Approaching Ulan-Ude to the sound of rumbling wheels, 5571km from Moscow
Google Maps and the Russian Railways’ virtual version of the Trans-Siberian Railway offers the chance to experience the 150 hour, 9,000km journey from Moscow to Vladivostok. As tourism campaigns go, it works brilliantly…
The famous Moscow to Vladivostok route tracks past the Volga, Irtysh and Ob rivers, the Baikal lake, the Barguzin mountains, not to mention a host of Russian villages, towns and cities that sit across seven different time zones.
The new portal from Google Russia enables visitors to gaze uninterrupted through a window on the mammoth journey from Moscow to Vladivostok in real time. It’s the result of some 30 hours of filming by two crews that travelled the length of the line (filming only in daylight).
The film is geo-tagged, so the exact route is plotted alongside the YouTube footage in Google Maps. Alternatively, you can move the train’s position along the route yourself – if wide the expanse of the steppe gets too much – or simply click on a ‘starred’ location in the Travel Route to see some of the most “picturesque” moments from the journey.
It’s a route that is already well served by tourism, with foreign travellers making up an estimated 90% of passengers, but one of the great things about the virtual version is that users can dip in and out of the journey and get sense of some of the views on offer. You can even select an accompanying soundtrack: from the “rumble of wheels” to some balalaika, to an audio book of Tolstoy’s War and Peace (delivered in Russian).
Of course, armchair tourism is all very well, but what ‘s so satisfying about this virtual project is the sense of realism imbued: a simple combination of a running camera and a map. There are no tourist slogans, no highlights packages – it’s just the monotony and beauty of a very long, very famous train journey.
Non-stop one way tickets on the real train are around £145. The virtual version is here.
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