Trans-Siberian, part 6

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On board for a three day train ride to Vladivostok, even the normally uptight Russians don their slobby clothes.
Even the details celebrate the world's most famous train, the Rossiya.
Along the way we pass Petrovskaya Savod, with its ornate Lenin pomp and Stalinist style train station.
An eerie mist decends along the way.
It is 75 hours before I reach the end of the line. Many passengers have been on for longer than that already, and watch the world go by.
Russians can be quite friendly and giving, especially when it comes to food.
This military couple from Krasnoyarsk (en route to Khabarovsk) share their food with this "crazy American."
The provodnitsa swings by for her daily vacuuming of the couchette rooms.
People stock up on their provisions at the little kassas.
And the babushkas are out with their own delicacies.
Kartofel pierogies are on offer, and are pretty good!
Train-bound Russians aren't timid about displaying their beer guts or dressing slobby, but normally they're much more formal.
This vendor has seen some hard times in her life it seems.
People quickly shop for their freshly cooked foods before the next 4 hour haul.
A military officer has his dog search for evidence of contraband traffiking.
This sign tells you something that you really shouldn't try.
Off we go! The Trans-Siberian maneuvers into the rugged terrain in the Russian Far East. Building this section of the line was an engineering triumph in the early 1900s.
As we chug along, I scope out the relatively luxurious restaurant. It has excellent borscht.
I meet two Danish tourists while there, Tina and Mette. Tina studies Russian at university, and has been planning her three-month trip for two years.
The Trans-Siberian lives up to her expectations, and she completely loves it.
Despite spending seven days on a train, I manage to barely finish one book. The train has a tremendous amount of mellow diversions.
This little Russian is grooving to his old-school cassette Walkman.
Others are merely catatonic from the constant sway of the train.
At kilometer 8184, we cross into the Jewish Autonomous Region (!), and the time is now Moscow time + 7 hours.
The swampy, mosquito-infested region on the contentious border with China was designated for the Jews in 1927. A perfect place, for sure.
About 40,000 Jews from Belarus, Ukraine, Argentina, America, and even Palestine emigrated to this "promised land." A little Jewish community flourished for a short time. The harsh climate scared off about 2/3rds of them in one year.
In the mid 30s, in another of his wild mood swings, Stalin stopped the project... outlawing Hebrew, synagogues, and all Jewish institutions. (Stalin's newfound anti-Semitism stemmed from the perceived betrayal of his Jewish rival and Lenin's old right-hand man Trotsky--who Stalin eventually had murdered.)
At the first stop in the region, there is no trace of Jewish culture.
Everything is pretty uniformly Russian... including the obsession with dill in every single food!
This is one of the best train-stop meals I had on the whole trip.
At a later point, the trains stops for five minutes in the Jewish Autonomous Region's capital of Birobidzhan. Amazingly, the station displays the city name in Hebrew! (Only 7% of the city's population is Jewish.)
At the 5 minute stop, the never-to-be-messed-with provodnitsa refuses to let these Russians go outside for a smoke. She is not intimidated and chews them out.
On my second day (day six of the trainline from Moscow), the train crosses a 2.6 kilometer bridge over the Amur River. This was the last part of the Trans-Sibererian route to be constructed in 1916, officially completing the entire Moscow-Vladivostok line.
The train slowly thrusts toward Khabarovsk. The mineral wealth (and environmental degradation) becomes more and more apparent.
Remnants of Soviet regalia remain everywhere.
Khabarovsk is a major stop on the line. People come to greet family and friends after their long trip. Interestingly, Khabarovsk is a mere 15 minutes from the Chinese border.
Needless to say, this guy is quite drunken. Drinking is a big past time on the train for Russian travelers (and tourists alike)!
The city's train station is quite impressive.
It has a distinct lack of Soviet influence, which is admittedly refreshing.
This water pipe is built to accomodate through-going trains. Bizarrely, the water infrastucture pipes hot water to its distribution points--which makes no sense to me... and must be really expensive to maintain.