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Google co-created video of an entire ride of the Trans-Siberian Railway (google.ru)
103 points by mcantelon on July 10, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 30 comments

Ah, shame. It's in the wrong direction for me. I did the Trans-Siberian a few years ago, but heading from east to west.

This really captures the feel of the thing. It's just like sitting on a train, except for an entire week.

Of course, for the full experience, you'll need some Russian businessmen who don't speak any English (but understand a little German+) filling you with inexhaustible quantities of really good vodka and crushing you at chess, and you'll need to step outside for ten minutes each day to buy potato cakes and liter bottles of beer (to dillute the vodka).

Highly recommended!

(+ Evidently when a group of people keeps repeatedly showing up in your country uninvited every few dozen years, you eventually get to know their language. Hence you can get by pretty much anywhere in Russia if you speak German.)

Their knowledge of German would be more likely to be a result of the relationship between the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic. Likewise people that went to school in the former GDR all speak a basic or even advanced level of Russian.

Foreign language was a mandatory class in all Soviet schools. Vast majority of schools taught English, few schools had German and even smaller fraction had French.

Can't speak for Soviet era, but in Tsarist Russia, French was the status language of the upper classes.

The allusions to French influence are everywhere in "Fathers and Sons". The novel itself is a meditation on Russian society at the time, specially the two leading intellectual camps, the established landed gentry and the young nihilists who rejected the status quo. Turgenev subtly highlights their shared francophile elements, both types usually educated in France or French schools, or taught themselves French to absorb Western culture for subversive reasons.

I think that remained true at least until the early twentieth century. My high-school Russian teacher said this was because wealthy Russian families often employed French nannies, who taught some French to the children.

You can see this in the film Burnt by the Sun, which is fictional, but perhaps historically accurate in this respect. It's set in 1930's Russia. A respected Soviet military officer is eating by himself while his wife's upper-class family converses in the other room. The maid asks why, and he responds, "I can't speak French." The purpose of this scene is clear: the inability of high-status Russians to speak French is a sign of broader social change.

It's still a mandatory class, but most people treat it as another mandatory class, so the majority of people you'll meet don't speak a foreign language well. However, learning English has been seen as useful for career advancement, and many people take classes later in life. The classes taught in public schools aren't enough to teach a language with no extra practice.

Did you do it just because you could, or was there some actual reason to take the train?

I had actually intended to take the train from Moscow to Beijing as part of an overland round-the-world trip that I started in South Africa in 2003, but I didn't have a Russian Visa before I left and you can only get one in your country of residence.

So I flew home from Germany, worked a 3 month contract, then flew one-way to Bangkok and started attacking the problem from the other end. Bussed, trained and ferried my way as far as Norway before dropping down into Europe and thinking about heading home.

It was still pretty cool going the other direction, and I got a week in Mongolia out of the deal (because c'mon, how often are you in Mongolia? You gotta stop.) The only downside is that I unwrapped my round-the-world "string" by doing the second lap east to west, leaving me with a net zero circumnavigations.


Reminds me of this, a 7.5hr video of a train journey across Norway: http://nrkbeta.no/2009/12/18/bergensbanen-eng/

I watched it entirely. It had a great advantage of being taken from the cab, which is quite different experience from anything you can see from a window of a passenger car (of course, you can get something similar at the other side, but in a modern train, most likely a driving car with another driver's cab (unaccessible) occupies that space, and if not, then there are just quite small and narrow windows in the rear door), especially live. It's worth watching even if you already knew the route as a passenger.

On the other hand, it had a disadvantage of Bergensbanen being mostly just a long long row of endless tunnels. Seeing a name of the tunnel, it's length in kilometers and then watching 15 minutes of darkness… isn't quite interesting.

Does anyone know of a similar video of the shinkansen journey between two cities in Japan (presumably Tokyo and Osaka)? I showed my dad this Norway video and he brought up the Japanese one, but couldn't remember the details.

I downloaded that giant video (22gb?) on bittorrent and wouldn't you know it, my file is corrupted!

Rehash it.

I'll bite: why exactly is the Trans-Siberian Railway so significant and awe-inspiring?

Because it links up an incredibly long and incredibly hostile bit of territory, and essentially hooks the rail networks of Asia with the ones in Europe.

As a result, I can walk to my local train station here in the North of England, and ride a continuous set of trains all the way to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) without ever stepping off the platform. If it weren't for a few destroyed tracks in Cambodia, you could make it to Singapore. That's pretty cool.

It's also the cheapest per-mile transport on earth. Where else can you get a full third of the way around the globe for under $200?

Under $200? That’s pretty incredible. You have to pay three quarters of that to get from Munich to Berlin. That’s with a high speed train, but still — under $200, wow.

Private compartments are more like $400, but yeah, you can get a 3rd class berth for like $180 Moscow to Beijing.

The connectivity of the railway is largely responsible for the string of lights through Russia:


If you consider the artificial light emitted at night to be a proxy for density of wealth and economic connectivity, it seems clear that the railway has had a substantial effect.

The railroad also helps with strings of light of a different kind - fiber optics. It connects Europe to Asia through the Internet too.

Significant… it is. It's an important transport link for the Russian economy, and not only it, it even carries some exports from the Far East to Europe. Also, it's a major engineering work, even though mostly unrelated to usual hacker news topics, it should make it at least somehow significant and interesting here.

Awe-inspiring… well, depends. I don't think that a construction and operating of a 10,000 kms long railway line should be dismissed as something trivial and not worth of any attention.

Ah, okay, that puts things in perspective for me.

I think it's maybe because I'm in my early 20s, and grew up near railway tracks that this man-engineered structure's value isn't readily appreciable to me.

You will probably appreciate it more if you know of the terrain that the train runs on. Laying down tracks that work in siberia is far far difficult than doing it on say continental US soil

Because it goes across Siberia, and Siberia is a vast wilderness? I don't know, personally, but I suggest you watch the video and come back and tell us.

So good to see something on the web about the beauty, vastness, and mystery of what is out there, rather than about the cleverness of the project's creators.

Moscow looks and feels difficult. No doubt my impression is just a small fraction of the real story. I was surprised to see so much graffiti.

Made me think about what the Russian people have endured the past 250 years and how strong their resolve to persevere must be.

Be interesting to see the same video 10, 25, and 50 years from now.

The 'explore the surroundings' is pretty cool also. Not to nitpick, but it'd be pretty awesome if that was all in the same page. And picasa linked up with youtube, real-time (galleries became available in the same page as you progressed).... It's pretty amazing as it is though.

I think this is fantastic, and I might have to have a minimized version running for the next month.

A week of live Half-Life 2 reference art can't be wrong.

This is awesome, I always wanted to make this journey but never had a chance.

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