Trans-Siberian: 10 things you should know – Part 1.

Based on my experience on the legendary Trans-Siberian railways, I’m going to tell you a set of ten basic info you may need to know before planning and travelling. I hope my hints can make your experience more enjoyable and the planning more effective. I have divided these 10 hints in two different posts. Let’s go with first part.

1 – The great train “landladies”

A young conductorOn the Trans-Siberian railways each coach has two “conductors” or better to say, two cabin attendants. A cabin attendant on Trans-SibThere are two in order to manage shifts on their long trip lasting several days. In most of the case this role belongs to women and they’re absolutely crucial for passenger’s comfort during the trip. Forget to talk with them in English. They will be actually scared realising you don’t speak any Russian (if this is the case). These ladies are incredibly efficient and strong in managing all their many activities including provisioning of bed linen, food, tea. Treat them well and you will be rewarded. I have to thank one of them if I was able to recover on the fly, my smartphone left on my seat.

2 – It is a long and slow line

If what you have in mind is an high-speed train running through Siberia’s tundra forget it. Trip on the Trans-Siberian is not only very long because of the distance but also because trains are quite slow. Different Trans-Sib linesFor example, average speed between Omsk and Irkutsk (about 2.500 km.) is around 60 km/h also due to long stops in main stations. Passengers are important but as you will notice, maybe even more important on this line connecting Asia to Europe is the transport of freight. I will say that for each 10 freight trains there is one carrying passengers. It is not a scientific evaluation but it represents what I’ve seen from my window. Length of the entire railway is absolutely remarkable. A freight trainConsidering its main line, from Moscow to Vladivostok the rail length is 9.258 kilometres. And this is another important point. There is the main path of Trans-Siberian passing through from Yaroslavl but there are few variants. One from Moscow goes through Kazan. Another one instead passes through Nizhny Novgorod. The other main variant in Russian territory is the so-called BAM (Baikal–Amur Mainline), the itinerary that goes northern Lake Baikal. Last but not least there are the extension abroad. The Trans-Mongolian going from Ulan Ude to Ulan Bator and then Beijing and the Trans-Manchurian also reaching Beijing but without crossing Mongolia.

3 – Trans-Siberian Trademarks

Little curtains at each window are surely one of the Trans-Siberian trademarks. The Trans-Sib tea cupThe day they will decide to replace these lace curtain with something more modern, an age will end. A second trademark is undoubtably the Samovar or The curtains in the restaurantmaybe it would be more correct to call it boiler, located on one side of every coach. There is a picture of it in the gallery below. It is working round-the-clock providing hot water to passengers so allowing them preparing tea and coffee but also instant soups, very popular in 2nd and 3rd classes. But if you want to have a sort of exclusive experience at a small cost, ask the cabin attendant for a tea. It will be served in the typical Trans-Siberian tea cup with a pewter holder around the glass.

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