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A Winter Journey Beyond the Urals

by Dervla Murphy | John Murray

Dervla Murphy, Ireland’s best-loved travel writer, first came to prominence with Full Tilt, which charted her journey by bicycle from her home in rural Waterford to Delhi in 1964. Since then she has informed and entertained us with her tales of adventure – always packing her trademark boldness and ordinariness.

Ireland’s best-loved travel writer

Now in her seventies, she has set out alone again, this time to travel through Siberia in winter. Her last visit here was made in mid-summer by accident: she fell in love with the area and returns now to see it in temperatures of 35 degrees below freezing. Leaving her bicycle behind, she relied on the BAM railway – a coal-fuelled slow-train that runs only a little faster than her usual pedalling speed. Less well known than the Trans-Siberian, its route is lined with settlements that remain tourist-free.

Initially the Irish babushka struggles with some of the most basic things, like lugging her luxury suitcase into a train carriage. But she is quickly able to gain help from locals, even though she can hardly speak a word of Russian. And soon she is staying in their homes, visiting their schools, and discovering all about their frozen world – causing the warmth of the fireside to lift off the page.

First published: Traveller magazine, Winter 2006-2007
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