Life

A nostalgic journey across Russia by rail: Rediscovering the country’s soul from Vladivostok to Moscow

  Airplanes are already the main mode of international travel, but rail-driven train travel has always been on my mind.
  In Russia, railways are an indelible mark on Russian culture. Do you remember that in Tolstoy’s masterpiece “Anna Karenina”, the heroine eventually jumped into the orbit and transformed from an aristocratic lady into a twisted and deformed wreckage? In this realist masterpiece, the railway has always been an important part of the narrative. The words “train” and “railway” frequently appear in Toon’s writings and become the talking points of the characters in the novel. They also drive their behavior and are closely related to their fate.
  In fact, today, trains are still the best choice for traveling in Russia.
  Spanning 11 time zones, and the geographical environment is not conducive to road construction, there are few roads connecting Russia’s various federal entities, and there is only a railway network that runs through the country. It can be said that rail transit is the core lifeline for Russia to maintain connectivity among various districts.
  Choose to take the K3/4 international intermodal train departing from China, buy a ticket from China International Travel Service with your passport and valid Mongolia-Russia visa, depart from Beijing, and arrive in Moscow in about six days. There will be slight differences in different seasons and times.
  If you choose the original version of the Siberian Railway in Russia, then the whole journey from Vladivostok (Vladivostok), the end point of the railway monument, to Moscow will take 6 days, 19 hours and 48 minutes, 15 seats The fare for a hard seat is 11,921.6 rubles (approximately RMB 955), and the fare for a 7-seat hard sleeper is 20,152.6 rubles (approximately RMB 1,614).
  If purchased in sections, whether it is the China-Mongolia-Russia line or the railway monument project, the overall fare will be about a quarter cheaper. Moreover, there are many trains, the time is flexible, and it is relatively free.
  Now it is said that trains with showers have been launched, and Russian Railways has been working hard to increase speed. Travel in the future will become increasingly comfortable and faster.
  At the end of September, Russian media reported that Russia will complete the transition to electronic processing of visa-free Chinese tour groups to Russia in the first and second quarters of 2024. By then, a trip to Russia may become more and more convenient.

  There are few roads connecting Russia’s various federal entities, and only a railway network runs through the country.
  Several years ago, I, who was born and raised in Inner Mongolia, started from Vladivostok (Vladivostok), the end point of the Siberian Railway, and traveled 9,288 kilometers across eight time zones to Moscow, the starting point of the world’s longest railway line. Go ahead.
  I am a son of the railroad system. My grandparents were the first batch of railway workers who came to Baotou City from their hometown in Tianjin to support the frontier. Out of the mentality of paying tribute to them, this can be said to be a “long-planned” trip.
  Crossing Europe and Asia by rail is not a dream in Russia.
  Before being overtaken by China in 2012, Russia had firmly occupied the number one position in terms of electrified railway mileage in the world. The Siberian Railway, as the main east-west transportation artery, played a decisive role in maintaining the normal operation of Russia across the Eurasian continent.
  The western extension line of the railway can reach Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, and the eastern extension line can reach Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. However, due to well-known reasons, it is only theoretically possible to realize all the east-west extension lines. The most familiar route to Chinese people is the K3/4 train, which departs from Beijing and reaches Moscow via Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, with a total length of 7,818 kilometers.
  In order not to go overboard, I decided to have a good rest in Vladivostok in the Far East for a few days, get off and tour in sections in Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude in Siberia, and Yekaterinburg, a city at the junction of Europe and Asia, and finally arrived in Europe. Moscow also happens to be a rough walk through the representative cities of the three major parts of Russia.

  When Russians talk about the Far East, they always have a distant and desolate mentality. The outside world always believes that the greatest value of this land is the development of natural resources. But in fact, Vladivostok is a self-contained “literary and artistic place”. City”.
  In the cold winter, outdoor activities are inconvenient, so various cultural and artistic performances are particularly developed, and the ticket prices are often very close to the people. Russia, which loves art and pursues excellence, still shines even in the extremely distant eastern border.
  Vladivostok is the largest city in the Russian Far East, with a relatively concentrated concentration of cultural and artistic activities. I have visited in winter before to watch the match between China’s home ice hockey team Beijing Red Star Vanke Dragons and Vladivostok Admirals. I also came with my friends to appreciate the Russian meritorious singer Valeria (Вале?рия ) concert. The local opera house in Vladivostok is small enough to have close contact with the singers.
  Vladivostok is certainly not the only place where cultural events take place indoors. As Russia’s important window to the Pacific Ocean, the sea view here is also worth a visit. The popular movie “July and Anson” at that time made the Tokanev Lighthouse in Vladivostok popular, so I rented a car to go there. Modern navigation equipment has been very advanced, and the number of human-operated lighthouses has been greatly reduced, but the abandoned lighthouses are still lonely. The land stands beside the sea, providing me with beautiful reveries coming from the interior.
  In general, Vladivostok, which is eight time zones away from Moscow, is a culturally rich North Pacific coastal city. Here, I will “recharge my batteries” with the strong cultural atmosphere before starting the long journey on the Asia-Europe railway, which is also a good start for my journey.

  I boarded the train to Irkutsk at dusk. After two nights of bumps, I finally set foot on solid ground again in the early morning of the third day.
  At this time, I had left the Far East of Russia and entered the deepest part of the Eurasian continent – Siberia.
  Irkutsk is an important city in the Siberian region of Russia. Because it is located on a transportation artery, it has become a stopover city for many Chinese people visiting Lake Baikal.
  After visiting the famous local Decembrist Monument and eating some local grilled fish and desserts, I took the train along Lake Baikal and arrived at Ulan-Ude, the capital of the Republic of Buryatia. The local Buryat people are a branch of the Mongolian ethnic group. As soon as I stepped out of the train station, I saw a huge tourism advertisement erected by the Inner Mongolia Tourism Bureau, which was quite cordial. Here, the influence of Tibetan Buddhism was spread to the Lake Baikal region.
  In this city, I witnessed the first tearful moment of my trip: I saw the Bodhi tree growing in a greenhouse at the Ivolkinsky Lama Temple, the largest lamasery in the area. The linden tree is a tropical tree and cannot survive in high latitudes where winters are bitterly cold. After all, extreme temperatures there can reach minus 50 degrees Celsius.

  Vladivostok is the largest city in the Russian Far East, with a relatively concentrated concentration of cultural and artistic activities.

  The local Buryat people built a greenhouse specifically for it, taking good care of it and maintaining constant temperature and humidity. The Ivolkinsky Lama Temple experienced brutal Soviet repression, and the current temple was rebuilt on the ruins. Today, it has become the center of Lamaism in Russia. After visiting the temple, standing on the top of the mountain, you can overlook the urban area of ​​Ulan-Ude, and you can also see the Selenga River, the largest tributary that flows into Lake Baikal.
  On the way to the next city, Yekaterinburg, I met the military police who transferred prisoners at the local station, which once again demonstrated the importance of the Siberian Railway in maintaining the operation of this huge country in Russia. Those who have read “Doctor Zhivago” may still remember that in order to escape the turbulent post-revolutionary Moscow, the hero and his family took a train and hid in a small city in the Ural Mountains. Like today’s Russians, if you want to start a new life in a distant corner of your country, you have to complete the starry night train journey and reach the new shore under the severe cold, stench and the threat of thieves.
  Today, I am taking a train, heading in the opposite direction, from the east of the Urals to Moscow, the heart of Russia.
  Yekaterinburg is the dividing city between Asia and Europe and the fourth largest city in Russia after Moscow, St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk. Heading west from here, you will completely enter the European part of Russia.
  Here I visited the Cathedral on Spilled Blood. After the October Revolution, the last Tsar Nicholas II and his family also died here. During the Soviet period, it had been difficult for outsiders to visit due to its sensitive history; after the end of the Cold War, the Russian Federation carried out large-scale restoration of the final place of the last czar, especially the excavation of the remains of Nicholas II and his family under the sponsorship of the British royal family. , identification and burial projects were completed. As a distant relative of the Romanov dynasty, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom repeatedly asked about the whereabouts of the remains of Nicholas II during her only visit to Russia. It can be said that the ups and downs of Russia in the 20th century can be displayed in this gloomy church.

  The final highlight is the 0km Monument of the Siberian Railway. It is located at Yaroslavl Railway Station in Moscow, spanning nearly 10,000 kilometers, and was finally paired with Monument 9288 in Vladivostok.
  There is an old saying in China that goes, “Reading thousands of books, traveling thousands of miles.” From the end of the Siberian Railway to the starting point, I learned part of the answer through what I knew and learned as a child, and in the alternation of railway tracks. The Siberian Railway is more like a microcosm of Russian history. Along the way, Russia remains extremely complex in my heart. There is a Russia in stereotypes, a Russia in history textbooks, a Russia in culture and art, and a Russia that is curious about its northern neighbor. They are all revealed one by one on this long track.

  During her only visit to Russia, Elizabeth II also repeatedly asked about the whereabouts of Nicholas II’s remains.

  Moscow may be familiar to many Chinese travelers. Traveling with a group is nothing more than visiting the Red Square or visiting the parts of the Kremlin that are open to tourists. There are actually even less popular options. In order to explore the deeper layers of the Russian national soul, I visited the Gulag Memorial Museum and Dostoevsky’s former residence.
  Reading thousands of books is not as good as traveling thousands of miles. When I really stood in front of the real traces left by Solzhenitsyn and Dostoyevsky, I felt that the thick Russian literature was in the three-dimensional real space. In what state do you survive?
  After more than half a month, my Siberian Railway journey was over. Next, I took the high-speed train to St. Petersburg, transferred to Belarus to fly to Berlin, and then took a train through Denmark to arrive in Sweden, the destination of the trip, before the start of school in September.
  If the American “Beat Generation” found themselves while running wildly on the deserted roads of North America, then during my half-month rail journey in Asia and Europe, I found the railway stories I had wanted to know since I was a child. This experience also spurred me to continue exploring the world with both feet as long as my energy and financial resources allow.
  Recalling my trip on the Siberian Railway, what I most often think of is the classic preface of the travel biography “Travels with Charley: In Search of America”:
  When I was still very young, I longed for foreign countries, those “mature” ” people assured me that maturity can cure this craving. While the years have reminded me of my maturity, they have prescribed middle age. When I reached middle age, I was assured that my enthusiasm would naturally subside as I grew older. Now, I’m 58—perhaps only aging will play a role. Only I know that none of this has any effect. The four hoarse ship whistles still made the hairs on my neck stand up and made my feet beat involuntarily. The sound of a jet, even the sound of an engine warming up, or even the kick of a horse’s hooves on the pavement left me shaking, my mouth dry, my eyes hollow, my palms hot, and my stomach churning beneath my ribcage. In other words, I am hopeless; yes, I am hopeless. In other words, once a person becomes a homeless person, he will always be a homeless person.

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