The Trans-Siberian Railway

When we told to our friends and family that we would take the Trans-Siberian train, we realized that it represented a dream for a lot of people.  Probably because until the 90’s it was very complicated (almost impossible) to make tourism in the USSR or probably because it’s hard to believe that you need 6 nights by train and 8 time zones to cross a country in what we could name an Eurasian adventure . The Trans-Siberian is not a single train, but all the Railway system which connect Moscow to Vladivostok. We did not expect that the life in the train were a world on itself with its characters, its rules, its routines and its classes.

Let’s start with the characters! The most important is the provodnitsa (проводница) who is the guardian angel of the wagon: she provides sheets, prepares tea, cleans the wagon and wakes up people when they arrive at their destination in the middle of the night. Most of provodnitsa are women, but we saw also some men doing this job, they are called provodnik. In order of importance, the second character of the train is the babushka: this old Russian lady seated next to you who tries and tries to speak with you, in Russian of course, and, even if you did not understand, she keeps going and going. But the good thing she will often offer you something to eat. In third position … the third position is for us! The tourists who come from abroad; one big attraction for the wagon; we could only show photos and try to explain where we are from. With a little bit of training, we learnt that the best way to communicate is pretend to understand what people tell us. Except our frequent headaches, we were glad to be the center of this world for some hours or more and we are proud about our progresses in Russian language! мы говорим немного русский

It was Babushka Irina (with a help of a German translator) who taught us the basic rules of this world. People who sleep downstairs (there are two levels of beds) have to share the bunk with the one who sleep upstairs during the day; when you eat something it’s good to share with the others; when someone change clothes you go away… You can’t smoke in the train but people do it between two wagons; you can’t bring any alcohol but you can drink your vodka! Russian like to speak but they respect the silence and even children do not make a lot of noise. Such a density of people in an Italian or Brazilian train would soon degenerate in a mess!

What really makes the difference in a journey on the Trans-Siberian in the class you choose! From first to third class the big difference is the concept of the wagon: in the third class (or platzkarte) the wagon is an open space in which 54 people cohabite for a short trip or for one whole week. It’s a good way to be sure that you will not be stuck in a closed cabin with people that you do not like and even better to meet locals who will be glad to share some food and some laughs with you. The first class has two beds in the cabin, private bathroom and high quality service; in the second class the cabin is for four people and the bathrooms are commons. We travelled only in platzkarte and once in kupé (second class), here some photos of what we experienced!!!

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