Journey of a Lifetime

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September 25th 2011
Published: September 25th 2011
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Everette & 2 Car AttendantsEverette & 2 Car AttendantsEverette & 2 Car Attendants

The man was our attendant and he was very nice. I gave him a bag of goodies when we boarded. Walt also tipped him and he took good care of us.
Hi Everybody!
The TransSiberian is the journey of a lifetime and an epic trip into some of the world’s most remote landscapes, through spruce and birch forests, traditional villages, and endless steppes. The trip across Russia is one of the longest railway journeys in the world – starting in Moscow and ending in Vladivostok. Walt and I are not going the entire 6000 miles to Vladivostok, the Pacific port. Instead, we are taking the Trans-Mongolian option from Irkutsk to Ulan Bator, and then, on to Beijing, China. The train company does not allow you to buy hop-on hop-off tickets-----only point to point tickets. We will be spending 3 nights in Irkutsk and on Lake Baikal and 3 nights in Ulan Bator. The route crosses two continents and 7 time zones. On board, the poor mingle with the rich, the young with old, and foreigners with locals. All signs are in Russian, there are no pamphlets or orientation to help foreigners understand what is expected of them.
In the countryside, the roads are dirt, the houses are dark plank wood or logs with windows trimmed in turquoise fretwork, most with outhouses, and small garden plots with rich black soil and lots of cabbages. The houses all have large woodpiles, are old, small, and in disrepair. Living has to be hard for these people. We occasionally have seen a flock of geese, a single horse, couple of cows or goats, but never a herd of animals. We have passed many individuals walking ----usually dressed with a cap, warm jacket, and boots.
As we traveled east, the temperature dropped and we noticed a change in the foliage. Autumn has arrived in Siberia! Most days have been overcast for part of the day with frequent showers. Snow is forecast in the next couple of days in Irkutsk.
Even with first class accommodations, our train has a very small cabin. It is cozy if we keep the door closed. The hallway is always cool. At the end of our car, we have a toilet and sink, but no shower. Each car has an attendant who changes the linens in preparation for new passengers. By his cabin is a samovar filled with boiling water. I have used this daily to prepare instant oatmeal, tea, coffee, instant soups. The dining car on our Russian train is usually empty and for good reason. We brought plenty of food, and it has come in handy. For variety, we purchase locally prepared foods from village ladies at stops. They offer a variety of buns stuffed with scrambled eggs & parsley, cabbage, potatoes, or cheese; plates with roasted chicken and potatoes, meat patties with cabbage, containers of beet & cabbage salad, bags of apples or pickles. Men are usually selling drinks (beer, soda pop, water.) A train employee comes through the cars a couple of times a day selling packaged snacks and occasionally hot stuffed pastries. We read about excessive vodka drinking on the train but have not witnessed any. 75% of the time, the ride was smooth, and even helped to lull us to sleep at night. The rest of the time, it was like being on a ship in rough seas with the train shuddering, jerking with quick stops. Every cabin has a tv, but it only showed Russian videos.
In addition to the 3 of us, there is one other English speaking person on our train. James is a recent law school graduate and is from the UK. He is lonesome for conversation and we enjoy his company. He is headed to the island of Olkhon on Lake Baikal. James is staying in the second class car which has 4 passengers in each cabin. Safety is more of an issue in his car. Our friend, Jim, is staying in first class in a 2 bed cabin, and has had numerous cabin mates (2 male, 2 female & 1 child.) We have found the passengers to be well behaved , but not overly friendly.
Before the TransSiberian Railway was built, it took people two months to travel between Moscow and Irkutsk. The RR company did not build the railway for people, they built it because they wanted to protect their Pacific border. Even today, the train company doesn’t make any money from the passenger trains. It is expensive for the company to have rail stations in all the little towns, attendants in every car, dining cars, etc. A freight train leaves every 7 minutes for a Russian destination.
This train trip has to be one of life’s greatest travel experiences. It is another thing we can check off of our Bucket List. I believe that this journey is one that we will always remember and never regret taking.
Take care,

Additional photos below
Photos: 17, Displayed: 17


Two Bed 1st Class CabinTwo Bed 1st Class Cabin
Two Bed 1st Class Cabin

These cabins were very small. We have ridden numerous trains in Eastern Europes and the cabins were much bigger than the ones on this train.
Dark Wood Houses in a VillageDark Wood Houses in a Village
Dark Wood Houses in a Village

The houses are mostly made of pine.
Endless SteppesEndless Steppes
Endless Steppes

These plains seem to go on forever.
Walt With His CigarWalt With His Cigar
Walt With His Cigar

It is a good thing Walt brought cigars with him because they are hard to find here.
House with Garden PlotHouse with Garden Plot
House with Garden Plot

Huge cabbages were growing in many gardens. They eat cabbage soup, rolls stuffed with cabbages, stewed cabbage, cabbage & beet salad, etc.
Unfinished BuildingUnfinished Building
Unfinished Building

We saw lots of buildings like this. I couldn't tell if they had been bombed or never finished.
Our English Friend, JamesOur English Friend, James
Our English Friend, James

James helped us get our luggage off the train today. Walt loved it when he asked me if I brought everything I owned with me. I admit my suitcase is heavy!
Crab Flavored ChipsCrab Flavored Chips
Crab Flavored Chips

not very tasty

25th September 2011

Love it!!!
I am enjoying your blog postings and pictures so much!! I feel as if I am rift there with you!!
26th September 2011

Thanks for sharing. It sounds fantastic. I know this will be one of your favorite trips.
27th September 2011

Your Blog
I enjoyed reading your blog and seeing the photos, especially of the train.
27th September 2011

What at train trip....
it does not sound like the Trans-Siberian train has changed much since we did it nearly 25 years ago. They did have a dining car then...not great but it was the only food we had since we had not taken any with us. looking forward to sharing stories. c

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