Six thousand miles. Seven time zones. And endless cups of hot tea.
NPR reporter David Greene along with producer Laura Krantz and photographer David Gilkey boarded the Trans-Siberian Railway in Moscow and took two weeks to make their way to the Pacific Ocean port city of Vladivostok.
Along the way, they got plenty of useful advice. Krantz remembers hearing from a geography professor in Moscow who told the NPR team to “use your intuition” when buying food on this trip. “You don’t want to have troubles.”
And Greene said he would always remember Yuri Bronnikov, a retired engineer, who they met while looking for a driver in the snow-covered city of Ulan-Ude, in eastern Siberia.
There, Bronnikov taught Greene how to dissect omul, the famous fish of Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake. In those frigid moments Greene recalls, “[Yuri's] warmth could somehow melt away the Siberian cold.”
Gilkey said he felt intimidated by the challenge of illustrating the world’s largest country.
“The things to do were amazing and the places to see were epic; but the people, the people are what made it all worth the effort,” he said. While going through his outtakes, a photo gallery emerged with stark images capturing the strength and self-assuredness of the Russians.
“It was in their eyes. You could see that life is tough — nothing comes easy — but it has made them stronger,” he said. “The adversity is always present — in life, in government, in the environment, but they march through it while holding on to a strong sense of the past.”
You can relive the journey by visiting Russia by Rail: A View From Russia’s Trans-Siberian Railroad.
And you can also see what The New York Times had to say about the project.