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EU 'special tourists' to ride Trans-Siberian Railway to China

ROME, August 9 (RIA Novosti) - A train will leave Venice on Thursday carrying 220 mentally handicapped tourists, on a journey that will span thousands of miles through Central Europe, Russia, Mongolia, and China, Italian media reported.

The group, traveling with relatives and doctors, are expected to reach their final destination, Beijing - currently preparing for next year's Olympic Games - on August 28.

Renzo De Stafani, a doctor organizing the trip, said: "Last year we crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a sailing ship. But then there were only ten patients and specialists. Now on our trip to the East we have more than 200. It won't be an easy journey - it'll be full of impressions which one has to survive."

The first stop will be Budapest, where the travelers will visit the city's main psychiatric centre and meet with the Hungarian minister of social affairs, and Italy's ambassador to Hungary.

The trip's organizers, Italian social group Le parole ritrovate, say the trip is more than mere sightseeing, but "travel of the soul," a means of allowing the mentally ill to feel they have a full right to a normal life. The tourists will be followed on their trip by a documentary film crew.

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