Imagine sitting in a comfortable train carriage, watching the landscape around you transform from snow-kissed taiga to high-rising sand dunes; skating past small towns with painted wooden houses squished together, towards the metal skyscrapers of an Asian metropolis.
At every station you stop at, weathered Russian babushkas sit bundled-up outside, selling homemade pirozhki and soups. You pass herds of Mongolian camels, remote monasteries, the colorful Old Believer village, swamps and forests, and flocks of nomads leading horses, all while you sip endless amounts of vodka and coffee.
This is the Trans-Siberian Railway.
The legendary Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest railway line in the world, running 6,000 miles from Moscow to Vladivostok Station, Russia, on the Sea of Japan. The 100-year-old train line is known all over as “The Jewel of the Crown of the Tsars” and and has survived wars, revolutions, and crippling weather. It was built between 1891 and 1916, and is one of the greatest legacies of the Tsar Alexander III and his son, Tsar Nicolas II. For the past century, travelers have come from all over the globe to take this iconic journey.
For those who are passionate about railway travel (such as the Society of International Railway Travels) the Trans-Siberian is at the top of their bucket list. Passing through nearly 90 different towns and ten time zones, and crossing over sixteen rivers, the Trans-Siberian Railway gives you seven full days to get to know Russia on a deeper level.
Travelers will also pass through Ulaanbaatar, the capitol of Mongolia; the ancient Lake Baikal, the world’s largest, deepest lake; the Siberian city, Ekaterinburg; multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites; and the East Gobi Desert. As the train chugs along, the extreme cultural contrast becomes undeniable.
Every stop of the railway gives you a new opportunity. Stop off and see Perm-36, the Russian labor camp; dinosaur fossils; or the secret grave of the Romanov’s. You can even choose to end the train ride to China, Mongolia, or North Korea, or to start in St. Petersburg. This can give you the opportunity to also see the Great Wall of China and the reclusive and dangerous North Korean capitol, Pyonyang.
This slow but rewarding journey has been said to inspire poets, play-writes, and filmmakers alike. In fact, riding this train, you can’t help but feel like you’re in an Agatha Christie novel, what with all the plush velvet seats, luxury dining cars, devoted service workers donned in crisp tuxedos, and glass goblets galore. But don’t worry, Russian trains are also among the safest in the world, with police squads and medical professionals aboard on standby, so the murder aspect of a Christie novel isn’t really a possibility.
Nowadays, travel is more focused on urban exploration or tropical getaways. We go to a foreign country and try to dive deep into the culture, to experience all the strangeness of another world. Museums, foodie adventures, beaches, and shopping are the main course. And although train rides aren’t exactly what comes to mind when we think of an adventure, I truly believe that riding the Trans-Siberian Railway is one of the last great adventures of our time.