There’s an irony: travelling the Trans-Siberian is not ultimately about the travelling itself – so I am reliably informed. It’s not about sitting on a train; that’s the least of it – as one hapless explorer found to his cost (literally).
Having booked a trip to tick the TSR off the bucket list in the most convenient, bite-sized manner possible; the person concerned emerged after a two-week stint of gazing forlornly from the carriage window, bored to the point of stupefaction.
It’s hard to imagine what was expected here; an on-board troupe of performing Cossacks to keep the passengers entertained for the duration? A travelling reenactment of the October Revolution, staged carriage by carriage, perhaps? Who knows why people think the things they do – I give up.
Yes, it’s the bits OFF the railway itself that are the interesting parts, right? And we do talk about them here all the time. However, there is a case for examining the innards of the conveyance itself. It’ll help you to know the ropes. We don’t need 14 days of excruciating minutiae as experienced by the aforementioned individual however. Maybe a couple of blog posts will do, yes?
I’m going to make the assumption that you will not be travelling 3rd class, but let’s briefly cover it and move on. 3rd is a sea of open bunks, like a hostel on rails, a military barracks, some kind of 3rd world prison – but with a nice view. That kind of thing. It’s obviously the cheapest (any cheaper would be outside on the roof) and yes, it may have some appeal for those who are seriously hardcore and who want a very “real” experience. You’ll literally be living/sleeping in a communal room full of strangers on all sides, mere feet away. Sweet dreams!
As Katie Aune rather euphemistically describes it on her travel blog:
“This makes third class a little more social, but a little less secure”.f
It’s the deep-end of rail travel. Tempted?
It’s fair to assume however that you are spending all this cash to coast along in some element of relative luxury and privacy, even if it’s having your own door or even a shared door. Any kind of door.
Luxury is synonymous with the removal of your fellow man, naturally so first and second class is the comparative isolation of choice. This immediate upgrade grants you the assignment of a berthed, lockable compartment. Suddenly, things feel a little more secure, although the compartments contain two or four berths depending on the travel class. Yes, these will likely be used. So rather than sharing with a carriage full of complete strangers you are now temporarily cohabiting with a mere 1-3, depending on whether you book a 2 or 4 berth. Does that still leave you uncomfortable? It does me. It’s a good reason to go with a colleague whom you don’t mind seeing in their underpants. Let’s face it: you don’t really know someone until you’ve seen them in their underpants after all. It’s a crucial stage in any relationship.
Taking things a step further; you can reserve the whole compartment for your journey’s duration if your funds stretch that far. It’s worth weighing up the pros and cons and may be viable for a short hop.
[Photo by Unsplash]