The Trans-Siberian Railway is one of the most impressive engineering feats in modern history. The construction of it began in 1891 and was completed 100 years ago on October 5. It’s the longest railroad line in the world. In commemoration of the centenary of its opening, Sputnik shares travel experience of our Latin American editor.
Lais Oliveira is Brazilian, who moved to Moscow seven years ago. She was always fascinated and a little scared to travel across Russia on the Trans-Siberian railway.
The 5,772 miles of track connects Moscow to the Pacific port of Vladivostok. It is an epic journey to undertake. Together with three friends, two Russians and one Colombian, Lais Oliveira finally made her dream come true when she went on a trip for almost a month. The train ride from one end to another takes about a week but the group made several stops along the way to look at some cities.
The main route of the railway connects the European part of Russia, with its Far Eastern regions. However, the editor took the Trans-Mongolian train journey in order to see Mongolia and China as well.
This train passes through the same route as the Trans-Siberian Railway, goes on to Ulan-Ude [on the coast of Lake Baikal], then crosses through Mongolia and on to China.
On the Trans-Siberian Railway, as well as in any Russian train, one can choose between different types of carriages. The most commonly used are either the second class reserved seats or coupe. Although the ride in the coupe is more comfortable, the reserved seats are a lot more fun, as it allows communicating with local residents and other passengers.
During the long hours spent in the Russian trains, one will experience anything but boredom: while some sleep or read, others talk, joke or play games. In the second-class carriages, many wanted to converse with the traveling group.
They met some memorable people along the way. A typical Russian grandmother, who offered them sweets and biscuits; a former soldier who played war songs on his guitar; a woman who taught the girls to plait braids; and finally, a man [they swear it actually happened], who kept offering them to drink vodka several times!
The group found that each place they stopped at had its unique character and beauty; however, two places stood out for them the most.
The first was the city of Ekaterinburg, whose location on the border between Asia and Europe makes it possible to “be in two places at once.” The second place was the famous and incredibly beautiful Lake Baikal, where the travelers could not resist the temptation to jump in and swim despite the icy cold water
Mongolia and China
While the trains that go through Mongolia are no different from the Russian ones, in China, they are different: larger and more tightly packed.
The Asian passengers, just like the Russian ones, were very friendly and were always willing to help, despite the challenging language barrier.
In Mongolia, the travelers were able to spend a few days in a yurt, typical local dwellings. They also explored the steppes on a rental Soviet UAZ car cabin, learned how to ride horses with local children depicting Genghis Khan and prepared Mongolian traditional cuisine.
In China, the travelers had the opportunity to visit the classic tourist sites in Beijing: the Great Wall of China, the area of the Gate of Heavenly Peace and the Forbidden City. However, for Oliviera, who loves animals, the most exciting experience was to be near the beautiful pandas and interact with them.
The journey was a unique experience for exploring Russia, China and Mongolia. For the group the trip on the Trans-Siberian train has been a “super exciting experience which will stay in their memory for a long time.”
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