Tag Archives: Trans-SiberianA series of blog posts recounting a journey across Russia by train in the Spring of 2013.
The guidebook calls it Russia’s San Francisco, and although I have never been to the latter, Vladivostok is how I imagined San Francisco to be. With its hilly streets, foggy weather and its own Golden Gate Bridge, there are countless similarities.
I had finally arrived to the end point of the Trans-Siberian railway, the Pacific port of Vladivostok, a massive 9289 km and eight time zones from Moscow. I was to spend two days here, the last two days on my visa before taking the Eastern Dream ferry to Korea. She sets sail once a week, every Wednesday between Vladivostok and the port of Donghae, South Korea.
I’m a long way from home now and for the first time in my life I see the Pacific ocean. Temperatures are in the mid teens and the weather here is a far cry from what I experienced in Siberia. It doesn’t seem like Russia here, at least not the Russia I have come to know so far on my travels. Continue reading
Its 11:20 pm as I sprint down platform 7 of St. Petersburgs ‘Moskovsky Vokzal’ train station to get the 11:30 night train to the capital. Carriage 4 out of 16 is a long way back, and passing by the 1st and 2nd class carriages, I can’t help but notice they are almost empty. I see from a distance that there are long queues around mine and neighbouring carriages, as provodnitsas stand waiting outside checking tickets and passports. After presenting mine, she casually tells me “mesto soroc dva” (bed 42) but I don’t understand her as I enter my carriage almost last, just minutes before departure.
I’m in Platzkart, the Russian equivalent of 3rd class, an open carriage of 54 beds which for the locals is the most popular way to travel in Russia. The carriage is full and it’s easy to tell who the locals are, they have their routine as they roll out their mattresses, dress the bed, slip on some tracksuit bottoms and slippers, before making tea. It’s my first time, I’m lost, and making a bit of a scene. Firstly, I can’t unfold my bunk from against the wall, then I can’t find my mattress, and later, worst of all, I can´t figure out how to get up onto my top bunk. Believe me, it’s not easy getting up, if you have been assigned an upper bunk! Continue reading
I arrived to the train station in Irkutsk at 19:30, over an hour before the train to Khabarovsk departed. As I took a seat and waited, I was struggling to stay awake. I had realized earlier in the day that something was amiss with my body. Whatever I had eaten, was now coming out both ends. I thought I’d be reserving these activities for when I arrive in India, but I’ve been unlucky and have been struck down in Russia.
As I sit waiting, I look up at the timetable and realize that the train I’m due to take only runs as far as Khabarovsk and doesn’t continue onto Vladivostok. Continue reading
Russians, when talking about the attractions their motherland holds, constantly mention the oldest, largest and deepest freshwater lake in the world. Many have never been but long to go one day. It’s the one obligatory stop, even for them, when you’re out in these parts of Siberia. It’s Lake Baikal, affectionately known as the ‘Blue Eye of Siberia’ situated deep in the heart of Siberia.
I arrived into the Siberian city of Irkutsk after a 20 hour hop on the train from Krasnoyarsk. It has a distinctly Asian feel to it, and I had to come this far east before I noticed a difference. After a day spent exploring the street markets of Irkutsk and shaking off some kind of bug I had, I took a bus to Listvyanka, a small village by the lake shore. Continue reading
They mark the divide between Europe and Asia, and the beginning of the expansive landmass known as Siberia, but to me, the crossing of the Urals went unnoticed. By my calculations we crossed them in the middle of the night, at the start of a marathon 57 hour journey across four time zones from Vladimir to Krasnoyarsk.
It was good to be back on the trains again. Although European Russia had been immensely enjoyable, it was time to leave the dome roofed churches behind and get off the beaten track in Siberia.
The train journey had its ups and downs. I was travelling platzkart, so I’d have plenty of company, problem was, no one spoke English. Most people on the train weren’t going the entire way to Krasnoyarsk, so plenty came and went during the two and a half day journey. As new passengers boarded at each stop, in my desperation for a bit of conversation with an English speaker, I´d ask those that sat in my vicinity “Veu gavarite pa angliski?” Invariably the answer was “Nyet”. Continue reading