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Across Kazakhstan by rail (theguardian.com)
210 points by sleepyshift 3 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 93 comments



There's something so beautifully romantic about trains. Perhaps that's why filmmakers love them. I can't help but think of the characters in Days of Heaven, migrating across the Texas Panhandle for work and a new life. Or the wonderful opening scene of Clouds of Sils Maria, with Kristen Stewart ducking and weaving, the barrier between Juliette Binoche and the frenzied celebrity culture of the outside world. Or the scene in Pather Panchali where the young kids encounter a train for the first time and you understand that they haven't just seen a train, but indeed they've gotten a glimpse at modernity, at a brave new world that they don't understand, but will come to encompass them.

Everybody loves their road films but I think trains are the ultimate film vehicle.


Trains are very comfortable to travel in as well imho. Better than planes, because no airport hassles and the seats are better, and you can move around if the baby next to you is crying; better than buses because a smoother ride; and better than driving yourself because you can relax and read a book.


> better than buses because a smoother ride;

I'd also add better toilets, or more convenient, at least. Most of the buses do not have them and those that do have them are just too cumbersome (you risk half of the bus hearing you doing your thing while inside in there). And "holding it in" (so to speak) until the next stop is no civilised way to travel, especially after a certain age.


> better than buses because a smoother ride

It really depends on where you are travelling.

In Canada (or at least Quebec) sure, train was more comfortable than bus in my experience, and I'd expect anything to be more comfortable than the absolutely awful experience I had with Greyhound in the US. Commuter trains in Montreal weren't what I'd call comfortable though, but that's probably the same everywhere.

In France, bus is less comfortable mostly because it's so much slower, but the ride on the highway is smooth (you can't beat TGV but the other trains often ride partially on older, uncomfortable track). And you can't really move in trains if a baby next to you is crying, as seats are reserved (they are on TGV and IC trains but not on TER though). You can always take the risk to go to an empty one but you will probably have to move again next stop (and maybe find yours occupied in turn).

In Vietnam, bus is infinitely more comfortable than rail, on one side you can find cheap enough buses that are very comfortable (both the ride and the on-board amenities) and on the other side the train is definitely not smooth at all. I take the train because I like trains, but there's no question buses are more comfortable (and generally faster as well).

Well-maintained, modern trains on good tracks are comfortable, but they're maybe not as common as you might think.


>Trains are very comfortable to travel in as well imho.

Depends on the train, for example the British government had a "temporary" solution in the 1980s of putting train wheels on Leyland buses and using them as substitutes for proper trains in the poorer parts of the country. These were about as fast and comfortable as they sound and were only taken out of service for good this year.

Honestly British rail travel in general is about as comfortable as pulling teeth with rusty pliers, it's usually very crowded and unreliable but it's also ruinously expensive to the point you get absurd stories about it being cheaper to get to Scotland via Barcelona or similarly torturous routes by plane than it is to take the train.


For UK travel it depends a bit I think - a daily commuter's experience will be a lot different to that of somebody who is making off-peak leisure trips. For the latter my experience is that there's rarely crowding (especially in these pandemic times!) and that advance purchase (fixed to a specific train) tickets are often pretty good value.

(Writing this on a train from Exeter to Dawlish. The sleeper train from London to Penzance is good if you like that kind of thing.)


> it's usually very crowded and unreliable but it's also ruinously expensive

Given there are many alternatives - including coach (national express + megabus), air, driving, and not going at all - in addition to competition on many lines (for example you can do Manchester-London in first class at high speed for £500 return, or you can choose to pay £45 return and spend an extra hour traveling), it can't be that expensive.


Paris-Bordeaux is about 400 miles takes 2hrs, is regularly available off-peak for ~€30 booked a few hours in advance and the 2nd class seat is a spacious as a first class seat on a UK train. UK trains are slow and absurdly expensive for what you get.


Well HS2 is a belated attempt to start building a high speed, high capacity network, about 30 years later than France, and look at the trouble that brings.

There is no public appetite in the UK for more rail capacity, or for faster services, so the only way to control numbers and prevent people from being (mostly) left behind is to increase costs on the busiest services.

This is fortunate too, the UK does not want to subsidise rail to the same extent as france -- Rail subsidies per passenger km (in euro-cents)

Netherlands: 14.7

France: 15.7

Italy: 19.1

Germany: 21.4

The UK in comparison is 6.75.


Isn't "Rail subsidies per passenger km (in euro-cents)" a bit of a strange metric? If the UK would half the amount of passengers, this metric would double, but it would definitely not be an improvement I'd say?


Rail subsidy per person

UK: €64

France: €203

Germany: €209

The UK makes a conscious decision not to subsidise its rail network to the extent of France and Germany. I'd rather we had spent the last 40 years building high speed lines, but as a country we didn't want that.

My list would be

* HS2 as now planned, extended up the east coast to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen

* Plymouth -> Exeter -> Bristol -> Birmingham -> Cambridge -> Norwich

* Swansea->Cardiff->Bristol->London

* Liverpool-Manchester-Leeds-Hull

With junctions to allow services to run as appropriate for demand (e.g. Swansea-Cardiff-Bristol-Birmingham once an hour, continuing to Manchester or Leeds, Swansea-Cardiff-Bristol-London twice an hour, Liverpool-Manchester-Leeds-Newcastle-Edinburgh, etc)

Had we done that we'd have the capacity to offer cut price, but alas we didn't.

As it stands, trains - especially cross country ones - are massively crowded even with the price as high as it is, because people prefer to take a dog-slow overcrowded train from Reading to Manchester, rather than to take a cheaper coach.


But the TGV network makes a profit as does the intercity network in the UK. So those subsidies are for commuter rail which make dense cities viable economic centres. If you don't subsidise those services then many more people are either forced to drive or they don't make a trip. If you take Kings Cross station as an example it would be literally impossible for 750,000 cars to pass through that area in the morning rush hour and once they got to their destination you would need 4.8 square miles of car parking area with circulation aisles. There are five more major rail termini in London with passenger number as high or higher than that and another five smaller ones that probably add up to one more. Major European and Asian cities are not viable without commuter rail. I would argue that the higher the subsidy, the better lubricated your cities are.

The problem with the UK is that if you compare HS2 to comparable French lines, we are 10 times less efficient at procuring public projects than they are. They can cross the Massif Central for ~€30m/mile, we cross the Midlands for ~€300m/mile. In flat country their costs are much lower, Paris-Bordeaux cost ~€10m/mile.


> British rail travel in general is about as comfortable as pulling teeth with rusty pliers

A reminder to foreigners that this should be read assuming typical British self-deprecation.

Trains/carriages (so seats, noise etc) in Britain are usually of lower quality than their closest competitors in nearby countries (France, Germany, Netherlands, etc), and outside south east England they're also more expensive. However, they are generally more frequent, and the system as a whole is the safest in the world.

With London being so large, there are some commuter/suburban rail routes that cover significant distances, like Bedford to Brighton. I wouldn't choose to travel that route for the sake of the journey, but Høje Taastrup to København H on the commuter train is also less comfortable than on a regional or intercity train.


Let me introduce you to old soviet trains, from my memories of a couple of cross country trips. Cozy, you line up by the window in the hallway as it pulls away while your parents unpack and put the suitcases in the high-up compartment in the little room - 2 bunk beds. You get the top one where you hang out and later fall asleep watching the window and listening to the train. There are 4 spots, so you have a guest joining you for the trip, and he tells you interesting stories and plays chess w/ you while drinking his tea. Magic.

Trains when I went back to Russia for a couple of years as an adult: mix of soviet and modern cars. In the soviet ones, the bedding is still from those soviet times. It's itchy, you're not sure whether it's clean, it smells a little funny. The toilets are disgusting, and you want to wash your hands and face from a water bottle -just trust me on that. You got some bunk mates in the 4-bed room. They're annoying, they're idiots, and they pretend to drink tea in class, while mostly just drinking cheap vodka. They step out by the car entrance to smoke every ten minutes, but reak of booze, BO, and smoke - so the whole car reaks too.

The new cars are clean, double the price, nice toilets, everything is plastic, everything smells like plastic. It feels like you're on an airplane. There's no magic.

Spent about a month in Kazakhstan, but flew in there from Moscow. Honestly - egh. Nothing special, just a smaller city with fairly friendly people trying to get through the day.


I had a similar experience in Egypt. I was on an organized tour with tour office and part of the trip is a long overnight train from Aswan to Cairo. The train looked terrible from the outside, very dirty. Insides were horribly cramped, no running water, toilets were unusuable. But the beds were surprisingly comfy and we managed to sleep all the way to Cairo.

Unfortunately, as I later learned, they are very unsafe too over there. Just two weeks after my trip a train crash happened with multiple fatalities, and months after it happened again.


Semi-related: I've been to Uzbekistan before pandemic with friends. It was very fun. Country is modernizing fast but has some remnants of the old era, which make a fun mix. Very nice people; at the same time, the controls on rail stations are airport-like, with x-raying people and the baggage, triple checking the tickets etc (but it seems mostly pro-forma).

What was surprising is that they have very modern high-speed trains, and super new train stations (most of them built just a few years ago). The country is huge but very well connected by train (and air; we first flew to the far west, and then came back east by train and visited a few cities along the road).

For one of the trains we bought regular tickets, but the ticket inspector friendly insisted on us to get an upgrade to the "lux" class :) (probably the regular class was busy), which was a good decision; the upgrade was absurdly cheap, and worth it (4-people compartments, very spacious and comfortable) due to the length of travel (several hours).

Another fun story: in another train we've been in an "open space" w/o compartments; it had TVs on the room which first played Michael Jackson concert, and the some TV series :)


> What was surprising is that they have very modern high-speed trains, and super new train stations (most of them built just a few years ago).

Is this from the country being fairly rich and having money to invest, or is this part of China's massive infrastructure project?


Several of the Stan’s such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are quite wealthy due to a high amount of natural resources such as oil and coal. Kazakhstan’s main city capital Astana is incredible. It looks like a small Shanghai or Dubai and it’s all largely because of their wealth from oil.


The country opened up a few years ago once the long-term president died and was replaced by a more progressive one. There was a moderate amount of western investment since - modernizing rail, telecom infra etc.

Also as mentioned by another commenter: Uzbekistan is more wealthy than other countries of the region; it's a major exported of things like gas, cotton, silk.


> Uzbekistan is more wealthy than other countries of the region;

Absolutely not. Uzbekistan was the Central Asian version of North Korea.

The poverty was universal, and extreme.

And yes, a change from a braindead Kim Il Sung wannabe who boiled people alive to a plain idiot plutocrat could be considered a "change" to be welcomed.

Kazakhstan is by far the wealthiest Central Asian nation.


I didn't say it's more wealthy than KZ. I was comparing to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan. (Not an expert but it seems to me UZ is well ahead those)


> x-raying people

mmWave or X-ray?


I spent a few days on the train in Kazakhstan in 2012 - went Moscow-Shymkent-Almaty-Urumqi (on my way from London to Osaka). It was striking looking out across the steppe and seeing a line of telephone poles, and then a completely empty landscape all the way to the horizon. The baths in Almaty were wonderful too.

Edit: the kind of scene I'm talking about: https://www.amazon.co.jp/photos/share/8PiwLfaaWMNCyULYDTAvy1...


The descriptions in this thread and your photo are interesting because you don’t need to travel all the way to Kazakhstan/etc like most commenters. In Wyoming/Colorado/Idaho/Montana you can drive for tens of hours and see the exact same thing!


Wyoming/Colorado/Idaho/Montana are further away than Kazakhstan, and very difficult to get to without flying.


Sorry I meant the internet’s “royal you” - the one that assumes everyone is American.


I’ve seen similar scenes driving in north western australia. The immensity of the flat desert landscape is something else.


Reminds me of this great travel blog from 2008: http://vienna-pyongyang.blogspot.com/

The writer traveled from Vienna to Pyongyang by train, giving him 36 unsupervised hours in North Korea.


> The writer traveled from Vienna to Pyongyang by train, giving him 36 unsupervised hours in North Korea.

He hacked the north korea visa entry and used his entry visa in an unexpected way - arriving at a different entry point, which was technically not disallowed, but not set up to handle western travel.

The normal Beijing-Pyongyang train is set up for westerners, and the loophole has since been closed.

Previous HN discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/from?site=vienna-pyongyang.blog...


Cool link, thanks. Love reading stuff like this, it reminded me a lot of that forum thread of the couple traveling through the DRC.


Kazakhstan is an interesting place. The huge open landscapes are completely different to what I've experienced in Europe. There are seemingly endless rail tracks and telegraph poles.

I've been to Baikonur to see a proton rocket launch from there, which is not typical Kazakhstan, but a little bit of Russia in the middle of Kazakhstan. Unfortunately the launch was delayed, but I did get to see the rocket itself.

I put some photos here (https://photos.app.goo.gl/W8tkAdjkeZsP3Sqh6), but this includes some of the Energia control centre and a space museum. I do have some better photos on my camera, but I still need to process them...


Great photos!

I see there seems to be a stairway to go into the Buran rocket. Can you go inside and have a look?


Yes, but I think it's a mock-up and not a real Buran. It was mostly empty inside (and dark!). They showed us the hanger which partially collapsed and damaged the Buran inside, as we were being driven along.


While not quite the real deal, the aerodynamic test vehicle OK-GLI is at the Technik Museum Speyer in the same-named German City, open to the public (the nearby (30min; car) museum in Sinzheim has a both the french and soviet supersonic passenger planes (Concorde/Tu-144) in it's exhibit).

I can recommend both museums (interests have to match, of course).

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OK-GLI


Seconding this recommendation. Spend a day each at both Sinsheim and Speyer; I spent about 4 hours at each and I was practically jogging around the place to see things.


All the sentimental comments here around travelling by train make me wonder if Europe is just not good at this. I did the interrail about eight years ago and some of the worst nights sleep were had on the cramped bunk cabins. Arguments over air conditioning (too cold low down, too hot up top), people staying up late when you want to sleep, bad hygiene etc.

Even the night trains to the north of Finland which are seen here as some kind of benchmark are noisy with earplugs. They stop multiple times in the night so you wake to the beeping of the doors opening and closing.

I think there’s a market for rail travel. I love the idea. But it’s just not comfortable at all, or at least not economical to travel comfortably.


> They stop multiple times in the night so you wake to the beeping of the doors opening and closing.

Triggered.

This is one of my biggest bugbears with early trains into and (particularly) late trains out of London: endless overly loud beeping and automated announcements at every single station. I'd usually like to catch up on an hour's sleep whilst I'm on the train but unless I'm completely exhausted even earplugs don't cover the din.

I get that some people have impaired vision or are hard of hearing, and therefore need affordances (which I am strongly in favour of), but is it strictly necessary for those affordances to torture the rest of us? Surely we can do better in the 21st century?

"Oh, but the announcements need to be loud because people who've fallen asleep might otherwise miss their stops." They might. I've done this (on the tube, as it happens). It was incredibly annoying and resulted in a very expensive taxi journey home, but it was also entirely my own fault and responsibility. I took it on the chin, and learned a lesson. Again, is it necessary to torture everyone so a few people avoid this every night? I'm not so sure it is.


>automated announcements at every single station.

The security announcements are the worst offenders for this in my experience, I used to travel by train a lot and the blaring auditory nag every five minutes when you're waiting in a station about reporting anything suspicious combined with the fact many stations are a bit grotty and Brutalist really adds up to an Orwellian experience.

Come to think of it, I'm fairly sure the British government's obsession with three-element slogans started with the trains; "see it, say it, sorted" is massively burned into my brain which I guess is the intention.


This. Recently took the TGV. When no automated greeting was playing after each stop it was some broken speaker from the cabin crew, truly horrible without noise cancelling headphones & decent volume music.

Also needing over 2h to book a ticket as things are made extra complicated to accomodate each parties interests in international train lines as well as the systems which are just horrible to use.



Quite luxury price indeed, $18k for the two-week Trans-Siberian ride.


18k per person for minimum of 2 pax ;)


China's approach seems to be one of the best: bullet train soft sleeper, capsule-like design, individual windows.

https://youtu.be/DAOYz8FcDiQ

Japan has also nice sleepers, but they are not bullet trains, plus, way way more expensive, and not a mass phenomenon.


There's one (and a half) last scheduled sleeper train in Japan (as distinct from luxury cruise trains), the Sunrise Izumo / Sunrise Seto, which has fairly reasonable prices, although as you say it's a conventional train and much slower than the Shinkansen.


The trains you link to only go at 150km/h to minimise noise, so using ⩾300km/h-capable rolling stock might be a bit of a waste.


I love taking the train in France, as long as at least 80% of the wagon I'm in is empty. It's a very nice experience when you're almost alone, or with a few friends, but when filled with people it's horrible.


You can pay a fraction more and get your own compartment if communal sleeping takes it toll.


Indeed, on the British sleeper routes, you no longer have the choice to travel communally - i.e. the railway company won’t ever book you into a cabin with a stranger.


At least when I was doing the interrail those options were not available with the ticket without paying considerably more. I've taken 2 person cabins here to Lapland (from Helsinki, Finland) and they exhibit the problems in my original comment. And of course, if you're going to go solo in a 2 person cabin then you'll have to cover the cost of the other person.


A related YouTuber: https://www.youtube.com/c/baldandbankrupt

He treks around former soviet countries (mainly) on his own creating commentary travellogs.


I tried watching a couple, and the guy just comes off as an insufferable douchebag. Acting like a twat and mugging for the camera.

edit: having watched a couple more videos, this just reinforces my theory that the most popular youtube channels are also the most mediocre. This guy's formula is basically 'travel to $random_CIS_country; check-in to a hotel; go on a short walking tour within a few blocks of the hotel while acting like an asshat; the end.' And this gets millions of views and subscribers.

This guy basically goes to one poor town after another and then complains that...it is poor and wonders how people can live there.

The videos seem to oscillate from just being obnoxious to being downright rude and insulting. It's depressing that they seem to be extremely popular.


That's one way to look at it, I suppose. What I see is someone who travels around a country that is unfamiliar and inaccessible, and who focuses on showing us what life is like there. And that may not be incredibly spectacular, but I admit to greatly enjoying seeing such a unique and unfamiliar part of the world and the people that live there. I could travel there myself (and I have), but I don't speak Russian so I could never make the connections he makes and hear the stories he hears.

Is he rude? Well, he is certainly much more extraverted than I could ever be, and I suppose he crosses the line at times, but he talks to real people about their real life, rather than putting up a bit of a tourist show with only highlights. I find it fascinating, just like I find "yeah Russia" (youtube channel) fascinating.

I do wonder how his Ethiopian adventure ended though. I'm sure there's a story there...


> check-in to a hotel; go on a short walking tour within a few blocks of the hotel while acting like an asshat; the end.' And this gets millions of views and subscribers.

he lived in india for couple of years and learnt passable hindi.


I think your impression is right - there's some indications that guy might be at the very least have questionable morals, or might even be a straight up sexual predator - https://old.reddit.com/r/BaldAndBaldrDossier/comments/judnlm...

tl;dr internet sleuths have connected him to a since deleted account on a "pick up artist" forum where that person has bragged about going to Eastern Europe to find desperate women to have sex with, using very questionable methods


They're basically saying that he's a terrible person because he... has sex with women.


> They're basically saying that he's a terrible person because he... has sex with women.

That is not at all what the comments appear to be saying. Instead, the comments are saying things like:

> Hmm here he talks about taking a girl to bed with Rohypnol.


Well, in that Reddit comment it says he uses lies and threats.


Auch. That's quite ugly stuff.


There's another solo youtube traveler with nearly the same vibe. In both cases I think part of the issue is that they are too connected to the camera and not to the people around them, so they just seem disinterested.

It bums me out because I'm looking at doing quite a bit of solo traveling in the next few years and would like to capture some of it for my family and friends, but if I come across anyway like this it's going to be a major fail. I posted some from a recent trip and didn't appear or say a word in any of the videos and it was received reasonably well, but the audience isn't exactly like to say 'bro stop being a douche' lol.


I do a fair amount of travelling (both solo and group) myself, and I just very rarely take videos. I stick with photos.


I've switched from photos to taking short clip type videos just to pull in some of the sounds and ambiance. It just helps me reconnect to the experience later.


I understand where you are coming from but there are some pearls in there such as this one about the Beslan tragedy:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0knAQL9WtM


I'm a subscriber. Really interesting videos. I heard he used to work for MI6. Not sure if that is just a rumor to try to get more subscribers or what.

But there are some more Youtubers who seem to travel around to hotspots. I am a little suspicious they work for the CIA or something. Seems like the perfect cover. It may be some of them just get paid not to actually spy but just to verify that westerners can travel and film in those places.


That's interesting about bald, it's a neat channel.

I used to be one of a group of people who other people thought were spies. I was living abroad at the time. At first this aspect was extremely irritating. Some locals would point at me and say "spy".

But the more I thought about it, the more I met people like me who I thought would make terrific spies, and the more I met local friends who I thought I could probably recruit as spies to have local culture on my side.

Then I started to casually explore the countryside like a dumb tourist, and I would emerge from a random forest to see locals' gaping mouths, later to learn it was a sensitive area. I started to think--no wonder they think we're spies!

Later on I went home and found out that a LOT of people who did what I did were recruited as legitimate spy-types. One of them was a childhood friend who apparently drank some magic government potion and became a CIA officer who went on to be extremely visible in US national politics.

It's a fascinating lens on life, superficially at least. Misdirection works for you and against you. You can make just about anything seem true or false. And weirdly while supposedly a hyper-objective effort (go $my_country!) I understand it often has a tremendous personal impact on those who are deeply involved.

> But there are some more Youtubers who seem to travel around to hotspots

These are the ones I'd recruit for a modern-day BRIXMIS. If you watch the BRIXMIS videos, the officers interviewed had a tremendous psychological overlap with traveling Youtubers who are very curious about things, to the point where _touching_ or _going to those things_ feels like a victory of its own. Digging up poop near an encampment because Soviet soldiers used log pages as toilet paper--they did that.


Aren't spies a bit of a thing of the past? The times that we need to be physically present for information are long, long past no? What has a spy acting as a tourist to gain?


Tourists make terrible spies. They attract too much attention; operating in an environment where everyone already thinks you're a spy is not what "hiding in plain sight" means.

Espionage is still very much alive. Physical presence maintains trust that can later be exploited (most of us would call it "grooming").


You don't have to go to these remote places to feel the vintage-discomfort of old, smelly and unpunctual trains! Just visit Italy, where even diesel trains and optional time-tables will make your journey through art exceptional!

I still remember those 2 (some times 4) daily train trips from Modena to Bologna to get to the university (yes, this is in a developed and rich region of Italy) where you had to sit in the floor, where windows didn't work and there was no air-conditioning...


No air conditioning? The horror!!!

It amuses me to no end how Americans seem to equate lack of air conditioning, something the human race has survived perfectly well without for tens of thousands of years, to unsanitary conditions in a third-world country or some sort of dystopian post-apocalyptic nightmare.


When you are forced to sit in the floor because the train is packed and there is no room to even walk inside, when temperatures are beyond 35'C, air conditioning is not a western commodity (btw, I am not from US) but a necessity.


Does it likewise amuse you when Europeans freak out if they are not allowed to smoke or if there is no designated smoking area in the vicinity?


I must say Europe, or at least part of it, got much better about this :)


COVID and global warming are both proving how medieval these conditions are.


Traveled several times across Kazakhstan by rail and my impressions are quite the opposite. You wait to arrive to your destination for days and nothing changes outside the window: just the same scenery with endless sand or steppes with no sign of trees or animals or people. Probably the most boring experience I had in my life.

Funny how western media can't resist poking the dead enemy at every occasion: > Adylet: ‘Anyone who still mourns the Soviet Union today is out of his mind!’

Well, if you'd really talk to people, you'd find out that significant percent of population still mourns the Soviet Union and they have all the reasons to.


> Well, if you'd really talk to people, you'd find out that significant percent of population still mourns the Soviet Union and they have all the reasons to.

It really depends where and who you ask. You probably not going to find any sympathy for the USSR in central Europe. But it is true that in Russia and central Asia, you still find people, those who were mostly kids/teenager during the "golden-age" of the USSR, who fondly remember the USSR. Considering that the USSR got replaced by various dictator in those places, its not that hard to understand.


You will find people that mourns Soviet Union in all parts of the former USSR and among all age groups.

Just like the opposite opinion.

But percent of people mourning USSR would be quite big. This has nothing to do with western stereotypes about dreadly life in USSR (mostly invalid propaganda) or various dictators (can you, without checking Wikipedia/Google, name the president of Kazakhstan, and say if it is a authoritarian or "democratic" place?).

USSR was destroyed for a number of reasons but none of the reasons had anything to do with the goal to improve life of USSR citizens.

One goal was to destroy a global economic competitor. Another goal was to open huge new market to the western corporations (both goals achieved by shutting down and destroying all the USSR industry almost overnight). Third goal was for the crooks to be able to become super-rich and be able to pass the inherited power and money to the offspring.

All these goals mean that life of the ordinary person in the former USSR states was to become much worse than before. And it happened as everyone born before 1991 knows out of unpleasant and sad experience.

But my comment wasn't about that. It was about that the West is still so afraid of the USSR it still tries to kick the USSR in every article even if it is not really relevant.


> One goal was to destroy a global economic competitor.

I don't know what you mean here, but USA was trying to prevent USSR from collapsing.


Yeah, bees opposing honey, as we say in Russia in such cases.


Just a fact :) . Stubborn thing...


> You probably not going to find any sympathy for the USSR in central Europe.

The most funny thing is that when they recently conducted a survey in Baltic states, percent of supporters of the USSR was so big, that it surpassed percent of supporters of the USSR e.g. in Russia.

This created quite a big fuss. :)


My late father used to ride K3, and K4 Beijing-Moscow train very often in early nineties, when Russia had visa free travel with China.

That's where he made his first money. The train was called "Bazaar on wheels" back then. Amazingly, kids were usually just waved off at immigration at the time.


I crossed Kazakhstan by rail+bus in 2013, I wrote a few blogposts: https://blog.hboeck.de/plugin/tag/kazakhstan


Thanks for your blog, it's always fascinating to read about my city.

I'd like to comment to "Astana is quite the opposite. Nothing here is old, large parts of Astana were build within the last two decades. Dirt or waste in the streets was almost zero and the traffic seems pretty civilized. Until 1997, Almaty was the capital of Kazakhstan, due to some complicated political compromises, it was moved to Astana and there began the growth of this boom town."

Actually Astana was that average town just 20 years ago. And of course there's plenty of old buildings in Astana. And some areas are outright poor. Here's link to street view of one example, you can move around, and that's the same Astana: https://yandex.kz/maps/-/CCUqnJEh0C

There's "old city" (or "right coast", contrary to "new city"/"left coast") where ordinary buildings are everywhere. It's not poor, it's just usual.

Of course capital status means much more money for everyone, so people generally are more wealthy compared to other cities.

There's no point for tourists to go to other city parts, though.


If that street view is the poor part, it looks pretty wealthy based on the cars and houses. Much nicer than a lot of places. It could be somewhere in Argentina. The only giveaway that something is weird is the mess of electrical lines in one place and the absence of them somewhere else.


Reminds me a bit of a friend who took surface transportation from Vietnam all the way to where we lived in Padova, Italy at the time. Busses to China, then the trans-Siberian train, then various trains to Europe and down to Italy.


As kids, long train journeys was an exciting part of our vacations. India has an extensive railway network connecting all parts of the country, and thus have their own "Railway Tourism" segment. Some of the really famous and popular india super luxury trains include:

1. Maharajas’ Express - https://www.the-maharajas.com/ 2. Palace on Wheels - http://rtdc.tourism.rajasthan.gov.in/palaceonwheels 3. Deccan Odyssey - https://www.deccanodyssey.com/ 4. Golden Chariot - https://www.goldenchariot.org/ 5. Buddhist Circuit - https://www.irctcbuddhisttrain.com/index



Some of my earliest childhood memories are about traveling in train, in India. For a few hours during a journey, a train compartment becomes home away from home, in almost literal sense. IMO trains are by far the best mode of travel for journeys under 700-800KM.


Nice article. Now I'm inspired to go back and reread Paul Theroux's travel books (mostly by rail except for the one where he walks around the coast of the UK, I think).


If you liked this I humbly offer my own stories from traveling across Siberia by train, starting with: https://www.gregkogan.com/journal/russia-trans-siberian-rail...


the weakest apa in central asia vs the strongest male in europe

> “You can’t even defend yourself if you don’t eat meat. Kazakhs are born to be warriors; that’s why they eat a lot of meat!” she says and promptly challenges me to an arm-wrestling match, which I accept but quickly admit defeat.



One thing I love about travelling by train is that when I reach a new city and leave the train, I am right in the middle of the city, instantly surrounded by locals doing their thing.


hey, at least it's dry rail




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