Postcards from RussiaPosted on: 20 February 2014 by Jennie Carr
An extraordinary train journey, full of remarkable happenings.
Here are just a few of the most important things to know before you set out on the Trans Siberian Railway, the near mythical rail journey that is so frequently on bucket lists and actually a genuine example of something to do once in a lifetime.
The current Winter Olympics in Sochi have probably shown us a region of Russia, that we, in the West, knew little about. The Trans Siberian Railway can take you to places that are untamed, untouched and even a little raw, all to be experienced from the relative comfort of the train.
The journey is not one for those who love to toast in the sun on a beach, however bar that, there is something for most people to enjoy on this rail adventure. It passes through a seemingly endless wilderness, dotted with occasional hamlets, with little manmade interruption to ruin the view. And yet it is inhabited and people do live here; they have done for centuries, so a special kind of culture has grown up here, influenced by the harsh environment.
The Russian winter is a serious force of nature, with powerfully cold temperatures, reducing even the hardiest to shivers. Despite this, getting around (successfully) on public transport is still the main way to travel with heating systems working effectively too. There is a lasting comradely bond created as travellers group together in the train, at a steamy café or in a provincial hotel lounge for a boiling hot drink, maybe from the samovar, followed by an ice cold vodka, as the snow tumbles from the sky into a seemingly frozen, crystalline wasteland.
Despite the cold, there are great wintertime pursuits to enjoy. What could be more exciting than a husky sled ride? Cosy warm under thick blankets, the winter scenery and excitement is a true delight. For the truly adventurous, driving a snow mobile cannot be beaten. Racing across the snow and ice gets the adrenalin flowing and the thrills are huge. For those who enjoy fishing, this offers the chance to do something totally different, ice fishing! It’s a million miles away from an afternoon on the River Tay.
A rather special opportunity arises on this journey, which covers over five thousand miles and goes through eight time zones, you can visit, even stay with a Mongolian family in their round, felt tents, called gers. There is a delightful welcome to be found in these rural communities, with hospitality and friendliness their watchword. Everyone who visits comes away enchanted.
And for the arts and history in a city setting, Moscow and St Petersburg provide centuries worth of culture, in sumptuous museums, palaces and theatres. The architecture and theatrical performances are first rate, as are the opera and ballet. They add to the wonderful experience that is Russia.
So just what is it like on this train that might will be your home for a week or two? The Trans Siberian Railway is just that, a track and the trains which use it can be the everyday equivalent of British Rail which the locals use for getting on with their lives, There’ll be a mixture of people in all the carriages and the overnight four berth sleeping compartments can be taken for private use for a small fee. The thoroughly genuine, Russian experience this working train gives, provides a chance to immerse yourself in an iconic rail journey, maybe sharing tales, food and drinks with a wide range of characters, who may have stepped from Chekov or Pushkin.
The alternative is to travel on a chartered train, which are the preserve of tourists, which offer a range of journeys from a few days to the whole two weeks or so. The Tsars Gold or the Grand Trans Siberian Express can offer these options. However the crème de la crème, near Romanov standard train is the Golden Eagle, with extraordinary luxury – beautiful fabrics, polished wood, fine dining, superb service and traditional delights. This train really is the ultimate in comfort and style.
Above all, a trip on the Trans Siberian Railway is an adventure, where you join the ranks of travellers who have taken this route to enjoy a wonderful, unrivalled, unique journey.
For further information visit www.trans-siberian.co.uk or call 0845 521 2910
This article is brought to you by Silver Travel Advisor.
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