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).
(+ 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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.