Dogsledding Expedition Russia 2018

2018-02-10 Innsbruck – Wien – Lviv – Kyiv – Moskva – Kostroma  –
St. Peterburg – Innsbruck  2018-03-05

In February 2018, my friend Selin and me traveled to Russia by train to take part in a dogsledding expedition.  It took place in Kostroma, where I already was three years earlier (read more about this trip here) but this time, it was organized by our friend Konstantin and his company FernWind. To keep friends and family updated, Selin and me started a Telegram-channel where we posted about our experiences. This blog is based on the channel and includes some quotes of it. Most pictures were taken by Dmitry Sharomov.

Preparations in Austria

It was Selin’s idea to go to Russia by train. “You’re crazy!” was everyone’s reaction. And at first sight, I thought so too but then I wondered why so? Why take the plane if we have the time to travel over land? It is better for the climate and also more interesting and adventurous. Selin didn’t want to go alone of course so I decided to join. She had found a night train that went via Ukraine but was not bookable online. Most other connections vent via Belarus which was not an option because that would have meant to buy an extra visa for passing(!) the country. Also, we wanted to visit Ukraine and see Lviv. It was a bit of an adventure itself to actually buy those train tickets. Selin eventually bought them at the counter in Vienna but in Innsbruck, I was told that “this train can only be booked in the call center”.  So I bought it by calling the hotline and giving them my credit card details. It worked out in the end and I got a reservation in the same compartment as Selin.

To get our visa for Russia, we sent our passports to a German travel agency that handled everything for us. When they finally came back, we were very excited.

Ukraine: Lviv

And so it begins!

11 February 2018 16:52 Husky expedition 2018
Excitement in a small train compartment

We arrived in Lviv after interrupted sleep due to passport and luggage checks in the middle of the night. We stayed at a very cheap but well-equipped, clean and new hostel close to the center. During our stay in the city, we did a Free Walking Tour and met a fellow EGEAn Olena whose company we enjoyed very much.

View over Lviv at night

Yesterday was another wonderful day in Lviv, full of beautiful old buildings, charming museums, hidden cafes, and good Ukrainian food. We got to know the city from a new angle when we joined a free walking tour. In the evening we met up with Olena again and had an amazing evening sharing stories and talking about anything and everything. 5 hours went by in a blink of an eye.
Everything is insanely cheap, we paid 12€ for two beers, two ciders, one juice, two pizzas, a bowl of popcorn and an amazing cake. Three people full and happy with 12€!

Now we safely arrived in Kyiv and are waiting for our train to Moscow. We had a great time in Ukraine and are excited to wake up in Russia tomorrow.

14 February 2018 17:01 Husky expedition 2018

Russia: Moscow

After another night in a train, this time with a lovely Ukrainian lady in our compartment, we made it to Moscow and spent one day there.

Moscow is a huge city. So many people in the metro! We visited the St. Basil’s Cathedral which is smaller than expected and the historical museum. Then we had a little adventure buying a SIM card and finding the taxi driver.
Now we are tired and happy to be sitting in a warm car. We will pick up the other participants now and then go to Kostroma to finally meet the huskies!

15 February 2018 16:21 Husky expedition 2018
It was quite cold in Moscow…


We made it! After a long odyssey picking up all the other participants from Moscow’s 3 airports, a night in a hostel and a 6 hours bus ride, we finally made it to Kostroma! The people are super nice, it’s pleasantly cold, and most important of all, we met the huskies! Now we are warming up in our hut, learn some theory and will then start practicing with the dogs 🙂 don’t worry, husky pictures will follow soon ☺️

16 February 2018 13:17 Husky expedition 2018

The expedition

After three intense days of training, we set off to our tour. Selin and I shared eight dogs who were eager to pull us through the snow. While it had been snowing in the past few days, now the weather was perfect and nature showed off its beauty.

Yesterday and today were our first expedition days. We covered 15km yesterday and twice that distance today. The weather is amazing. Pure sunshine and not too cold. We are together with a dog team of 8 and two sleds behind each other. Our dogs are strong and kind but today at the last bit they got tired and we had to tie one sled to the snowmobile to reduce our weight. Today we will sleep in a hut without running water and with the toilet outside.

22 February 2018 16:59 Husky expedition 2018

Today was a relaxed day with less distance and a lot of slow deep snow. The sun was shining and the dogs were working well. We are very proud of them!
We are sleeping in a fisherman’s hut and had ucha, a fish soup with fresh fish from the nearby Volga.

23 February 2018 18:59 Husky expedition 2018

The last two days were just breathtaking and amazing. Next to the fisherman’s hut there was a beautiful frozen river. Yesterday was a though day, we stomped through the deep snow and our dogs were pretty tired in the end, but we arrived well in our new place: an old Soviet “pioneers” camp, similar to a scouts camp 🙂 finally, showers and real beds! Dima, our photographer, shared his stories. He’s 51 years old and has been a photographer for expeditions all around the world. He was a photographer for Greenpeace on the rainbow warrior for 8 years, he went on expeditions to the Amazon, Antarctica, Mongolia, Namibian desert, there isn’t a place where he hasn’t been and hasn’t taken pictures! And he is such a kind and gentle soul. It’s really an honor to have him here with us and to hear his stories.
Today is our last day on the sled. We’re going back to the farm and have the longest distance yet before us (30-35km). But it’s hopefully going to be a smooth trip on the Wolga with less deep snow 🙂

25 February 2018 08:16 Husky expedition 2018
Snow portrait with two of our dogs, Sonja and Tim
The expedition group

We made it back to the farm and were very proud of the long distance the dogs had covered. The trip was amazing and all participants, Russian, German and Austrian came closer together as a team. We were particularly amazed by the two young Russian guides who had joined us who had started learning English about a month ago when the first FernWind expedition came. By the time we left, they were able to have a simple conversation and even made jokes in English.

We stayed in Kostroma a bit longer to reflect and plan the Husky tours for 2019 before we got on a train once again – this time going North to St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg is amazing. The city is beautiful! We love the architecture, the food is great and we met wonderful people.
Yesterday, we explored the Nevsky Prospect, went shopping in the house of books and the Hermitage museum took our breaths away.
In the evening, we spontaneously decided to visit the Mariinski Theatre to go to the opera. We arrived in our expedition outfit, rubber boots and husky perfume; but totally worth it. The performance was great and we enjoyed very much after the long time in nature and far away from cultural events like this.

3 March 2018 21:46 Husky expedition 2018

Although I’d been to St. Petersburg before, I loved to see the city again and to recognize the places I already knew. We joined a Free Walking Tour and learned a lot of new things about the history of the city and saw new and hidden places.

I took a plane back home and was very happy to have been on this trip. It was great to travel with old and new friends and share wonderful moments with them. I am looking forward to visit Russia again, maybe one time also in summer. 🙂