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Tuesday
Aug232005

Siberia

Last night was the final on the train for awhile. I get to shower soon!

In the afternoon yesterday we played the trans-Siberian olympics. Our team was myself, John, Troy, Jodie and Niamh. The first round was trivial pursuit, which we narrowly lost. I am no good at trivia, I tell myself that they ask the wrong questions. I did get ambergris though (whale vomit used in perfume). The next round was leap-frog down the train, which John and Jodie won for us (they beat Luke and Angela). The third round was matryoshka doll unpacking and repacking, I took that round because I said I was used to fiddly dissections fast, and we won that over Kate. The fourth round was most crazy hairstyle, we managed to stick a dozen plastic forks, a few matryoshka dolls and a watch in Niamh's hair to beat Monica. The fifth round was gargling happy birthday, which Troy won over Sinead. The final round was Russian trivia, which was excellent for us, as it was bits about history, tsars, 1812, stories about statues etc, just the things that I like to note down.

As the afternoon wore on we passed through still more heavily industrial Siberian towns and more verdant taiga. A few more stops. It is noticeable that the Russians wear less and less clothes as the trip goes on (they treat the railway in the way we treat a beach weekend).

The lady next door (celebrating her 40th) came and bothered us drunk again. Well, I don't mind, although it is odd since she doesn't even speak English, but it was a bit much and everyone evacuated and I was trapped with her. She was quite forward, it became really uncomfortable until John rescued me. We all had a celebratory vodka for getting rid of her.

This morning we are getting off the train. We have come 5185km from Moscow to Irkutsk.

 

A brief history of the trans-Siberian

The railway was initiated by Alexander III in 1891. It consists of the western Siberian track (built from 1892-96 from Moscow to Novosibirsk), the central Siberian track (built in 1893-98 to Irkutsk, with three 1km bridges through the mountains and valleys), and the Circumbaikal track. The Circumbaikal track was the hardest to build, from 1901-04 for the short track around Lake Baikal with its steep cliffs. It required 33 tunnels and 100 bridges, and two icebreakers to carry the trains across the Lake while the Circumbaikal was being built. From here, the track becomes the Transbaikal track (built in 1895-1900) to Ulan Ude. Once we get here, we split off on the 2080km trans-Mongolian track (built in bits and pieces, finished in 1956), while the trans-Manchurian and trans-Siberian tracks also split off. The first train to make the trans-Siberian trip was in 1900 (which used the ice-breakers to cross Lake Baikal) or 1916 for a train-only journey. Our trip from Moscow to Beijing will be a total of 7857km. From Prague to Moscow, Luke and I are travelling about 10 000km by train.

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