Thursday, May 23Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Moments during the journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway

On the Olkhon island, Lake Baikal, 22nd of August 2013

…We were cycling to the southern tip of the island through a vast, yellow flatland. It

was magic: feeling so small and looking down the endless dirt road, stretching as far

as you could see. The only sound that I could hear when I stopped pedalling was this

distinctive sound of anybody can hear: the sound of our own existence, of our body.

This muted, travel-like, silenced deepness that is clearly audible if you listen

carefully… And that was something that completely soothes you; the thought that

although you are the smallest feature into this featureless landscape, you are indeed

alive and vibrating. You are breathing out life.

After a while we found the beach that we wanted. Countless cows were grazing

peacefully around. It was an empty beach, nobody was there. We left our bicycles

and we quickly ran into the lake. The water was freezing cold and we could feel that

our feet would disappear if we stayed more than a minute in it. Of course the whole

thing was utterly refreshing; the water was crystal clear. Sunlight rays made it really

bright. A deep blue diamond that accepted our bodies in it. The sand was like the

sand back home; a typical Greek island type of sand. That amazed me. Fortunately it

was hot outside the water so we decided to lie-down and relax under the sun, even

though we were into the extremes of Asia…

In the train to Khabarovsk, next to the Chinese border, 25th of August 2013

…The sun is up again. I feel safe that even out here, the Earth still works on its rules.

I am happy that I can see the sun going up to the sky and that I can see plants and

trees outside the window that are recognisable. It’s a strange feeling, rather silly and

unexplainable, but that’s how it is when you find yourself so far away from home;

outside your limits, your ‘comfort-zone’. Out here I think that I’m experiencing

something completely fictitious while it’s just another part of our planet. A planet that

I share along with the Russians or the Australians or the Eskimos in Greenland; just

a bit further from my home country.

The train smells like feet. You feel the whole train is packed with human-beings but

you can’t actually see them. It feels deserted. You can sense that the train, although

it’s moving forward to Vladivostok, it’s actually asleep, but alive. Like its passengers.

The railway has a pulse. As well as Russia. Russia smells like Life! A strange kind of

life though…

After so three days in the train, the provodnitsa knows who I am. She smiles at me

when she sees me in the corridor. Train number 144 to Vladivostok –all eyes on me,

staring at me curiously; if it happens to be asked where I’m from and my reply is

‘Greece’, the eyes are like saying «what the hell are doing here?». Who really

knows? Even I do not know the answer to this anymore…