Category Archives: train travel

Notes from a Journal…Arriving in China

Friday 18th October

“Waking up in China to a densely built up landscape. Gone are the forests of Siberia and the golden plains of Mongolia. It is autumn again, time goes backwards and we briefly travel through more familiar pine forests and woodland. Auburn leaves cling stubbornly to branches. It is rocky and flat alternately. There is evidence of agriculture with ploughed fields, the first since Siberia. The view is changing much more quickly now. Inhabited to wild, agriculture to city scape. House construction is different, older properties with tiled roofs. Evidence of man is more frequent here…”

It felt like I’d been cocooned by the train, my home for a full 7 days and nights of the three week journey. I have come to the end of my Trans Siberian/Trans Mongolian train journey. Nearly three weeks after leaving Moscow I am about to arrive in Beijing, leaving my new family behind as we all take our own paths onwards…

Bexhill to Bexhill

Last morning on the Trans Mongolian train, dawn slowly brings China into view, Louise Kenward (2013)

Bexhill to Bexhill

My view has been framed in this way for such a long time, I will miss the train. Louise Kenward (2013)

Bexhill to Bexhill

Arriving in China, Louise Kenward (2013)


Arriving at Split by ferry was such a great way to start my journey through Croatia. The sun had only just come up as I left the boat, so I missed the view of the beautiful Dalmation coastline but it was a great start to the day. A huge ship, travelling from Ancona in Italy, there was only a couple of dozen of us on it. It seemed a little excessive but I was grateful it was still running. Many have stopped at this time of year. My next mission to find the train station was not difficult, I crossed the road, it was not much further than that, stumbled upon as I made my way towards the city centre. Train tickets through Croatia cannot be bought online so with great relief I finally was able to arrange my trip to Budapest, with an unexpected afternoon in Zagreb as there are no night trains currently. This has now stripped my time in Budapest back so far I have only one day there. The journey during the daytime will give me chance to see much more of the countryside though.

Bexhill to Bexhill

Split, Louise Kenward 2014

Bexhill to Bexhill

Advent celebrations in Split, Louise Kenward 2014

A UNESCO heritage city, Split is (as you might expect) beautiful. The old town, the palace, is a maze of narrow paved streets with towering walls filled with peoples homes, shops, restaurants and cafes. Interspersed with squares where advent is in full swing, with Christmas lights, decorations, music and market stalls. The Riva (waterfront) is filled with people visiting the Christmas markets and enjoying drinks overlooking the harbour. The water is so still it is the ‘wateriest’ water I have seen. At dusk the lights skip across the ripples like a three dimensional impressionist painting.

Bexhill to Bexhill

Split waterfront, Riva (Louise Kenward, 2014)

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Split sunset, Louise Kenward (2014)

Of my three days here, I spent a morning in Trogir, another UNESCO heritage site, another town filled with tiny streets and tall walls of shutters and terraces. Bridges link the town across the water that surrounds. I would have loved to take the ferry back to Split, but the trouble with travelling in low season is that many things like this are closed. The coastline is pretty and there is chance to island hop in the warmer months. I shall have to make do with my views from climbing the hill at Split for now.

Bexhill to Bexhill

From the top of the hill, overlooking Split (Louise Kenward, 2014)

The sun has been an unexpected welcome addition to my few days here, with the introduction of the ‘Bora’ I have enjoyed blue skies and sunshine. The ‘Bora’ is the cold north wind that is said to make people a little crazy…there is apparently a law in Dubrovnik that renders people only 50% culpable of any criminal act during the Bora! I am still not 100% certain Lana is not pulling my leg.

Leaving Split I must be still half asleep on the train, having dozed off I wake to thick white fog and dustings of snow on the trees. I feel I am still dreaming, it is a fairytale land of almost monochrome. I can see nothing else but more of the same. Travelling out along the coastline and up through mountains we have gone from island views and seaside beauty to rocky barren splendour into a wilderness of winter wonder. The journey has been worth the 200 kuna for the sightseeing alone, a beautiful journey. Most of the trip lacking any evidence of dirty industry or paths of human existence in many places at all. We stop occasionally at apparently abandoned train stations where occasionally someone gets on or off, each promptly manned by smartly dressed attendants in red peaked caps.

Bexhill to Bexhill

Split to Zagreb train journey, Louise Kenward 2014

It more than makes up for the lack of refreshments available which has meant I’ve broken into one of my trays of sweets for taking home…

Bexhill to Bexhill

Split to Zagreb train journey, Louise Kenward 2014

Italy residency.

Eight artists and 7 days in Corigliano D’Otranto finished on Tuesday. I arrived by train, taking 7 days to reach the south of Italy, through Paris, Turin and Venice, the route of the Orient Express. Then on to Bologna to catch the night train to Lecce and finally Corigliano.

I met the rest of the Navigato artists last Tuesday, a sunny day on the ‘heel’ of the country. All of us connected by Bexhill and the De La Warr Pavilion who supported the project. A meal far too big for any of us to get through kicked off proceedings and set the standard for the trip.

Seven days later and there have been performances, dinners, drinks, processions, work made, work hung, work seen and dismantled again. Trips to surrounding areas have been made and dips for the brave in the Adriatic. Gelato, pastries and coffee have been consumed in varying quantities. New friends have been made.

I have been shown lace making by Joanna and great warmth and kindness by many other local people. In return I ran workshops with the lovely Penny, where we talked about stones, walls and castles. Local school children received us warmly and produced some wonderful work.

I have a few more days in Italy and then head to Croatia. A long and winding train journey through Europe to meet Christiana in Vienna for the Christmas markets.


Rosa, Giuseppe, Penny, Francis and me (and another lady who’s name sadly escapes me, who makes lace) on our visit to the ‘mission’ in Corigliano.

P1240934.JPGWorkshops at the school, Louise Kenward (2014)

IMG_1560.JPGMaking work, a wall of contemplation, close to the station where I spent many hours… (Louise Kenward, 2014)


Workshops held at the school, Corigliano with support from the wonderful Anna. Run in collaboration with Penny (Louise Kenward, 2014)



Dolce, Louise Kenward (2014)

P1250058.JPGCorigliano, Louise Kenward 2014


Moscow, Sunday 6th October

“Arrived 7.55am on sleeper train from St Petersburg, leaving at 23.55 last night.

It felt a one time luxurious cabin with cream and red curtains of swags and tails at the window and a vase of artificial yellow roses on the table. It had seen better days, but more than hinted at how train travel had been regarded. We were given glasses in ornate silver metal holders filled with hot water on request. Although soon discover they are not for lingering with as disgruntled staff take them back again.

I share this cabin with Leah, Shenny and Cynthia. Two bunks above and two below. Bags and cases are wedged into every available cubby hole. Shenny soon begins her morning routine of insisting on photographs of us all, at every junction in the journey, in every possible combination, from every perspective. An almost hour by hour account of the next three weeks of my journey commences. An enthusiasm I have never encountered before. A broad grinning face and warm demeanour, she is impossible to refuse and a joy to be around. Counting our days through the journey to Beijing she is totally un phased by anything. A level of energy I can only imagine…”

Bexhill to Bexhill

Waiting for the train at Moscow, Louise Kenward (2013)

Trans Siberian Train, day 2 (or 3)

Wednesday, 9th October – Trans Siberian Train

“8am local time (somewhere between Moscow and Beijing), 6am Moscow time – the train will remain on Moscow time until we reach Beijing. This initially entertains me but is becoming increasingly confusing. I adjust my watch accordingly so as to ease myself in to changing time zones, and to arrive in China at a reasonable time of day. It makes for more complicated station stops though, assuming the train is running to schedule.

I’ve just realised the last entry was probably yesterday, so Tuesday not Monday, or Wednesday, possibly.

Early morning calm and more trees are yellowing or have lost their covering for the winter. A soft pink/peach filled the sky earlier but now it is a purple grey with smatterings of blue and white. The stark trees continue to line the tracks. The ‘bathroom’ is becoming increasingly fragrant. Ingenuity through necessity I’ve had a warm wash from the boiler this morning, taking great care not to drop anything on the floor.

The attendant has returned the creased, yellowed, slightly stiff netting to the lower parts of the windows, serving neither function or aesthetic. It is removed again as soon as she is out of sight, folded unceremoniously and stuffed through the elastic cord suspending it, so we can watch the travelling landscape. 

The gentle swaying of the train and the noise as everything moves with it is vaguely calming. The temperature reads 27ºC above the door at the end of the corridor – it is very hot, we are not allowed to open the windows. We’ve tried, they are quickly closed again. Communication in this respect is clear and facial gestures and hand signals indicate that window opening is not approved of. I don’t know why. Perhaps to add to our discomfort. It feels punishing rather than comforting. Two more time changes are passed through and my watch is duly altered. I think that makes five, or six, and another night is spent on a train. I’ve relinquished myself to the journey and its time frame. The one thing that is certain is that the train will ultimately arrive in China. Everything else is frivolous detail.
For the wilderness, there is great activity on the railway. Lines are busy, long freight trains take forever to pass, blocking light for many minutes at a time.”

Paris with Annie

After three months back in the UK it is time to make new plans. Next month I get back on the train and take the ‘budget’ Orient Express route to Venice. On my way to an arts residency in Italy I will stop in Paris and Turin before reaching wonderful Venice. Heading south I will join seven other artists for a 7 day residency.

Plans are still germinating for what follows between leaving Italy and reaching Vienna. Reconnecting with friends made in Canada, a trip to the Christmas markets was arranged while in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

Another journey another journal. Hotel Meurice, Paris may not be my accommodation during this stay, but I shall find it and marvel at the views of the Tuileries Garden Annie enjoyed. With the interiors designed by Philippe Starck, Le Meurice is described as ‘one of the most elegant hotels in the world’. Her first journey through Europe to Switzerland, Annie Alnutt as she was then, travelled by train. Again, I suspect our journeys will be rather different but with parallels nonetheless.