Trans Siberian Express – The Magical Russian Train Journey!
If you are looking for a rail journey that promises excitement, stunning scenery and a rich variety of cultures and history then look no further than the Trans Siberian Express. This famous railroad that runs from Russia across Siberia and into Mongolia will provide you with a holiday that you will never forget.
The Trans Siberian Express is one of the world’s classic and probably one of the best organized tours in the world you are going to experience, if you will be travelling through the two countries with the help of tour operators. It is the longest point to point rail trip currently in existence, it covers a massive amount of territory from the Pacific coast at Vladivostok all the way to the edge of Europe in Moscow. Along the journey the carriages traverse taiga, steppes, and the Ural Mountains, in total a distance of almost ten thousand kilometres.
The trip is not just any ordinary rail journey, it is a world and adventure in itself. The Trans Siberian Express is loved by rail enthusiasts, adventurers, and those in search of romance and discovery. Memories of the trip are carried for life by those fortunate enough to have been a passenger.
Unlike the images we often see in the media, on the Trans Siberian Express you will discover the true essence of the world’s biggest country. Most of the passengers are Russians who are far from being aloof and cold as they were often depicted in old propaganda, today you will find warmth and hospitality no matter whether taking lunch, drinking in the bar, or simply lazing in your carriage with other passengers.
Why Choose The Trans Siberian Express?
There are many reasons why people choose to travel the Trans Siberian Express. If you are considering booking tickets, check out these following suggestions as to why the journey has become and continues to be one of the most popular anywhere on the planet. To start with there is the name itself, it conjures up a mystique all of its own. Imagine how amazed and jealous your friends and colleagues will be when you tell them you are taking a trip on the Trans Siberian Express, open jawed expressions would greet your plans.
With the option of choosing to also travel the Trans Mongolian and Trans Manchurian lines you can get a taste of China and Mongolia as well as Russia. The experience would allow you a deep understanding of these ancient cultures in a way which would not be possible if you were simply to fly in. Where else can you spend time sitting next to a Cossack, a Mongolian Buddhist lama, and at the end of your trip, smart dressed Chinese business people. The friends and contacts that will be made will last a lifetime.
Siberia in itself is a majestic land and one that is full of stunning vistas and breathtaking panoramas. This timeless and yet vast territory is one that is relatively untouched by the modern world, very few places on our planet can still be termed as natural and unchanged as Siberia.
Another reason for booking yourself a berth on this train is that you can make a stop off at Lake Baikal. This is the largest, as well as deepest, freshwater lake anywhere on the planet. It is a supremely beautiful and awe inspiring location that can be a great place to unwind.
If you want to see a huge area of the world for a relatively inexpensive price, the Trans Siberian Express is the way to travel. Just be warned you may end up hooked and want to come back the same way again.
The Trans Siberian Express Overall Experience
The Trans Siberian Express has various options, ranging from first class accommodation to ordinary seating. The main difference between first and second class is the number of berths in your cabin. There are two in first class or four in second class.
Each carriage has its own member of staff, called a Provodnitsa, who look after their passengers. Cleaning cabins, ensuring the Samovar (hot water urn) is kept topped up and making sure you know how long the train will be stopping at any particular station. There are always vendors waiting for the train at each stop selling hot food, local beers, fruit and vegetables. It often makes a welcome change from the restaurant car and is much cheaper.
There are various different trains plying the three main routes and all are slightly different in the facilities they offer. Some have first class cabins that share a shower with the cabin next door and others have just one at the end the carriage. Some offer flat screen televisions with movies available from the Provodnitsa. Some are express trains like the Roika or the Baikal, while others stop more often and take longer to reach their destination.
At border crossing’s the restaurant car is always changed for one that belongs to the country you are entering and between Mongolia and China the train stops to change its bogies (wheels). The reason for this is that Russia and Mongolia work on a different width gauge to most of the rest of the world. You can either stay on the train as powerful lifting equipment raises each carriage in turn and engineers roll in the new bogies or you can stand on the platform and watch.
You can stop along the way, but you need to buy a separate ticket for each part of your journey and you need to be aware that all the trains run on Moscow time even if you are somewhere in eastern Siberia, four time zones away. Forget this and you’ll miss your train!
What’s Along The Trans Siberian Railway?
The Trans Siberian Express is actually comprised of several main routes. The Trans-Mongolian, the Trans Siberian and the Trans-Manchurian. The first will take you from Moscow, through Mongolia and into China, where you will arrive in Beijing after spending a week on the train.
Alternatively you can cross Russia only, ending up in Vladivostock on the far eastern coast. Many people make this journey and then hop onto a ship bound for Japan.
The final route will also take you to Beijing, but misses out Mongolia, saving you the need for an additional visa.
Which ever route you choose, be prepared for some stunning scenery along the way. From the endless Birch forests covering Siberia and the awesome beauty of Lake Baikal to the Mongolian desert and your first glimpse of the Great Wall of China as you near journey’s end.
Sample Route/Itinerary (London to Vladivostock)
Take a train from London to the Russian capital where you will begin your journey on the Trans Siberian Express. Be sure to spend a day seeing all the sights in Moscow before you board your train and begin the trip of a lifetime. This exciting destination is home to world-famous landmarks and buildings which are crucial to the city’s history.
As you explore the sights before boarding, you will be able to see Red Square and St Basil’s Cathedral, as well as visit the Kremlin. Situated in the heart of the city, the Kremlin is home to the Russian President and is famed for being a colossal complex. With several towers, palaces and cathedrals, it is certainly an impressive sight and sure to be a highlight of your trip.
Your first stop after leaving Moscow will be Kazan – a beautiful city situated on the banks of the River Volga. This city is the capital of Tatarstan and sits on the River Volga and is replete with stunning architecture, such as the Kul Sharif Mosque. This beautiful building was considered the country’s largest mosque upon its completion in the 16th century and it still makes a spectacular sight today. There are numerous things to see in Kazan, including its Kremlin, ancient cathedral and university – which is where Tolstoy and Lenin both studied. With a history dating back more than 600 years, you are sure to find plenty of interesting buildings and museums to occupy your time in Kazan.
Because of the volume of amazing structures this city has to offer, it’s the ideal destination for budding photographers and architecture enthusiasts.
When you board the train again you will certainly want to make sure that you’re seated near a window to watch the spectacular scenery of the Ural Mountains roll by.
Stopping off in the city of Yekaterinburg will give you an opportunity to appreciate the stunning landscape, while you can also delve into the city’s past with a tour to see some of its most famous sights.
Among them is the memorial church that was erected at the location where the Romanov family were murdered back in 1918.
When you leave the Urals behind you, the views from your window will change as you enter Siberia and begin to cross its tundra.
You will have the opportunity to explore the Siberian capital Novosibirsk during your journey – be sure to take a tour of the world’s largest opera house while you are in the city – and enjoy some of its other sights, such as Lenin Square.
From Novosibirsk, you will travel to Irkutsk, a city that was founded by the Cossacks in the mid 17th century and still holds plenty of interest for visitors today.
Look out for the Siberian wood-carved architecture that you will find within the city and take in some of its landmarks, including the opera house and museums.
When you leave Irkutsk, you will journey on to one of the natural highlights of your trip – Lake Baikal.
As well as being the largest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Baikal is also the deepest – with a maximum depth of 1,700 m – and the oldest.
Its unique ecology has earned it the recognition of Unesco and it has been classified as a World Heritage Site since 1996.
Enjoy a barbeque lunch on its shores before boarding the train again and making your way to Ulan Ude, where you will have the chance to explore a Buddhist temple.
Before you rejoin the train, you will be able to enjoy a performance by local musicians and actors to give you a taste of entertainment in the region.
When you leave Ulan Ude, you will travel on to Ulaanbaatar – the capital of Mongolia. While in this city, you can learn more about the Mongolian people by visiting the Natural History or Ethnographic museums.
If you want to experience genuine Mongolian hospitality, then you should not miss the opportunity to eat a meal at a restaurant in a Ger – a type of traditional tent used by the nomadic people in the country.
When you bid farewell to Ulaanbaatar, you will spend two days travelling across remote Siberia, which will involve crossing an area of permafrost.
Your final stop after the wilderness will be Vladivostok, a vibrant city located on the coast of the Sea of Japan. This is a big naval city and has a population of about half a million. The climate averages about 20 degrees Celsius in the height of summer and falls to about minus thirteen Celsius in winter. The most amazing thing about Vladivostok is how far it is from everywhere else in the world.
By the time you arrive, you will have travelled more than 8,000 miles and crossed eight time zones – so you really can feel like your rail journey has taken you to another world.
If you want to see Russia then the Trans Siberian Express is certainly worth considering. However little or often you stop, the Trans Siberian Express is a magical experience where you can relax and watch the world go by. Counting time by the signs that mark every single Kilometre you have travelled from Moscow, or by the regular time zone changes as you head east.
This is the type of journey that could change your life. Just make sure that you are not going to mind sitting for a long time….also remember, a nice way of doing the journey would be to stay in the cities along the way. Enjoy your trip!
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