Omsk, Tomsk, and Nizhni Novgorod


My interest in the Trans-Siberian Railway goes back a long way. Some parents spoon food into their recalcitrant offspring saying “Here’s one for Mummy, here’s one for Daddy, here’s one for Teddy …” and so on. For reasons best known to herself (and she is, sadly, no longer around for me to ask why) my mother chose the main stops on the Trans-Siberian Railway. I was an unenthusiastic eater, so by around age two, there had been enough repetition that I could recite them myself. My favorites were Omsk, Tomsk, Nizhni Novgorod, and Vladivostok (which last caused great amusement to my parents, as I said what I heard and it came out as “Bloody boss dog”).

While the Trans-Siberian Railway isn’t a tourist line but an important passenger- and freight-carrying part of the entire Russian railway system, there are travel companies that specialize in organizing tourist travel from Moscow on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Moscow to Vladivostok is 9,258 km (6,152 miles) and takes seven days. If you get off and on the train and spend a night or two anywhere, it takes longer, of course.

I adore trains, so it immediately became something I have to do before I die, which better not be anytime soon, since the trips aren’t cheap and I need to start socking away the money. You could probably do it on your own more cheaply if you speak Russian and know your way around, but I don’t. Maybe this will be my retirement present to myself.

And once you get to Vladivostok, it’s only 36 hours by boat to Tokyo, and it’s been more than 30 years since I was there … . On the other hand, you can take it to Beijing, where I’ve never been … .


One Response to Omsk, Tomsk, and Nizhni Novgorod

  1. Kirk says:

    When I was in kindergarten and my brother was three, Dr. Harper told Mother to take us someplace warm and see if that would break our cycle of chronic colds. So one sleety March night my father took us to the station in Richmond, Virginia and waited until we boarded the very late train to Florida. After standing outside the dining car for nearly two hours, we were shown to a table covered in sturdy white cloth, white napkins and my first heavy plate silver, railroad plate that would not tip as we rounded a curve. Dinner while moving. Enchantment. Then it was back to our car and a fall into bed. It was raining, and it continued to rain—harder and harder. I got the top bunk and a pale blue light. Mother and Ned slept below. Rocked by the clicking of the rails, I sank into sleep with rain beating harder and harder, inches from my face. Next morning, I raised the shade. Instead of bulging grey clouds, dirty ice and wet soot in the night, groves rolled by—orange trees, lemon trees, lime trees, grapefruit trees under a robin’s egg sky. It was too high to jump down, but soon a porter with white in his moustache and heavy tortoise-shell glasses, his jacket blinding white next to such deep brown skin, brought a ladder and I climbed down. All during a breakfast of my first fresh-squeezed orange juice, my first link sausages and waffles soaked in real maple syrup, grove after improbable grove drifted by.

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