And there she was - the fabled Trans-Siberian, ready to take us on the longest train journey in the world. A surreal three countries, five time zones and 8300km of steppe, snow and stations lay ahead...
Contrary to popular belief there is no express train per se that goes all the way, but instead a variety of carriages and engines that get shuntered together and pulled apart at different stations along the journey.
Once on board, I met my new roommates in our 4 berth Kupe class cabin: an Aussie, a Belgian and a Colombian. We pooled our goodies – iPod, cards, bad wine, portable DVD, Lonely Planet guides and more cards – before all trying to unpack at the same time.
Luckily I had the advice of a previous traveller, “two levels of packing”. I had no idea what that meant until I found my backpack buried under the bottom bunk and my food, toiletries and books keeping my toes warm. Not that they needed to. There must be an edict that says Westerners love heat and at times our carriage was turned up to a stifling 28°. It may sound odd but the clothes I wore the most were t-shirts and shorts – a striking contrast to the frigid view outside.
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Artisans Painting in Miniature on Wood
The artisans of this region make beautiful paintings on wood. I met artisan Asya Partina who practices the Ural-Siberian art of miniature painting with squirrel brushes and even a uses a wolf tooth passed down for generations for applying paint and resins. Keep an eye out for these types of artwork and other painting.