I am writing inside the legendary Trans-Siberian railway. It’s hard for me to realise that I am actually in here! Even if we are travelling on the train for only half of a day and not for the entire route, the feeling is the same- excitement! We started from Ulan-Ude in the morning and we are hopping off at Irktsuk station to visit the small village of Listvyanka, few miles away at the Baikal shore.
I am writing as fast as I can- I don’t have any plug around me so the laptop has to stay alive for as much as possible! Don’t even think about internet connection!
Outside of the window you can only see white, the snow has covered everything and in some villages the fog is so heavy that you hardly notice their names on the signs. The wooden colourful houses with the picturesque windows (very tradition Buryatian architecture) are deep in the snow and some people are trying to sweep the fresh snow aside in order to keep their home paths as clean as possible till the next summer. Hence, hills of snow are surrounding the villages… maybe a kind of a controversial protection against the cold too? However, it is too late for the areas where the snow hasn’t been cleaned properly from scratch. The ice has now been formed and it is so solid and hard that only the sun, from April and so on, can ruin it. The roofs also have more than 50cm snow on and I am noticing that the train doors are freezing too!
The landscape is remaining white but it is changing dramatically: from the tiny villages to the forest of thousands of pine and fir trees covered by snow. Few of them are bended, due to the amount of the snow they are receiving consistently, but most of them are standing proud and beautiful, the nature is unbeatably mesmerizing!
From time to time, rivers are appearing out of the window, but you can only tell that they are rivers due to the banks around them, they are frozen and (of course!) white. In the summertime their water meets the lake Baikal but for now they are just hibernating. We are crossing some old-fashioned bridges too… well, this time I am pretty sure that, below us, there are rivers!
Half of the way and the train is reaching Slyudyanka , where the old Circum-Baikal Railway starts. This is an old part of the Trans-Siberian route but in nowadays it operates mainly for tourists (daily) in summer and for locals (3 times per week) in winter using a different train and of course, different price! The next stop serves the ski centre of the area and this village actually looks more than a small town, while kids with red cheeks are playing under a wooden shelter. We are saying hello to the lake Baikal and we are planning our next rendezvous as this time we are just passing by her for half an hour!
As we are approaching our final destination, getting prepared for -40 C, I am thinking about the people. How do they live here? They should be extremely brave and strong, but are they happy? I guess they are but I am thirsty to hear their stories before any assumption- the snow, the ice here is a reality not just a Christmassy cute thing so I can’t be on their shoes. However, no doubt the railway has changed their routine for the last 120 years positively and, under these extreme conditions, it has saved lives as well. So many stories were waiting to be shared and, as the medium is the message*, the train has conveyed and “filtered” any message so far uniquely and reliably.
The days in Siberia are short but , surprisingly, not that short – this makes me have a selfish human-centred thought. The winter days could not be different anyway. Otherwise how would we be able to admire all of this beauty?
Thank you trans-Siberian for the experience! I may return for the full trip!
What do you think? Would you hop on the trans-Siberian for the entire 7-day route?