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The Trans-Siberian Railway - Moscow to Beijing
route of train through Russia
We did this trip in April 95, and at that time there were very few Westerners on the train. So Intourist, the official Russian tour agency, rounded us up, (12 of us), and gave us a Moscow tour before putting us on the train. It's a beautiful city, if a little scary, with dodgy looking men in leather jackets on every corner and in every shop or bank.
We took the soft option and went first class- an extra $50 for 6 days in our own cabin seemed like good value, and it was. Still dirty,and not maintained,but better than the alternative.
We left Moscow in spring sunshine and temperatures of 25 C- as we travelled into Siberia, it got steadily colder. The carriage had a fire to get some heat going, but the guard never bothered, so we froze- well at least we experienced Siberia.
Each stop at a station was greeted by hundreds of local people- the train was their best chance of selling products to other folks- travelling Russians, trading Chinese, or some excited tourists. And some sold fresh food- something the restaurant car never had after the first day. And the bread...got staler as the weather got colder......
Parts of the route passed areas which were hundreds of miles from any civilisation- you only need a slightly curious imagination,a nd you could have a wonderful time thinking up what the Russians got upto out here in Stalin's day and later- no-one would know. We never got bored of the views- they were constantly changing, and the vastness had to be seen to be believed.
Siberia proper and getting colder- on the outskirts of Krasnoyarsk. This place really did feel like the end of the world. (I later discovered Hartlepool)
Leaving Irkutsk, the train at its longest.(The size of the train varied throughout the journey). At around this point we were six hours ahead of Moscow time, but the rail system in Russia works on Moscow time everywhere. So you had the station clock saying 3:00am, and the town clock behind saying 9:00am.Then it got dark at 1pm- strange place
Lake Baikal- a lone fisherman on the ice. It was a truly spectacular sight, we seemed to have the lake on our side for the best part of a day, and we hardly skirted the bottom corner. It's huge!
Siberian station scenes- some even sold good chocolates! This one had Snickers bars- heaven!
Russia will remain a fond memory to us. the food was awful, the service worse,the organisation terrible, but it is a truly beautiful country, and as you travel through its vast interior, through utterly inhospitable conditions, you begin to appreciate the resilience and spirit the Russians are renowned for in not just surviving but thriving in some of the harshest conditions on the planet. We were not sorry to be entering Mongolia though- the Russian restaurant car departed and we said hello to the Mongolian buffet car- and to a big improvement in food quality.

Ulan Ude station- nearing the Mongolian border.
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