Europe-Asia border in Russia aboard the trans-Siberian train
26.10.2005 - 26.10.2005 0 °C
To track your progress along the trans-Siberian route, markers have been put up at every kilometer telling you the distance you have travelled since Moscow. At kilometer 1777, you come out of the Ural mountains and enter into Asia. There is an Obelisk set up to see at this site, if you are quick eyed and it is daylight out. I was passing by at night.
I have a notebook that I keep with me on my travels to make notes and jot down things to remember. Often it is point form, and not very interesting. Things like "bought gooey meat filled pastry for lunch from guy who looks like lead singer of Radiohead" or "riding the train is a quiet existence." Occasionally, though, I feel inspired (or bored) and write something out in long form that is coherent. The following three paragraphs I wrote with a glass of wine in hand as we approached kilometer 1777 and my first time in Asia.
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I am not sure if I will know when it happens, as it is too dark to see the kilometer markers, and I don't know if they light the Obelisk up at nights.
I feel strangely muted. This doesn't have the immediacy of landing some place in a plane, when I get a nervous and excited energy. There will be no ceremony except for my silently raising a tin cup of Moldova's finest Merlot (straight from the cardboard). And there will be little change to my onboard life - more relaxing, reading, sleeping and eating. Asia (at least to start) will be no different than Europe.
I wonder what the Russians make of their bi-continental country? Do the people in Yekaterinburg (just across the continental boundary in Asia) feel Asian or European? Do they even have a sense of continental identity the way I feel both Canadian and North American?
- * *
I never saw the marker, so I wasn't sure I was in Asia until we reached Yakaterinburg. And I don't have the language skills to ask my fellow Russian travellers what they feel about being "Asian." And so I bolted down the last of my Merlot, put on my shoes and got ready to jump out onto the platform at Yekaterinburg, and put my feet down in Asia for the first time ever.