10 Jul 21 things you will learn about Russia during 21-days Trans-Siberian Railway tour.
A lot of adventures, train lovers or just people who like to travel have the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway tour already on their travel bucket lists.
To explore the real Russia and feel genuine Russian soul it’s better to organize the trip with a local Russian tour operator and usually, 21-day-trip allows to feel what the real Russia is with its diversity, big cities, natural wonders, Russian cuisine, and traditions.
Here are 21 things that you can learn during your Trans-Siberian Railway tour.
- The Trans-Siberian Railway route is the longest railway in the world. It is 9,289 km route, which connects Moscow with Vladivostok. The Trans-Siberian Railway crosses seven time zones and it will take seven full days to travel this destination without stops.
- There is no special “Trans-Siberian train” which can deliver you directly from Moscow to Vladivostok or a special unified “Transsib ticket”. Though there are some touristic trains with non-Russian ownership, they are more like cruise ships. You have a single compartment, your suitcase is there, you have some stops on the way and when taking off the train everything is arranged and “staged” like folklore groups singing nearby the train and all-inclusive touring cities with usual tourist traps. The option is not for real adventures and for those who prefer to explore places from a local perspective.
- A Russian train is a place where you can totally relax after hustle and bustle of big cities. Why so? Some traveling from one stop to the other may take up to 40 hours. A chance to read a book, think over, be with yourself or sleep. In case you want to communicate with your neighbors, Russian people always happy to chat.
- There are no bears in fur hats with balalaika on the streets. You may find bears in zoos, in the circus bears may even play balalaika, but on the streets are Russian people, ready to help you in case they speak English, if not they will use body language.
- Almost all Russian big cities are round-the-clock and dynamic ones. If you want a red caviar, beetroot, rye bread or anything at night, you may easily buy it in the supermarket. (You won’t be able to buy alcohol after 10 or 11 pm depending on the city)
- If you use Moscow Metro you will find yourself in a Museum of Soviet Architecture. Built in 1935, Moscow’s underground is one of the biggest and the most beautiful in the world. Beside its transportation value, it is also the most popular tourist site.
- There are at least two presidents in Russia. The President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and there is the president of the Republic of Tatarstan with its capital Kazan. Kazan is a totally different Russia – its Muslim side, where mosques and Orthodox churches stand next to each other. Citadel of Qol Sharif Mosque, the one on the territory of the Kazan Kremlin was declared UNESCO Heritage Site in 2000. It is huge and can include over 1500 people.
- In Russian banya, you may be slapped with a whisk broom. During Trans-Siberian Railway tour take a chance to go to Russian banya. It is a tradition to use bundles of leafy oak or birch branches that are called “venik” to slap and thus massage a person’s body while they steam. Try it and you will feel that your skin will become softer, it improves blood circulation, intensifies skins capillary activities and metabolism.
- Siberia is not a separate country or city. Siberia is a part of Russia that covers the territory from the Ural Mountains in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east and southward from the Arctic Ocean to the hills of north-central Kazakhstan and the borders of Mongolia and China. Along the Trans-Siberian Railway tour, you visit several Siberian cities, see its big rivers such as Yenisey river and of course the magnificent Lake Baikal.
- It is not cold in Siberia all year. In winter the Temperature in Siberia drops to -40 degrees Celsius and in some parts, it reaches even -60. But there is Summer (lasts max 3 months) and the temperature can reach up to 40 degrees Celsius, giving the region one of the world’s greatest temperature variations. Probably no one can appreciate summer as much as people from Siberia do!
- Dacha is a summer country house with a small garden. Usually, elderly people move to their dachas for the whole summer time season to take care of their harvest. People grow berries, fruits and vegetables on their dachas and than making jams, pickled cucumbers and tomatoes and Russian sauerkraut.
- The famous Russian dish Beef Stroganoff was created not by a Russian chef. A French chef named Charles Briere won a St. Petersburg cooking contest with a dish he called Beef Stroganov in 1891, it is a special recipe of beef in sour cream.
- The Statue of Liberty has a skeleton made of Ekaterinburg metal. Metallurgy is one of the most developed industries of the city. For a long time, the roof of the building of the Parliament of Britain was also covered with Urals metal.
- You may experience winter climbing the 96-meter high rock pillars without ropes! Stolby (Pillars) Nature Reserve is an example of Taiga a pine forest surrounding a set of unique volcanic extrusions called Stolby which is located near Krasnoyarsk city. It is a home to local rock-climbers and hikers as well as to a variety of endangered animals and plants that have found entry to the Red Book of Russia, a collection of the rarest species native to the country. There is the ethics of climbing at Stolby-essentially free climbing i.e. without ropes as protection.
- Some Russian people are fond of ice-hole swimming. Apart from those who do it only on Epiphany (Jan. 19) when Russians take to freezing waters in an ancient ceremony of spiritual cleansing. Others do it regularly like going to the gym. Such extreme hobbies.
- Irkutsk has been Russia’s capital of political repression for centuries. Political prisoners were sent this way to labor camps throughout the nineteenth century. Many of the forced labor camps of the GULAG system were located near to Irkutsk as well.
- You can drink water just from the Lake Baikal. Lake Baikal is the world’s largest freshwater lake in terms of volume. It is also the deepest lake in the world and if we calculate the depth of Lake Baikal from the top of the mountains surrounding Lake Baikal down to the solid bottom of the lake, it will be equal to 12,977 meters.
- In winter you may do ice skating across the Lake Baikal. The ice is transparent, giving the amazing appearance of turquoise ice. You may also try ice-fishing through a drilling hole.
- In Ulan-Ude, the capital of Buryatiya there is the preserved body of the Khambo Lama Itigelov ho died in 1927 and is still sitting upright in the lotus position. This phenomenon that continues to intrigue scientists and attracts believers by the thousands can be seen in the Ivolginsky datsan which is the heart of Buddhism in Russia.
- Korean food is very popular in Vladivostok. You can easily find kimchi, spicy garlicky carrots, pickled crunchy fiddlehead ferns, and mushrooms. The pian-se (a steamed pie with cabbage, meat, and spices) is a signature item of the Far Eastern fast food menu.
- Siberian (or Amur) tigers are the world’s largest cats. Because of Russian full protection, the number of tigers has risen from 40 remaining individuals by the 1940s to at around 540 tigers for now. In Russia, this tiger is called Amur tiger. It does not mean “love” lake “amour” in French, but this is called after the Amur river. One of the greatest views of the river can be found in Khabarovsk city, must-stop during the Trans-Siberian Railway tour.
Of course Russia is much more than these 21 statements. Every traveller may add his own experience to this list. The Trans-Siberian Railway trip is a unique opportunity to impress almost all types of travel addicts: history lovers, responsible tourists, nature enthusiasts, trains junkies, foodies, solo travellers. We hope that this article has already brought inspiration to you and you start planning your unforgettable Trans-Siberian Railway tour!
This article is compiled with love to Russia by Natalia Panasenko, blogger for ExploRussia, https://www.explorussia.com/russian-travel-blog.