Monday, November 21, 2011

Russian-style trains, planes and automobiles

I really wanted to write this post to show you a couple of photos of great Russian cars that I saw on my travels, but as I sat down to type, the title just forced its way in. I haven't managed quite as many modes of transport in Russia as my friends Helen and Andy (just check their post on an ill-fated trip to Nizhny Novgorod), but trains, planes and cars have all featured heavily.

The obvious train experience in Russia is a ride on the Trans-Siberian. It's no secret this was one of my favourite ever trips. I took a couple of weeks to do it, making stops along the way, but I would one day like to do the week-long trip straight - some might call me a glutton for punishment, but I consider more an enforced week of R and R.

Rosiya train from Vladivostok - first leg of my Trans-Siberian trip
I've flown into Vladivostok and to Moscow, but the flight with Vladivostok Air (Osaka, Japan to Vladivostok) was by far the most memorable. And not in an entirely good way. Well, the only good thing about it was that it has given me plenty of stories to tell. Quite frankly, I was terrified, and I'm not joking when the pilot announced after landing (phew!) that we should exit the plane row by row so as not to upset the balance of the aircraft. I'm glad he hadn't mentioned that before we took off. And I hope it was just something that was lost in translation.

My Vladivostok Air plane on the tarmac in Kansai
Being on the roads in Russia was another experience that shaved a few years off my life. Part of my homestay deals on each trip has involved a free pick-up from the stations or airports, but the various curious characters who have driven me each time could fill a (long) novel. But I've also seen some fantastic vehicles on the road: this Moskvitch (the Trabant of Russia) looks gorgeous but I'm sure didn't drive spectacularly well; the next photo shows some (I assume) police vehicles in St Petersburg, and I can't quite imagine they could perform in a chase (since the general car-owning public was, by this stage - 2005 - driving around in rather more modern vehicles!).

Blue Moskvitch in Listvyanka (Lake Baikal in the distance)

St Petersburg police cars on Nevsky Prospekt

2 comments:

  1. I have tried so hard to understand why people like long train trips - or cruises, actually. I'm not being funny but is it the pleasure of seeing lots of different things through the windows? Or high quality buffet cars or comfortable cabins to sleep in? Why stop off on a well trodden route visited by thousands of tourists when you could take an everyday old train to somewhere new? I just don't get it, but I am prepared to believe this is a problem in me, becuase so many people and so many experienced travellers do love these trips.

    Perhaps I should do one and see if I can figure it out for myself.

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  2. Good question Jenny - I don't know about others but for me the biggest attraction is "captive time" where I can't do anything but sit back and enjoy the ride!

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