CUH Professor Reflects on Trans-Siberian Journey


Photo Credit: Tom Galli

Both Tom Galli, a Chaminade senior lecturer in the Communications Department, and his wife Hannah work in academia, so summers are flexible for them. They try to travel as much possible, and when they were trying to decide what the summer trip in 2017 was going to entail, Tom threw out a wild card. 

“Let’s hop on the Trans-Siberian Railway,” Tom remembered telling his wife.

Thus was the start of a journey that covered more than 5,600 miles as Tom, Hannah and her sister began their adventure.

Hannah works for University of Hawaii and got sent to China for work. Her older sister Beth lives in Dallas and had traveled with them before. It worked out pretty well, so they invited her along for the trip. All of a sudden, it was more than this facetious plan; it was the plan. 

In June, Tom flew to Shanghai and was there for two days. They spent two days in Beijing, then the trio jumped on the train to start their escapade. The highlight of China for Tom was getting to ride the bullet train. The high-speed rail in China is designed to carry multiple unit trains at speeds of 155 mph to 217 mph. After China, the three headed over to Moscow.

They  jumped on a train and traveled through Mongolia and most of Russia, to end up in Moscow.

Tom and Hannah have a friend who was working as part of a Fulbright scholarship in Moscow over the summer. The Fulbright Program is an American scholarship program of competitive, merit-based grants for international educational exchange for students, scholars, teachers, professionals, scientists and artists.

“It [Moscow] was amazing and a pain,” Tom said.

The 2018 FFIFA World Cup Russia will be held in Moscow. The entire city is undergoing construction. “Everything is getting face-lifts, sidewalks are being rebuilt, roads are getting repaved and the monuments are being washed and repaired. So it was a hassle to get around and see things,” Tom reflected as he took a sip of his coffee.

Despite the construction, Tom spoke about how much of a phenomenal city Moscow is. They were there for a couple of weeks and only scratched the surface.

When asked what was one of the best things about the food in Moscow, Tom stated without hesitation, “Khachapuri.” Khachapuri is a piping hot, golden brown, bread-shaped boat filled with bubbling cheese and a freshly cracked egg.

“For being just bread, cheese and an egg, it just taste amazing. One night, we ordered Khachapuri and we couldn’t finish it. We got so full on the Khachapuri and then all of a sudden, the rest of our food came,” Tom said.

Photo Credit: Tom Galli

Next stop, a week in Germany. They had visited Europe a few times and overnighted in Frankfurt at a hotel because their plane broke down. According to Tom, “Frankfurt is not a spectacular town.” It has some history and tourism, but Berlin and Munich have a lot more going on.

“When you think Germany, you think beer,” Tom said. “But there wasn’t much to choose from. Any restaurant we went to had three beers on tap. They had a dark beer, a light beer and an unfiltered wheat. That was it.”

When asked about his favorite food in Germany, silence filled the room. “Everything was so damn good,” Tom said. 

The entire trip was about seven weeks for Tom.

If he could have done anything differently, he would of made sure they got to see Lake Baikal. Lake Baikal is Russia’s vast and beautiful sacred sea. It leads to this beautiful mountain lake. It is quite the natural wonder that Tom wished he would have known about beforehand.

Next time you are chatting with a professor, ask them what they did over the break. You may be surprised by what you hear.