Trans - Siberian Railway's Rossiya: A Tale of Two Trains (Paperback)
It was during a late July night in Southern Finland as our Helsinki - Leningrad Express rumbled towards the Russian border when Misha somberly warned us: "We are about to enter the land of the enemy". Misha's expression turned stern and foreboding as Lee, Bernie, Betty and I sat dumfounded in our compartment, wondering what to expect next. We were on an organized professional railway tour of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe during the height of the "cold war" and Misha was our guide/interpreter, leading us to this forbidden land. But that was my second trip to the USSR, the first was a Trans - Siberian escapade in 1974 and the third, took place during July, 2016, which included a long - awaited reunion with the Trans - Siberian Railway. These pages include a description and my impressions of that first rail trip 42 years ago in contrast with my most recent trip to ride that same iconic train, just a couple of months' ago. Soon after my first Trans - Siberian rail adventure, rail journeys became the focus of my travel excitement and since then I have logged thousands of miles on both rickety and modern railways, bone - shattering roads, tranquil and wind - swept waterways of South East Asia, Central Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and North America. Each of these trips provided mind-expanding experiences and an irresistible urge to do more. I soon began to realize that I was somehow different from most other people when it came to travel choices. My travel pleasures were other people's pain and discomfort. I planned trips to places from where others were escaping. I rode trains other people shun with disgust; one such train was the Limbe to Monkey Bay rattletrap operated by the Malawi Railways. Coaches were filthy, the condition of the toilet unspeakable (use only when holding your breath) as we endured the nine-hour slog through central Africa - "the worst day of my life" my wife exclaimed with disgust. I thought the trip was exhilarating, though one had to step carefully when entering the loo. I traveled through war zones with keen anticipation, not out of a sense of bravado but just to capture the experience, looking for that special moment of satisfaction, which perhaps has been shared by few others. The romantic lure of the Trans - Siberian Railway became a powerful travel urge tugging strongly ever since I read and re-read the travel agent's brochures in early 1974. I had never been overseas and had no great interest to travel, but somehow, the Trans - Siberian was different. I loved to ride trains, and this one certainly appeared worthy to become my first international rail adventure. In December of that year, I took the plunge that hooked me on overseas travel for the rest of my life. This book describes that first trip and the second journey during 2016 as well as several other interesting Russian rail adventures. Russia has been transformed from a country of many state - subsidized services to a market economy where people must pay their share for all commodities. This clearly has caused some upheaval in the economic system of the country, and Russian citizens needed to become accustomed to the new "order". These events have had both positive and negative impacts on rail travelers. But I would conclude that Russian rail adventures are just as exciting and dramatic experiences as they were 40 years ago.
Thomas Kennedy is a transport consultant having worked in more than 40 countries in the Far East, Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. His other interests include history of railway development and riding trains in exotic and some not-so-exotic lands; these notes reflect some of his railway adventures in the USSR; then in Russia. He is a student of the Japanese and Russian languages, but master of neither. www.thomaslkennedy.com