Across Russia by Train

tsx-lisa-tilley-213 The Trans-Siberian Express

Completed at the end of the 19th century, the Trans-Siberian Railway allows adventurous travelers to journey 6,000 miles across Russia’s great expanse. Smithsonian Journeys and Academic Travel Abroad offer a unique travel experience in 2009 aboard the newly-renovated, luxury Golden Eagle Express, traveling from the enigmatic Russian Far East and its legendary outposts to Moscow’s Red Square, crossing eight time zones and two continents.  Along the way stopping in remote outposts to learn about the fascinating peoples and cultures of Siberia and Mongolia, visit museums, and enjoy a traditional meal in a private ger (tented home). Exclusive lectures by historian George Munro highlight Russian history from before the Romanovs to the present. Even the most experienced travelers will be spellbound by this special journey. Click here to read more…

The Trans-Siberian Expert:

George Munro

George Munro

George Munro is Professor of History at Virginia Commonwealth University. He received his Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is the recipient of several Fulbright grants, fellowships, and distinguished service awards. George has lived and studied in the former Soviet Union and served as Study Leader for many Smithsonian Journeys.

In a recent interview, Dr. Munro reflected on train travel in Russia:

“For a century and a half trains have been one of the important means of transportation in Russia. Railroads figure largely in Russian literature-see Anna Karenina! Railroad workers and factories producing equipment for the railroads played a critical role in Russia’s revolutions in the early 20th century. From train windows one glimpses some of the most beautiful Russian scenes as well as the disadvantaged areas that no country deliberately shows its visitors. The view from the train combines a little bit of everything in Russia. To actually live on a train while seeing Russia is a real treat.”

Learn more about this unique adventure here

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presented by Smithsonian Journeys
and Academic Travel Abroad

ATA Chairman David Parry Reminisces About Traveling to Russia during glasnost.

Sneaking into Russia!

During the excitement over the dissolution of the Soviet Union in late 1991 I attended a meeting of the American-Soviet Tourism Society in Tallinn, Estonia. With the breakup of the USSR, the three Baltic Republics were once again independent and now, I had to obtain a separate Estonian visa. When I arrived at the airport I encountered newly uniformed Estonian customs officials. Nearby stood several forlorn USSR border guards who no longer had a role to play.

I continued by air to Moscow and, at arrival at Sheretimevyo Airport, I was amazed that there was no immigration control. Clearly, the system still regarded Tallinn as an internal flight. So when I presented my passport and Russian visa at the Moscow hotel there was much discussion about the fact that all the parts of my visa were intact. (The Soviet system was to issue a separate paper visa with one part detached on arrival and, after providing authority for the hotel stay at each place, the remainder was kept upon departure. There was never a visa in the passport itself.

The same consternation occurred on check in at the Astoria Hotel in Leningrad or was it now St. Petersburg.

The finale came on departure at Leningrad’s Pulkovo Airport for home. I shuffled up to the border police stand and presented my passport and all the parts of the official visa. These passport control stands were and are booths where the shelf for presenting your passport is about 4 ½ feet high. Through the years this was usually the most uncomfortable encounter of a visit to the USSR.

The young and, as always, expressionless border guard took one look at my complete visa and rang for the supervisor. The supervisor appeared and went behind the counter where I could not see what they were looking at. There was much discussion and thumbing of my passport. My heart sunk because this meant I was going to miss my flight.

Finally, after about ten minutes, I heard the thump, thump of the official stamp on my visa and I knew that I would be free to go. As the supervisor left the booth she turned to me and exclaimed in disgust on word – Yeltsin!

Several months later the same thing happened on the night train from Vilnius, Lithuania to Moscow. But that is another story…

Dave Parry

Chairman
Academic Travel Abroad

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