SIBERIA - A SURVIVAL DICTIONARY III

Transport, Without Colors

A survival dictionary for the biggest and coldest place in the world.

 

Siberia will introduce you to dislocation.
Siberia will burn the word rasstojanje in your mind.

Be prepared to reconsider your concept of space. The word distance has its own meaning in this 13 million square kilometer white land and it is defined by one thing that crosses it. Here the Tran-Siberian rules and God is in the timetable.

This country hosts the longest railway in the world, connecting Moscow to the Far East and the Japanese sea. The legendary Trans-Siberian, an iron snake 9,259 kilometers long, journeys across 7 time zones, 2 continents and travels non-stop for 8 days to Vladivostok. The Russian government’s greatest achievement was paradoxically built by its enemy: prisoners known as the “shaved heads”. The Trans-Siberian crosses the “border to another world”, Ryszard Kapuściński states. The railway is vital in a land where there is no highway; trains are the main form of transport and communication. The only alternative is a WWII Tupolev plane. 

Open a blank notebook. Continue your linguistic perestroika by writing down the third word in Cyrilic that you will need in the smiling hypothesis that you will survive the remotest place in the world.

The third word you need to write down on the page is Pасстояние. Rasstojanje. Distance.

 

Then:

− Just like ancient Romans indicated the distance to Rome on the streets of the Empire, Russians signpost the distance to Moscow: keep your eyes open for indications of where you are along the “silk road” of Russia.

 

− The Siberian way of thinking is that if a city is two days away by Transib (as they familiarly call the railway), it is not far at all. If a friend says he's coming to visit keep the door open: he could arrive sooner than expected.

 

− Check the time zone you are in and calculate by how many hours it is different to Moscow time. The Trans-Siberian timetable is set by this time. Plan your life around it.

 

− A ticket can cost 1,200 dollars if you are an amateur tourist. Travel in economy class; taste the real Siberia with workers and peasants paying a third of the cost.

 

− You are crossing a territory big as the USA and Canada put together. The Trans-Siberian stops at 87 cities, and many of the one million passengers that travel every year across Eurasia arrive at the wrong destination because they fall asleep.

 

− Permafrost remains on the ground for ten months in some Siberian taiga ecozones: sometimes trains get stuck for hours or days. If a Tupolev is not around, learn patience.

 

− Do what Kapuściński would have done. Write a book about the Imperium and learn that it is useless to protest against the infinite white.

 

− When the most recent meteorite fell on earth and it landed in a remote Siberian area, there was no damage because no humans were around. If you are not afraid of Russian bureaucracy buy a piece of land here: there is space for everybody. No neighbors will bother you. Out of the 40 million who inhabit Russia, less than 28% are around.