Russia is the largest country on Earth and a cultural and political titan throughout the ages. The country spans from the Pacific and almost gets as far as the Atlantic. It reaches the Arctic circle and borders eastern Europe, the “‘stans”, Mongolia, China, and even North Korea. And Sarah Palin was not wrong when she said you can see Russia from Alaska. If you’re on Big Diomede Island (Russia) you can see Little Diomede Island (USA) only 2.5 miles away! A country this vast and filled with such a rich history makes it impossible for any one trip to cover. That’s why I would like to visit Russia via the Trans-Siberian Railway. What better way to explore a country than by train? I won’t have to stress about renting a car and driving on Russian roads (yeah we’ve all seen those crazy Russian dash cam youtube vids), nor will I feel tired after a day of putting the pedal to the metal. Getting a ticket in a sleeper car with the option to hop on and hop off whenever I like seems like a blissful way to travel. Plus, once I reach Lake Baikal and Ulan-Ude I can take the rail line south into Mongolia for a quick side trip to visit friends and co-workers.
My high school English teacher lived in Russia when she volunteered with the Peace Corps – the very same teacher that inspired me to join the Peace Corps in Mongolia. The Russian PC program is no longer operating but she shared a lot about her experience which really helped when we read The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky. It would have been a doozy otherwise! I’m getting sidetracked. My point being that I’ve been introduced to Russian literature, language, and history in meaningful ways and I want to go see it in person. Here are a couple things on my Trans-Siberian Railway bucket list:
Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty” Ballet
Simply passing through Moscow is not an option. I would want to spend a few days there taking in the sights, experiencing their subway system with escalators that go deep into the ground, and of course watch the Royal Moscow Ballet perform Sleeping Beauty. That’s my main draw for visiting Moscow – to see the ballet.
The world’s largest and deepest lake is fittingly in the world’s largest country. It holds more water than all of the North American Great Lakes combined (thank you Wiki for that fun fact). Baikal Lake is humongous. What to do at a massive lake? Picnic, hike, swim (maybe? it might be cold though?), spot a seal, etc. There are so many wonderful things to do and I’m sure it’s a beautiful place in the summer time.The whole Trans-Siberian Railway journey from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok takes about 7 days non-stop. If you throw in a couple of stops and side trips (I’m coming for you Mongolia) you’re easily looking at 2-3 weeks of being on the road. Slow travel is a pleasure if you know what to expect. Some of my friends have braved the Trans-Siberian and they came back with stories of Russian hospitality and weirdness. One thing I do know is if I bring a deck of cards, a bottle of good vodka, and my track suit I’ll be set for the 5,772 mile journey!
Hello reader! Have you been on the Trans-Siberian? Please share with me your tips for the journey!