Winter trip on Transsib
What’s worse, we perceive the world through stereotypes and they often guide us in our lives. It is only up to us whether we let them do that or dare to check for ourselves what the truth really is?
Long time ago I have discovered that plenty of things I had read about the East, which I had heard about Russia, which had been reported by media is are true, but these “truths” were too incomplete. In order to fight these stereotypes and to make my own opinions I venture futher and futher into the East. I want to experience and understand a bit more.
This year, I spent Christmas time on a journey from Moscow to Irkutsk on the famous Trans-Siberian Railway. After a few days on the train, I continued the travel by local means of transportation to Lake Baikal
Let’s try to face some stereotypes.
My journey began at the Yaroslavsky Railway Station in Moscow, where a train called Rossiya to Vladivostok starts its route. I took my seat in one of the four-person compartments with bunk beds with fresh and clean bedding, TV and air conditioners. Nothing too fancy, but neat and modern. Such travel conditions can be compared with Polish Inter City train. It was a big surprise because due to stereotypical imaginary of Russian trains I expected mess and relics of communist system. Of course, this place as a whole Russia is full of paradoxes – at one end of the wagon we find a brilliant gadget – a samovar with boiling water, which allow us to make some tea or just pour a cup of hot water at any time of the day or night, at the opposite end of the wagon there is the only one toilet.
Not a bathroom, not a shower.
A toilet with a tiny sink.
The whole travel from Moscow to Vladivostok takes 7 days.
Please, draw conclusions by yourself.
Why the hell nobody thought that dozens of people spending a few days on a train would like to wash something more than just their hands?
Probably you have heard that the Trans-Siberian Railway is cheap. Well, it is not! Traveling in a sleeping wagon on the route from Moscow to Irkutsk (on Christmas) is an costs about PLN 1200 per person (EUR 275). The journey takes 75 hours, that is three nights and more than three days. It is a long way, spanning nearly 6,000 km and four time zones. What’s interesting, a flight on the same route takes 5-6 hours and costs PLN 800 (EUR 180).
It is hard to understand Russian logic.
Of course, there is a very cheap option travel in an open wagon, so-called platzkarta. The problem is that along with reduction of costs, travel time increases. If you have a lot of free time, it may be an advantage, unfortunately if the time is limited you have to spend much more money.
I got on the train punctually at noon four days before New Year’s Eve and in my case every hour made a difference between drinking champagne over Baikal or in railway compartment.
Another stereotype is that only businessmen buy expensive tickets and my choice to do so was comfortable and banal. Well, no. On Transsib, just like in Poland on the Warsaw – Wroclaw or Katowice – Poznan routes, you can meet a full cross-section of society. An average Sasha from Novosibirsk, a soldier on a pass, a tradesman heading on a delegation or a family returning home from holidays. If we are ready to talk, break the ice and try to find out more about these people, the Trans-Siberian Railway is ideal place for that. Long conversations can be lead both on platzkarta and in a sleeping compartment at 2 AM.
And of course, everybody drinks, sips vodka from glasses and praises Putin. Truth? Well, no!
The most important equipment for each passenger is not a half a liter of alcohol, but a package of tea, kilogram of sugar (necessarily – in cubes) and an instant soup. Without set like this no one starts a journey. Maybe if one still have a place in a luggage, one can pack a bottle. And conversations over tea or vodka are about everything. People are different so they have different points of view. It is worth to confront our notions about the world with reality.