Train Station, Vladivostok
Vladivostok literally means "rules the East" and is the terminus station of the trans-siberian marking 9,288km of railway from Moscow. It is the biggest city in far East Russia, its window to Asia and the Pacific. French writer Blaise Cendrars in his book prose du transsibérien often refers to Vladivostok as "tout au bout du voyage". As I was coming from China, for me it was the start of trans-siberian and the beginning of this voyage.
Train of thought
Walking on the train, passing from one compartment to another, I contemplate how the other passengers get lost in their thoughts looking out at the panorama of swampy plains, pine and birch. All induced in a reverie that is one of the pleasures of train travel, we look outside yet most of the time with our attention inward... Until a cabin’s mate pops up or a village - like the ones painted by Levitan - breaks the monotony of the landscape leaving you wonder how life is in this middle of nowhere. As we cross Siberia - referred to by Ian Frazier as a territory so vast that “it’s more an idea than a place”- I ask the other passengers to share their feelings about the journey. In this series, I assemble these wagons of thoughts together and invite you to come on board, walk along the train corridor and get a glimpse of what they see and feel.
/This project marks the 100th anniversary (05/10/1916 - 05/10/2016) of the Trans-Siberian railway and was developed in the framework of #asefsu20, an Asian European Foundation program : https://www.asef.org/
En marchant dans le train, en passant d’un wagon à l’autre, je contemple les passagers se perdre dans leurs pensées les yeux fixés sur le panorama fuyant des plaines marécageuses. Tous plongés dans une rêverie qui est l’un des plaisirs du voyage en train, nous regardons au dehors mais notre attention est portée vers l’intérieur, en nous ... Jusqu’à ce qu’un compagnon de cabine surgisse ou un village – comme ceux peints par Levitan – brise la monotonie du paysage nous laissant songeur sur le quotidien des vies ancrées dans ce beau milieu de nulle part. Alors que nous traversons la Sibérie – qualifiée par Ian Frazier de territoire si vaste que «c’est plus une idée qu’un lieu» – je demande aux autres passagers de partager leurs sentiments à propos du voyage. Dans cette série, j’assemble ces wagons de pensées et je vous invite à monter à bord, à marcher dans le couloir du train et apercevoir ce qu’ils voient et ressentent en visionnant les images ci-dessous.
My name is Svetlana, I am 44 years old, born in Irkutsk, Russia. I have worked as a waitress on the trans-Siberian for three years. I decided to work on the trans-Siberian because I wanted to travel and see more of my country. I waited for my children to grow up and become independent to take this decision.
My name is Galina, I am 37 years old and have worked as a waitress since May 2016. I am originally from Chita but now I live in Irkutsk. My dream is to become a wagon manager. I have to start from the bottom but I hope to be able to climb the ladder as soon as possible.
Svetlana tells me that she was thinking about last New Year's Eve when a circus and singers came on board and converted the wagon and then whole train in an extraordinary rolling stage.
I am Sergei, 39 years old. I was born in Vladivostok but now I live in a village on the bank of the Baikal Lake. I've been working at the wagon restaurant since 2012, I take care of the coal supply. Before that, I was already working for the railway... I am probably close to have spent more time in the train than outside of it in my entire life. This train has a life on its own, if you listen to the sound it makes, this "tadam, tadam, tadam"... It's like heartbeats!
Evija Belanina, 26 years old. From Riga, Latvia.
"While travelling by Trans-Siberian, you lose sense of time. Cabin becomes your home; train schedule defines your agenda; scenery outside the window influences your mood; stories of the fellow travelers shape your memories. And you come to realize that journey has become more important, than the destination itself."
[Portrait was taken on a 20 hours train journey going from Chita to Irkutsk, Siberia, Russia. 1103 kilometers separates the two cities.]
along the Lake Baikal, Irkutsk
Bundid Mienmany, From Vientiane, Laos.
'This is my longest trip ever, spending days and nights in the train to cover thousands and thousands of kilometers... I only knew about the transsiberian from what I had read and seen on TV, the real thing was impossible to imagine even in my wildest dreams. I feel like I am learning a lot from sharing this limited space with people coming from all over the world and the locals, anchored in their everyday life."
Tanya Chong, 27 years old, from London, United Kingdom.
"I want to create new memories with everyone just as much as I want to see the different faces of the world pass by - hopefully I strike a good balance between both!"
The Baikal Lake, Irkutsk
Su Myat Naing Aung, from Yangon, Myanmar.
"When I see the extensive amount of land, massive mountains and the huge lake Baikal where its boundless surface area of water is touching the horizon along the journey, I suddenly feel like my problems are so small compared to those enormous things of the earth. That's the moment I feel so peaceful because I'm not resenting the past, not worrying about the future and just enjoying the present."
"When I was a kid, I used to travel with my grandparents to different towns in my region by train. As most of the stations were smaller than the one in our home town, I thought our home town is the centre of the world with the biggest station of all (and that the world is a flat board with size of a few dozen of kilometers in diameter). As I grew up, I realized I was quite off the mark with this idea, but favoring the use of trains as the primary means for travelling around the world remained. I decided I would never stop exploring and discovering all the biggest stations, longest railways and the most far-away ends of railway networks. The funny thing is that I am a now a PhD student of Railway Engineering at the University of Pardubice."
Extract of my travel diary
Aloysius Ang Weiqiang, 26 years old from Singapore.
"All I can think of is the vast vast land we travel through. And how strangely soothing the sound and the motion of the train is."