This is the latest update from Giorgio Vanni, a pensioner from Varese who’s travelling halfway across the world to Australia without flying.
The train ride from Moscow to his second destination, Yekaterinburg, was 32 hours long and included 27 stops.
During the journey he saw the Volga, Europe’s longest river, the lush scenery of the East European Plain and, finally, the majestic Ural Mountains.
“I adapted quickly to the rhythm of the Trans-Siberian: lining up for a shower, making tea or coffee from the famous samovar [a type of Russian urn], sharing supplies with other passengers and getting lost in our own thoughts, reading or chatting,” Vanni said.
“Occasionally we’d pass a small village with wooden houses and I’d try to capture scenes of everyday life.
“One particular scene sticks in my mind: it was only for a few seconds, but I saw a young boy and girl gazing into each other’s eyes on a path by the railway.
“It was clear they were meeting up in the forest for a romantic rendezvous.”
Upon his arrival in Yekaterinburg, Vanni witnessed the giant monument built by workers and soldiers during World War II; the statue serves to remember that, in 1941, many of the military equipment factories were moved there as the Axis Powers advanced.
It was at this time that Yekaterinburg transformed from a humble mining town into a prominent industrial centre.
The next morning, Vanni ventured to the border of Europe and Asia, situated around 17 kilometres from the city centre.
“I was surprised to find an obelisk in the middle of the woods, sent from Sondrio, in Italy,” he said.
Having returned to the city, Vanni visited the site of the 1918 Romanov executions.
The Romanov family were Russia’s second imperial dynasty and ruled from 1613 to 1917, when they were overthrown following the February Revolution.
Many family members were killed in the October Revolution of 1917, while others fled overseas, mainly to France, England and the US.
The Church on Blood was built on the execution site and commemorates the Romanov sainthood.
“It was interesting to see how strong the ties are between Russian society and the Orthodox Church,” Vanni said.
“When pro-democracy punk band Pussy Riot protested in a Moscow cathedral in 2012, they made a huge mistake: they could never have expected to get people on their side after disrupting a religious ceremony.”
That evening, Vanni participated in a friendly meeting organised by a local couchsurfing group and met some vibrant characters: Jason, who followed his heart to Russia from China and then got married, and Dimitri, who runs a school for security drivers and guards and hopes to expand his business using the internet.
Everyone had their own unique story to tell.
Vanni’s next destination is Novosibirsk, a 23-hour train ride away.
During his trip, the Italian explorer is raising funds for the non-profit organisation SOS Children’s Villages.
To find out more or donate, visit the Facebook page.