Mission accomplished! 13 days after boarding the first train in Beijing, I finally arrived into Moscow and completed a once-in-a-lifetime trip – the Trans-Siberian Railway. My route on the longest railway in the world took me from Beijing in the east through to the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar, into Siberia and Lake Baikal and finally ended in Moscow, some 7,858km later.
The Trans-Siberian Railway has always been on my bucket list and my journey along it will be something that I remember forever. I travelled with a group of 11 others as part of the Ruski Huski tour run by a very aptly named company, VodkaTrain.
My itinerary was split into three separate train trips, the first from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar (30 hours); the second from Ulaanbaatar to Irkutsk (36 hours); and finally Irkutsk to Moscow (82 hours). I spent a total of seven nights on the train and was pretty happy to have broken the trip up.
Seven nights on a train, how do you sleep? Well, I was booked into second class, which meant I was in a small lockable cabin that sleeps four and made the trip a relatively comfortable one. The size of bed differs on each train (Chinese, Mongolian or Russian) but I’m not the tallest guy going around and sleeping wasn’t a problem.
The million dollar question, what do you do? Eat. Sleep. Rave. Repeat. Not quite. Sleep, drink, play various card games, chat to people, watch movies and read books. There’s also a lot of staring out the window whilst pondering life, maybe that was just me though. Most of the days also revolve around food. You’re either eating, talking about what you would like to be eating or deciding what you should eat next.
Speaking of food, what do you eat? Noodles and mash potato or anything that can be made by adding boiling water. Each carriage has a thermos of water for free and therefore two-minute noodles and instant mash become staples! There are dining carts onboard the trains but they are quite pricey, especially the Russian ones. We did however manage to make a McDonald’s run when we had a 50-minute stop. Safe to say it was one of the happiest moments we had on the train!
I’m going to let you in on a little secret; I’m a two-shower-a-day type of guy. I’m no princess, but I like to shower once in the morning and once at night. Unfortunately, there are no showers onboard the trains and we were all confined to ‘bird baths’ and ‘shower in a can’ – wet wipes and deodorant. Yes, the train did become a bit musty, especially after the four-day stint to Moscow!
Time on the train went incredibly quickly and it all felt like a blur. Two nights felt like one and it was pretty easy to get caught up in the most minor things to pass time. I set myself a task for each day to keep my brain ticking over and found this pretty useful. The tasks were trivial but gave me something to look forward to. My favourite one was the ‘excursion’ to third class – I was pretty damn happy to get back up to second class!
The Trans-Siberian Railway is a trip that I will cherish for a long time. I have made some friends for life, experienced three very different cultures, fulfilled a lifelong dream and made it to Russia, a country I never thought I would ever visit! Now it’s time to explore Moscow!