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22 | AUDLEY TRAVELLER | magnificent scenery. After the noise and life of Beijing, it's a stark but tranquil contrast. When the horses do finally come down onto lower ground for food and water as the sun begins to set, the sight is simply beautiful and very moving."My accommodation for the evening is a warm and cosy ger with a wood-burning stove at its heart, which is kept well attended by Degii, my host. Although she speaks little English, she's fascinated to see an English girl travelling on her own and ensures that I am kept well fed and warm throughout my stay, even slipping in at 5am to relight the fire before I wake up. For someone who strangely does not sleep well abroad, it's one of the most peaceful and restful nights I've ever spent away from home and leaves me refreshed and ready to Holding one-fifth of the world's fresh water - more than in North America's five great lakes combined - crystal-clear Lake Baikal is a highlight of any journey along the Trans-Siberian Railway. Set against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and impenetrable Siberian woodland, the lake creates a mild microclimate around its shores, making it the perfect home for over 2,500 different species of plants and animals, over half of which are unique to the area. For those travellers who have a little more time to spend exploring Baikal, we would highly recommend a visit to Olkhon Island, the largest of the 27 islands that can be found within the lake. Summer and autumn days here are usually long and warm, and consequently life is lived at a slow pace, with locals spending their days fishing for omul and escorting visitors on tours of the island. Activities here include walking, offroad cycling, horse-riding and canoeing, making it the perfect destination for those who like to combine their relaxation with exploring the great outdoors.Lake Baikalof history. It's also almost devoid of other visitors, which makes for excellent photo opportunities as well as allowing you to walk along it untroubled but for a few persistent souvenir-sellers." MongoliaJo"After a day spent practically glued to the window and a peaceful night listening to the sounds of the train (which I boarded yesterday in Beijing), I arrive in Mongolia. Whilst Ulaan Bataar w is not the most picturesque of cities, the sights here contain a wealth of history and a certain dilapidated charm. The highlight, however, is heading into the vast steppe beyond the city for an overnight stay in a traditional ger (felt tent) and the chance to spot the world's last living prehistoric horse species, the Takhi, in Khustaii National Park."Those that have had the privilege to visit Mongolia say that they are struck by its breathtaking scenery as well as the warmth and welcome of its people - and my stay in Khustaii does not disappoint. Heading out into the rolling hills beyond my camp accommodation on horseback is a wonderful way to take in - I've also immersed myself in its history."Standing at the gates to the Forbidden City amidst the hustle and bustle of Tiananmen Square is an experience I'll never forget. If you can ignore the noise and the interested stares of the nearby Chinese tour groups and simply focus on the history that surrounds you, you will realise that you are standing at the foot of a complex that required the efforts of over a million workers to construct and subsequently played host to emperors, concubines, servants and slaves for over 500 years. By comparison, at the same time all of this was going on in China, the British royal family were celebrating the wedding of Henry V, dining off stale bread in place of plates!"I've also fulfilled a lifelong dream of standing on the Great Wall of China. We recommend a section an hour's drive outside of the city at Jinshanling and it really is well worth the journey. Here the wall is at its majestic best, stretching out over the hills and mountains beyond, restored to allow easy access but yet still ramshackle enough to convey a sense

St PetersburgIrkutskUlan UdeHarbinKazanYekaterinburgOmskNovosibirskVladivostokBEIJINGULAAN BAATARMOSCOWRUSSIACHINAMONGOLIAKAZAKHSTANNORTHKOREASOUTHKOREAUKRAINEBELARUSSWEDENNORWAYAYAFINLANDESTONIALATVIALITHUANIAPOLANDUrararlMountainsLakeBaikalSea ofAzovCaCaCspspsianBalticSeaSeSeSaVoVoVlglglagagArctititcOceanBarentsSeaYelloYelloYw SeaSea ofJapanSeaofofoOkhotststk0500 miles0805 kilometresIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII01000 miles01610 kilometresAUDLEY TRAVELLER | 23established that I was much too thin an Englishman to survive a Russian winter, she took me under her wing and over the course of the journey fed me some of the most delicious home-cooked Russian food. Although she spoke no English - and my Russian is fairly limited - we became  rm  iends for the journey. She was genuinely moved when the  me came for us to go our separate ways and I was very sad to say goodbye. "You hear a lot about how un iendly Russians can appear, but once you've cracked the exterior grumpiness with a joke or a shared glass of vodka, you'll always see the  uth of what really lies beneath - a warm,  iendly and generous people who are intensely proud of their very beau ful coun y and its long and  uly fascina ng history." Moscow John"Arriving in Moscow r at the end of the long  ack  om Beijing feels like an achievement. Standing at the heart of the ci , Red Square, surrounded by centuries of Russian history and culture feels like a   ng end to the most wonderful journey.  e ci sights really do live up to their billing. Surrounded by St Basil's and the Kremlin, it suddenly hits home that you have  avelled through - and are now standing at the heart of - one of the world's most historically and poli cally in uen al na ons.  is feeling is staggering and makes the journey in itself eminently worthwhile."GET STARTEDA 16 day tailor-made trip along the Trans-Siberian Railway, taking in Beijing, Ulaan Bataar, Lake Baikal and Moscow starts from £3,195pp. For more information , please contact our Russia specialists on 01993 838 230.board the  ain to Russia the following day. Lake BaikalJohn"One of the most beau ful examples of a small Siberian town is Listvyanka on the shores of Lake Baikal e, my des na on a er 30 hours spent  avelling over the border  om Mongolia. " is quaint town, made up of a few larger hotels and a myriad of other  ny but decora ve wooden 'gingerbread' houses, is nestled in between two pine-covered valleys and is where many Russians themselves choose to relax. "Indeed there is a legend that Lake Baikal emanates some sort of mys cal energy that will re esh the soul of even the most world-weary  aveller. Whilst I don't know if this is  ue, the en re town does have a general air of relaxed sleepiness that is highly contagious!"On board the trainJohn"I've had many wonderful  ain experiences as part of this journey but one special memory of my  me on board has been sharing a compartment with the most fantas c babushka (the a ec onate term used for a Russian grandma). Having TRANSSIBERIAN RAILWAYTo read our online guide to the Trans-Siberian Railway,which includes an interactive map, please visit: WEB PetersburgEkaterinburgIrkutskHarbinVladivostokMOSCOWULAAN BAATARBEIJINGARCTIC OCEANSEA OF OKHOTSKUral MountainsSea of AzovLake BaikalCaspian SeaVolgaKAZAKHSTANMONGOLIARUSSIACHINASIBERIA1234IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII01000 miles01610 kilometres