I think I was about seven years old. On Sunday morning, I got out my favourite book, De grote geïllustreerde bosatlas of 1983, to look at the map of Siberia, at that time still situated in the Soviet-Union. There were some cities along the Trans-Siberian express, but the rest of the map was almost empty. Only in a few places were small dots of villages with exotic names like Urgal. What did the houses look like? Weren’t the Urgallians lonely, that far away from everything else?
I read that the Soviets were building a new railway, roughly parallel to the Trans-Siberian express. The tracks would be finished in a few years. That meant, to my excitement, that all those remote villages would be reachable by train by the time I finished high school. That’s where wanted to go when I grew up.
In this unusual trip, Jelle Brandt Corstius describes his travels through Russia following the track of the BAM. The book is Brandt Corstius at his best: bizarre adventures with low lows and high highs. And lots of vodka. A tried and true recipe.