Around The World
Anne Stang is an ARTA member who retired from her career as a Teacher Librarian twenty-five years ago! After retirement, she set her sights on world travel and has hardly slowed down since.
I’m not sure that a trip around the world had been on my mind for years and years but getting to all seven continents was. I finally accomplished all the continents in 2008 with a great trip to the Antarctic. However, when I received a brochure from the University of Saskatchewan Alumni Association two and a half years ago about a trip on the Trans Siberian railway, my latent desire surfaced, and things fell into place quite quickly.
First, I had to determine that I could afford it. It was preferable that I find a roommate to lessen the cost. I asked a few friends who also liked to travel, but none were interested or able to go at that time. So, I asked the alumni association, and they came through with an interesting woman from Toronto. The first problem was solved, so I sent my deposit.
Next came the necessity to get visas for Russia and China. Though I’d been in both countries previously, the travel agencies always worry about the visas. I had no idea what was involved. Among other things, the Russians wanted to know which countries I had visited in the last ten years, and when those visits started. I could only answer with any accuracy because I keep fairly detailed travel notes. I had visited almost thirty countries, even if some were only day stops on a cruise. The Chinese authorities wanted to know my complete educational and work history, not easy for someone in their late 70s. Both wanted to know if I would be connecting with any of their citizens. I was glad the questions were worded in such a way that I would not have to admit that my immediate ancestors had been born in Russia.
With visas secured and other arrangements completed by the travel agency, I could prepare in other ways, like reading several books about the building of the Trans Siberian railway and other travellers’ accounts of trips in Russia and Mongolia. Because of my German-Russian background, and the many books I read, I was familiar with the names of all the cities on the route – Kazan, Yekaterinburg (or Sverdlovsk), Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Ulan Ude, and Ulaan Baatar. I made a special note of Omsk since some distant relatives had been deported there during World War II.
Did the trip live up to expectations? It certainly did. The “endless steppes” reminded me of my Saskatchewan upbringing and were never boring. I finally saw the cities I had read so much about. The memorial to victims of Stalin’s oppression near Yekaterinburg had me close to tears (and still does). I took a cold dip in Lake Baikal (it was only eight degrees Celsius!). I had seldom seen stars as bright as they were in a national park in Mongolia – complete with an astronomy professor who pointed out the constellations. I tasted mare’s milk in a yurt camp. In China, I saw incredible changes since my first visit in 1983.
What’s next? If I can manage it – another train trip to a country not yet on my “completed” list, maybe even with a German travel group for a really different experience. The travel bug continues to bite.