In 1993 , a radioactive waste reprocessing plant blew up contaminating an area of 120 square km.
Km: 3335 Novosibirsk
Pop. 1.600.000 is also the capital of Western Siberia with its largest station , an impressive green , glass vaulted building that took from 1929 1941 to complete .It is also close to the " Ob " Irtysh river , which is one of the largest river system > together 5410 km ( from western China through Siberia to the Arctic ocean) . The fourth longest river is the Volga ( longest in Europe with 3690 Km) .
Manufactures include mining equipment , turbines , textiles , chemicals and heavy machine tools.
Km: 3332 The Great Ob River Bridge
Km: 3035 Barabinsk
Pop. 34.000 founded at the end of the 19th century
Km: 2880 Tatarskaya
For the next 600 km the train runs through the inhospitable Baraba Steppe
This vast expanse of greenish plains is dotted with shallow lakes and ponds , and coarse reeds and sedge grass conceal swamps ,peat bogs and rare patches of firm ground .Here you also see clumps of birches and aspen trees , that are spaced several kilometers or more apart.
In spring , this place is hell as the air is grey with clouds of gnats and mosquitos. The Baraba Steppe is also a vast breeding ground for ducks and geese and every year hunters bag about five millions birds from here. Below the steppes is an enormous natural reservoir of hot water, a geothermal energy supply that is currently being investigated.
Km: 2712 Omsk
It was found in 1716 as a Russian Fortress.
Pop.1.169.000, located in the western Siberian Lowland .Manufactures include processed grain , refined petroleum , forest products , agricultural machinery and textiles.
Km: 2565 Nazyvaevskaya
This area is famous for its agriculture.
Km: 2520 Omskaya
The main crops here is spring wheat , flax and sunflowers .This area has been an important butter producing region since the nine-teenth century , when butter was exported to as far away as Turkey and Germany.
Km: 2431 Ishim
North of Ishim lies the city of Tobolosk ,one of the oldest settlements
Km: 2140 Tyumen
Tyumen is the oldest town in Siberia , founded in 1586. It was build on the banks of the Tura River , the site of the former Tatar town of Chingi Tura , to date back to the fourteenth century.
Today it is a booming oil capital of western Siberia.By 1900 , over one million convicts had tramped through Tyumen. The greatest treasure to be transferred from Moscow to Tyumen during this time was Lenin s corpse.For years he rested secretly in a building of the Agricultural Institute , tended by a team of specialists.
Km: 2078 Siberia
Siberia begins here ( ends here , for those going west ).The border between Sverdlovskaya and Tyumenskaya Oblasts is the frontier between Siberia and the Urals.
Km: 1813 Ekaterinburg
Birth place of Boris Yeltsin
Located on the eastern slope of Ural mountains in a mineral - rich region .Pop 1.370.000 , The train halts in the largest city in the Urals , for a change of engine. It is also a major industrial center for chemicals , platinum copper and iron smelters. The city was founded in 1721 by Czar Peter 1 as an ironworking center and was named Ekaterinburg for his wife , who was later proclaimed Empress Catherine 1. The Great Siberian Highway is also passing through.
The later Czar family were murdered there too.
Km: 1777 Europe Asia Border Obelsik
Here at Km 1777 you can see a Obelisk were Europe starts and Asia ends.
Km: 1433 Perm
Formerly Molotov , is the capital of Perm, Oblast. Located in the region which is rich in mineral resources , the city is an important industrial and transportation center that manufactures chemicals. It
has today a population of 850.000 people.
Km: 1431 Kama River
The mighty Kama River flows over 2000 km from the Urals into the Volga and is one of the great waterways of the CIS.
Km: 1309 Chaikovskaya
This station is named after the composer Peter Tchaikovsky ( 1840 1893 )who was born about 180 km southeast of here at a factory settlement around the Kamsko Votkinsk industrial plant.
Km : 1190 Balyezino
You can see many market gardens set in this rolling , open countryside.
Km : 957 Kirov / Vyatka
It was already founded in 1181 on the banks of the Vyatka River.
Km : 700 Sharya
This town is the biggest timber center in the region. ( pop. 26.900 ) .
Km : 450 Bui
There is nothing of interest in this industrial town, specializing in cheese, flax and mineral fertilizers.
Km : 357 Danilov
This town is a railway junction.
Km : 289 Volga River
Here we are passing by the longest river in Europe with 3700 km which flows down to the Caspian sea.
Km : 284 Yaroslavl
Pop. 637.000 . Yaroslavl was founded in 1010 by the Christian King Yaroslavl the Wise .Many of the ancient cathedrals still stand here in the vicinity.
Km : 224 Rostov Yaroslavski
Also here a few Monasteries can be found.
It is also called the golden ring. Because it is Russia s most famous historical region. It was from this area that the mighty Russian state was born.
Km : 73 Sergiev Posad
Here are the stunning sights of the blue and gold domes of the cathedrals of Sergiev Posad.
Km : 0 Moscow
Arriving in Yaroslavski Station ( one of nine other stations in the city ) .
Pop. 9.2 Mill.
All Facts and relevant information about this trip has been compiled by
Joachim Textor including this power point presentation
Some Historical Photos
just click at Year
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