I’m an oddity on this trip! I’m an American. For me, the Trans Siberia Railway was the experience I wanted. Along the way I haven’t shot a lot of what I’d call memorable photographs. I have, however, enjoyed the experience of doing something that very few Americans have done. I know of one lady who was on my trip to Franz Josef Land in July who did it with others with a tour group from Beijing to Moscow. She did it about a year ago and was kind enough to share some of her experiences with me.
Alexander III gave his approval for the building of a railway connecting the east with the west in 1881. Construction began in 1891. By 1898 the connection from where I am now, in Irkutsk, to Moscow was completed. Over the next several years the railway was extended to the coast and into China. Today there are no steam engines. As of 2002 they’ve all be changed over to electric.
Traveling by train is altogether different than hopping on a plane and getting from point A to point B. You meet people, you experience a different kind of lifestyle and you see the countryside.
Most railway stations are multiple tracks going to different places. There isn’t one train call the Trans Siberian Express. It is a system of trains. Some faster with less stops and some slower with more. I’ve been on both on this journey.
At each train station there are people coming and going.
and going. Every carriage had two attendants (provodnistsa, women: porvodnik, men). One works days and the other one nights. When boarding they check your passport with information they have on an app on their phones to make sure you’re supposed to be there and confirming your compartment number and berth number. Their job on board is to deliver bed linen, two sheets and a pillow case and a hand towel. There are no showers on board. They sold snacks and soft drinks and there was an urn of hot water where you could make tea or coffee free of charge. They also cleaned the compartments and looked after the toilets as each end of each carriage. In second class where I traveled there are two uppers and two lowers
Sometime they’re all occupied, sometimes it’s just you and sometimes it could be a male of a female companion across or above you. Lowers cost more than uppers.
Outside of your compartment was a walkway.
Most trains had a dining car but everyone I met brought their own food on board.
My roommates on my second train, Albina and Vlad. She spoke a little English but her daughter spoke more and she served as our translator via phone. Very nice people!
As I said there was a dining car and when I went to visit it was nearly empty.
The waiters, waiting.
Traveling became a lot easier when I got my Google Translate working from an app when I was offline. Before that, it only worked when I was on the Internet and that wasn’t when I needed it most. It’s a learning process!
Enough for today. I’ll show you a little of Irkutsk in my next blog post.