What it needed to!

The trip itself – without the stops in Irkutsk and Seoul, and without waiting or buffer times, which cannot be avoided for the ship passages – would take less than 40 days. But not to be underestimated is the preparation time it needs. I will be away from home approx. 70 days. I started the serious preparation mid-January 2010, which will be about 200 days before departure. The following preparations cannot be avoided:

  1. Booking the train trip Zürich–Vladivostok
  2. Booking of ship passages Korea–North American West Coast and East Coast–Europe
  3. Obtaining visas for the USA – why we need this, see below
  4. Obtaining a visa for Russia
  5. Obtaining a visa for Belarus
  6. Other preparations

Ad 1.    Booking the train trip Zürich–Vladivostok

It’s not as if you just go to the ticket counter and buy a ticket to Vladivostok. Traveling to Moscow it works still according to central European rules, such as in the SBB or the DB. East of Moscow you may get the best help of a specialist. This specialist is GLOBOTRAIN in Bern, precisely the specialists Simone Hodapp and Beatrice Illi (details see “Who helped?”) who have struggled with me and have not lost one’s nerve.

In addition, we have an unplanned stay in Moskva and a stay of three days in Irkutsk in the Baikal region, a night in Vladivostok and finally we need a ferry Vladivostok-Donghae (South Korea). All this has been booked by our specialists.

Ad 2.    Booking of ship passages Korea–North American West Coast and East Coast–Europe

The ship passages must be found and booked. Since the first booking there have been several changes, whether a ship has changed the owner or the route, or it was because I found finally that I should leave it at the end of the trip. Urs Steiner of GLOBOSHIP in Bern (see details in “Who helped?”) gave his advice competently and organized. The ship passages, especially when booked long in advance require sufficient buffer times, which although then extend the journey.

Ad 3.    Obtaining visas for the USA – why we need this, see below

I got a new biometric passport and thought that everything was settled. Forget it: I will go ashore in any U.S. port and because they are of course not equipped there like an airport, I had to have a U.S. visa, with all the trimmings.

The information about how to get a visa is available completely on the Internet, including in German (http://bern.usembassy.gov/deutsch2.html), just as an example: the passport photo must be exactly 5 cm to 5 large. Almost the only thing they do not want to know is the family tree back to the Neanderthals.

If you have an appointment – I got one about three weeks after the request by phone – and if all the material is assembled, you go to the U.S. Embassy in Bern, please not more than 15 minutes early and no bag and other luggage (around the corner there is bakery, which has specialized to herd but carried bags, but the rolls are also good). Then they check you two times just like in an airport and then the documents are examined. If they are complete, they still scan all your fingers and then you have to wait and you will be received by a friendly gentleman for a brief interview. If you have made a good impression, you get the visa a few days later sent by post. It is valid for one year.

Ad 4.    Obtaining a visa for Russia

Since I did it with simple: you must go either in person or you can make GLOBO TRAIN to get the visa for you. The documents and the forms are available from GLOBO TRAIN. This has worked out fine.

Ad 5.    Obtaining a visa for Belarus

From Belarus you can get a transit visa only if you already have a visa for Russia. Even here you get the necessary information and documents from GLOBOTRAIN. Here you can send the passport with a stamped reply envelope for registered mail, the application form and deposit slip to the embassy in Bern and get the passport including visa back within a few days. In my case also the money came back. The Belarusian embassy had since changed the payment mode and the people of GLOBOTRAIN did not know this yet. A call to the embassy and a look at their website http://www.swiss.belembassy.org/de/copy_konsyl_2731/visa/ solved this problem.

Ad 6.    Other preparations

So, there should be mentioned:

  • The passport office in the canton of Aargau just started to issue biometric passports and was, according to that what was in the newspapers, quite burdened. Yet I got an appointment by phone – the only tedious was the time until I got through there – well organized, no waiting and the pass much more quickly at my home than announced.
  • Brigitte Oertli, a former colleague at WSL, gave me tips on the ship trips, e.g. for GLOBOSHIP, but also some practical.
  • The Timetable Center in Steinen SZ (www.fahrplancenter.com) can supply the latest timetables from almost all over the world. I need e.g. that of South Korea for the connection Donghae to Seoul. Honor that I am doing this trip by train too.
  • The Internet, for example from which I could do all the planning of rail travel through North America with AMTRAK.
  • And then of course all those who supported me in making the decision, my sons, my travel-experienced sister Rosemarie, my colleagues, my superiors, who accepted my long absence, and now, just before the departure, those who tell me “a bit of envy.”

And now remain the decisions, what comes with me, what must be purchased yet, and then there is the packing.

This Post is also available up: German

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