Something fishy was going on with the guards on our train.  They, the Chinese men dressed in stately blue uniforms, didn’t care much about their official duties—our shared bathroom constantly lacked soap, and rarely had toilet paper (thankfully, we brought our own)—but they were busy doing something.

Our suspicions were confirmed when, arriving on the platform in Moscow, one guard, wearing his civvies, covertly accepted a thick wad of cash in exchange for a pushcart loaded with boxes of liquor.  Several other carts were being unloaded as we left the train.  The guards had been busy loading liquor, and other boxes containing goods we couldn’t identify, in the compartment next to ours on our last night on the train.

In addition to witnessing the final stage in a transcontinental smuggling operation, we were also lucky enough to arrive to the scene of three Russian construction workers slinging wet cement at each other about ten yards from where we were standing, in a scene highly reminiscent of the gasoline fight at the beginning of Zoolander.  They were shouting, and whether they were actually angry with each other or just “play fighting” we couldn’t tell.  One did raise his trowel in apparent anger after suffering a direct hit to the face.

Things got even zanier when we saw a drunk literally being hurled by his shirt collar out of the police station situated at the end of the train platform.  Our first two minutes in Moscow certainly did not want for excitement.

Lake Baikal, Siberia

In contrast, the last several days on the train were relatively tranquil.  The Siberian countryside was pretty, but, for the most part, very similar to the countryside in the northeastern US, where we are from, so was not as interesting to us as, say, Mongolia.  Lake Baikal was a notable exception, and provided several hours of gorgeous vistas of deep blue water surrounded by attractive mountains.  We had been looking forward to seeing the Urals, the mountain range that divides Europe from Asia, but unfortunately we were fairly underwhelmed (the other tourists we spoke to hadn’t even realized we had passed through a mountain range).

Like denizens of upstate New York (where I’m from), Siberians have a penchant for stockpiling used automobiles in their yards.  Some had truly impressive collections of Ladas and Skodas rusting in front of their homes.  Additionally, I have never seen larger or older satellite dishes than those that we saw attached to many homes.

MORE LIKE THIS:
Trans-Siberian Railroad: Day 1
Trans-Siberian Railroad: Day 2 – Mongolian Countryside and Gabor’s Story

ALL PICTURES FROM THE TRANS-MONGOLIA ROUTE (China & Mongolia): here
ALL PICTURES FROM THE TRANS-SIBERIA ROUTE (Russia): here

 

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Patrick

  One Response to “Trans-Siberian Railroad: Final Days”

  1. I never saw Zoolander – is it worth seeing, I wonder? Funny, but a bit scary observing illegal activities. Aren’t you glad to be off the train?! And, getting to be able to take showers?!

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