I have wanted to see Russia's Siberia since I read Jules Verne's Michel Strogoff and I dreamt of travelling on the Trans Siberian Train as long as I have known of it. Three years ago I went to Russia with the intention of doing Khabarovsk to Moscow but I ended up doing the river and canal cruise from Moscow to St Petresbourg instead. This time I travelled alone so I finally got on that train.
|Atlapedia CIA Country Reports Lonely Planet Traveldocs|
The scenery stays the same on the Russian side after the border town of Zabaikalsk, flat grassland sometimes sown with wheat.
The first sizable town is Chita with this big grain elevator.
A relatively new and handsome Siberian duplex house in Chita. Duplex houses are popular in Siberia, it must be because they are easier to heat in winter...
Most Siberians do their shopping in neighbourhood stores (magazin) like this one or in open markets when the weather permits.
The grassland is sometimes bare and almost a desert in spots but the vast open spaces are always beautiful.
Grassland gives way to the wooded land called Taiga. That is a fancy name but it looks a lot like places I know in Quebec!
Petrovsk Zabailskij sports a great train station but there is not much else to see there.
This great mural represents the revolutionary Decembrists in chains as they were exiled to Siberia by the Tzar in 1827. It's a nice piece of work but most of them were exiled not here but in Chita, 300 kms further east.
The station is grand but the rest of Petrovsk Zabailskij is like this, a whistle stop on the trans-siberian railway.
This could be next door to the farm I once had near Quebec city.
Large areas have remained untouched in Siberia. Sometimes it can be breathtakingly beautiful!
I was lucky to fall in with a good bunch of travellers on the train. We had a good time. Here, we are stretching our legs on the Ulan-Ude station quay, Nicola Barton, Andre Coffa, Elizabeth Hurst, me and Mary X.
Past Ulan-Ude, the track follows the Selanga River flowing north from Mongolia into Lake Baikal north-west of here. It is cold, clean and beautiful. Datchas can be seen here and there along its shores.
Crossing from the north to the south side of the Selenga on this bridge means that we are approaching Lake Baikal.
Ah! Our first glimpse of Lake Baikal!
Judging from the four TV antennas and from the different upkeep of the windows, one can see that four families share this run down house and the vegetable plots around it. The magnificent view on the lake must compensate to a certain extent for the lack of luxury!
Finally we reach Irkutsk after 66 hours in the legendary trans-Manchurian train. We split at the Irkutsk station, Andre and Nicola going to one private home and Elizabeth and I to another.