Trans-Siberian Railway
January 19, 2010 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Trans-Siberian Rail Journeys...follows the route of the Trans-Siberian Railroad which connects the newly opened regions of Russia, China and Mongolia. The seven-day train trip begins in Moscow and ends in Bejing. Also includes Russian archival footage that traces the 25 years (1891-1916) that it took to build the railroad. (PBS, 1996, 2 hours)
posted by vronsky (12 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

And yes that is watergate ex-con and former Nixonian cold warrior G. Gordon Liddy doing the rather mundane voiceover. But there is a lot to like in this documentary. Some of the incidental music (not the theme music) is really good.
posted by vronsky at 12:25 PM on January 19, 2010

With G. Gordon Liddy, the antiquated Soviet materialism and grainy YouTube quality, it feels like a 1970s documentary. Which is a bonus.
posted by stbalbach at 12:53 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am a member of the "Cabin 13" June 2007 Moscow - Beijing Run.

The advantages of plane travel in this day is that until very recently, you were off the grid for a few hours. This train ride is the same thing multiplied by 12, only you may get off the train every once in a while to stave off cabin fever. The other part is that with the kind of people who do this kind of thing, those who are willing to let everything go for a week, it's a lot less boring than you'd think. Be they a European tourist or a Ukrainian merchant of Chinese goods, one can expect to receive dozens of lives' tales as everyone pauses their life and has nothing better to do but tell their stories. Everyone brings a (literal) book that remains unread.

It's amazing that this has been going on for decades.

Of note on my trip:
  • I saved someone who almost died when he has hanging half his body out of the window while the train was at full speed.
  • Due to Russian visa problems, someone got left on the "ass end of Siberia" after he was kicked off the train by the Russian border guards.
  • I celebrated the Swedish mid summer festival on the train, and learned the Swedish pronunciation of the numbers 1-6 owing to copious amounts of Yahtzee playing.
  • I ate a fat and ketchup sandwich.
  • Watched someone admin his Linux server by texting unix commands in the middle of Siberia.
  • Through shear force of will, the talks with a movie-English only speaking Ukrainian guy paid off and I found out he was going to Mongolia to mine gold for a company.
  • Received a ton of Buddhist MP3s off of a monk's memory stick.
  • God, I can go on and on.... Worth doing it for the memories alone.
I have to do this again with an eye towards the looking at the scenery and acknowledging the history of the ride and not spending the time talking to others, as my only impression as a sight seeing tourist is that Siberia looks like Saskatchewan.
posted by sleslie at 1:05 PM on January 19, 2010 [6 favorites]

A little less romantic and touristy is the Salekhard-Igarka railway. In short, Stalin ordered a railway built on the Arctic Ocean and it turned out to be a very bad idea.
posted by crapmatic at 1:57 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is awesome. And certainly got my mouth watery.

But here's a question: It looks like there are lots of places where there are houses really close to the tracks, like only 100 m away or even closer. Now, in a place like Siberia, where you have all the space in the world, why would you build a house right next to the tracks? I mean it's got to be awefully loud every time the Transsib rolls by, no? Although, I suppose there's not much else going on to keep you entertained out there ...
posted by sour cream at 2:00 PM on January 19, 2010

sour cream, I imagine that living in a place with such vast stretches of land makes one value human contact. We value open spaces because community/human contact is the default.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:06 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Does anyone know what the music used in part three is?
posted by vronsky at 3:23 PM on January 19, 2010

I did this last year. My overwhelming impression is that Russia is really very big. Like, that Hitchhiker's Guide thing about space big. Also, it has a lot of trees. And frighteningly cheap alcohol.

It turns out that spending five days on a train is not necessarily the optimum way to prepare for a job interview either. It was a hell of a lot of fun, though.

Some people I met along the way:

-A Ukrainian bloke who was on his way to Irkutsk to look for his long-lost family. All he knew was that they were 'around Lake Baikal somewhere'.

-Max, a 22-year old who'd just been to Tenerife for his first ever holiday. He was travelling with his parents and they kept trying to set him up with the girls I was traveling with. He had the worst sunburn I've ever seen and started drinking at 9 every morning. He also sat on my iPhone.

-Some guy who kept ranting about Putin and told me to read everything about Boris Berezovsky. He also told us about a unique Russian way of cooking meat- on a piece of metal over a fire. He refused to believe that this happened anywhere else in the world.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 3:38 PM on January 19, 2010

Boris Barbequetofski?
posted by vectr at 3:44 PM on January 19, 2010

A little less romantic and touristy is the Salekhard-Igarka railway. In short, Stalin ordered a railway built on the Arctic Ocean and it turned out to be a very bad idea.

Very late correction: not literally on the Arctic Ocean but in the coastal region. Of course if you click the link that becomes obvious.

posted by crapmatic at 5:27 PM on January 19, 2010

Why on earth does the train have a steering wheel?
posted by TheManChild2000 at 7:31 PM on January 19, 2010

I've been watching this thing over a period of days and notice it is very, er, political. Liddy really goes out of his way to play up the Socialist/Capitalist divide. Truly a man in the wilderness.
posted by stbalbach at 1:44 PM on January 24, 2010

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