Precision Greetings!

First of all, here’s the link to the latest gallery:

In my last message, I mentioned there was an idea for what I would do from St. Petersburg, but I wasn’t sure it would work out. Well, of course it worked out fine, but not quite the way I had originally envisioned it.

The original idea was to take the overnight train from St. Petersburg to a place called Smolensk, which I did. It was wonderful to get to sleep on another train.

At the same time I purchased the ticket from St. Petersburg to Smolensk, I also bought a ticket to go from there to Kaliningrad on another overnight train. That’s the part that was uncertain. I asked at the train station and also looked for information online as to whether or not I would be permitted to go on this train, but what I came up with was not definitive. It appeared that a transit visa was required of non-Russian foreigners to cross Belarus by train, to get to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, but it was impossible for me to get such a visa while traveling. There were a couple of past accounts online of people having made that transit without a visa, but nothing recent. Because I really like train travel, I thought it worth a try.

In Smolensk, when my train was ready to board, I went to the car I had a ticket for. The conductor asked for my transit visa. Because I didn’t have one, she called the chief conductor. He said I couldn’t get on. When I persisted, he called for the railway police and the FSB. All of them together had quite a heated discussion, one of them arguing that I should be allowed, the others arguing against, because it would likely result in a big issue at the Belarus-Kaliningrad border, one that would come back to bite them. So, the final answer was no, I could not get on the train.

After assessing my options, amazingly I was able to hop on a train going to Moscow and from there get a flight to Kaliningrad. As it turned out, I arrived in Kaliningrad only an hour and a half after I would have arrived had I gone by train. The biggest difference was that I had not only not gotten to sleep on an overnight train, but I did not sleep at all. The sleep deprivation made the journey feel even more dream-like.

The red lines on this map show my actual route, while the blue line shows the train route I was not allowed to take:

Here’s the updated map of all my travels in Russia since early December:

Kaliningrad is yet another wonderful surprise on this trip. It’s amazing! It’s also very green and the first time for me to be totally without snow since mid-December. More on all this at some later time.

Enjoy the full moon and everything!