Why? To take the slow route across Siberia. What s the old adage? It s better to travel than to arrive? Could have been written for the Trans Siberian train journey.
If you were that desperate to get between Moscow and Beijing (the route of the network s Trans Mongolian branch arguably the most interesting) you could fly it in under eight hours. But no it s this six night 7 621km train that is slow travel at its most atmospheric an unhurried spooling of endless birch trees Lake Baikal shimmer grassy steppe Gobi Desert yurt camps camel herds and station traders selling sweets and sausages.
The train provides a cosy confinement within that vastness where your cabin mates could be Buddhist monks or Russian businessmen where vodka flows freely and the hot water samovar is always steaming ready to make a brew. Plans have been mooted to build a high speed line from Moscow to Beijing slashing the journey time from seven days to two. Progress perhaps but what s the rush?