The iconic Trans-Siberian Railway is on so many travel wish lists, and rightly so. Intrepid’s Chimene Barrett gives Intrepid’s new Classic Trans-Siberian trip the big thumbs up for anyone wanting to experience a fascinating overland adventure…
“Armed with packet noodles, bread, pickles and an obligatory bottle of vodka, we boarded the train out of Vladivostok with a little trepidation. Our Trans-Siberian journey would mean 3 nights non-stop to Irkutsk!
A day into the journey, routines had already been set. The provinistas would vacuum twice a day. In the morning, prompting us to vacate the cabin and have a go at bathing with a plastic cup. And again late in the afternoon, indicating Vodka hour!
We all looked forward to the 15-20 minute stops when the provinistas would allow us onto the platform. Not only a chance to stretch our legs, but also the time to stock up on supplies. The locals would await each train with whatever they had baked, grown or simply come across that day. Summer berries, dried fish, baked bread, potato dumplings and the holy grail – COLD beer (warm beer was already easy to find). Each time we set out on the platform we didn’t wander far, nervous that the train with all our belongings would leave, however after a day our carriage provinistas would recognise us and with the care of a mother herd us back on just in time.
Apart from the carriage-bound activities, reading, sleeping, playing cards, passing the vodka bottle around with new local friends, sleeping… there was always the ever-changing landscape unfolding outside. Our preconceived ideas of rural Russia as bleak and grey were blown away when travelling in high summer. Averaging 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), we thanked our train’s air conditioning and watched the green go by. Forests, pastures, waterways and awesome sunsets through summer storm clouds.
Occasionally we would cross an oversized river, scarred by industry, rusting tankers and cranes (many still operating today). The further east, the more quaint the architecture. Little wooden farm cottages surrounded by vegetable patches, flowers and wood stacks (some of these are year-round homes and some are ‘Dachas’ or summer houses).
The feeling was frontier town, as if nothing in this region had changed for many years. Even more surprising was the spotting of a lone human, walking in the woods, canoeing or just watching the train go by – and we thought this was the middle of nowhere!
After 3 nights we approached Irkutsk in the early evening. Although all longing for a shower, the journey was more enjoyable and action packed than we could have ever imagined and it truly is one of the world’s great train journeys!”
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* photo by Layton Shaffner – Intrepid Photography Competition