So, it’s finally official: Everything we wanted to book for our trip to Asia this summer is booked. Flight to Moscow, hotel in the city center of Moscow, two tickets on the Transsiberian Railway – and our flight back to Germany from Tokyo.

What remains to do now is organizing the visa. We are paying a travel agency to do the largest part of the visa applications for us, as this is something we don’t want to have to deal with while still working on our Master’s theses. (The main thing we want to avoid is having to stand in line at the Russian and Chinese embassies in order to pick the visa up.) But there’s still a lot we will have to deal with on our own. Most of the formalities are easily done: filling out various forms, acquiring a proof that our health insurance also covers anything that might happen to us during overseas travel, and so on. But what we are still struggling with are the Chinese visa requirements. First, having to plan our entire trip around China beforehand was not what intended initially. But we will have to provide proof that we booked a hotel for every single night we’re staying in the country. Considering our plan to arrive in Beijing and then take trains (possible also overnight trains) to Shanghai and then working our way to Hong Kong, this might turn out to be rather complicated. Especially because the budget hotels we found so far can only be booked three months in advance. The other difficulty is having to prove we’re leaving the country again. As we thought about doing another train ride from Hong Kong to Vietnam, the train tickets would be the only proof we’re leaving the country. Problem is, while we would theoretically be able to book the train tickets, we would only be able to pick them up when already in China – which we can’t enter without the tickets as proof. Classic catch 22 situation. Let’s see how this will work out. Worst case scenario is we will have to book a flight out of China – which I still want to avoid if possible.

Learning to read Russian (so many words similar to German!)

But the anticipation for the trip is still building up gradually. Recently I’ve started to polish my language skills again for the trip. I’m doing Chinese and Japanese language tandems, and I also taught myself how to read Cyrillic. I want to at least be able to read which station we’re currently stopping at while we’re on the Transsiberian Railway. My Russian language skills are still extremely limited (Remember, I try to learn at least some words of the local language for every country I’m going to.) – but I’m already absolutely fascinated with how many words we also use in German can be found in Russian, too. I will use the time after I handed in my thesis in May for studying some more Russian. Also, I started reading a book I had standing around in my bookshelf for ages: Russka. It’s a novel which narrates the history of Russia through many little stories in a very entertaining way. It’s also a good distraction from all the scientific texts I’m currently reading for my research.

I’ve also started to buy (or receive as presents) some equipment which I hope will come in handy during the trip. But I’ll write another blog post on that some time soon. For now, we’ll mainly have to figure out that visa issue. And I will do some more reading on history and culture of the countries we’re going to, as well as look into some more languages soonish – as this, for me, is always the best part of travel preparation.